Last year the Padres' brass remained stubborn throughout trade season, never waving the white flag despite a flawed team that had assets to sell.
This year, GM A.J. Preller has turned the tables by getting some trade business done early and fortifying some of the farm talent he's depleted.
Preller Goes Fish and brings aboard fast-rising RHP Chris Paddack, who was rated as one of the Marlins' top young arms and in the midst of a breakout SAL campaign. In exchange, Miami gets the rest of affordable, ageless reliever Fernando Rodney's season as well as a reasonable club option for 2017.
This looks like an astute move from the Padres' end. Rodney is 39 and nearing the end of the line, but has sparkled as the Friar's closer this year going 17-17 in saves and holding hitters to a (league-leading) .137 BAA. Preller seems to have cashed in on Rodney's high point before something goes south with his spotless season, and it's doubly smart to strike early in what could be a reliever-heavy trade market.
For San Diego to come out winners on this deal, 20-year-old Chris Paddack will need to stay healthy and maintain the progress he's shown in the Sally League. The Austin, TX native changes orgs in the middle of a 15-inning no-hit streak in which he's struck out 28 batters. He's quite literally the hottest pitcher in affiliated ball at the moment - but what's Paddack packing?
Paddack's fastball-change combo flashed as a teenager in the GCL last year. He came into the season ranking an optimistic-at-the-time 13th on John's preseason Marlins top 20. But Paddack's first six turns for Greensboro have been electric if abbreviated, as his 28.1 innings have yielded a stupefying 48 K's, two walks, and .098 BAA.
The 6'4" righthander gets it done with command and control of a three-pitch mix. Paddack's heater sits in the low 90's but has been clocked* as high as 95, and part of what makes him so enticing is he could tack on velocity as he fills out. He has an athletic, repeatable delivery that lends itself to pumping strikes with his primary offering and setting up his improving secondaries.
Paddack's high-70's changeup is his main offspeed weapon, as he combines solid arm action with late fade to make it a consistent bat-misser. He appears to be currently working with a low 80's curve that shows promising 12-6 tumble, but it lags behind his top two pitches. There was also a whisper that he'd feature more of a slider-ish breaking ball this year but evidence is lacking on that front.
Indeed, Paddack is young enough where it's hard to project how much of his ceiling he'll fulfill. He could ramp up the fastball, incorporate two-seamers, or show variation on his breaking stuff as he advances. Though we should be wary of the small sample size, Paddack's stock is through the roof because he's shown advanced pitchability and command at a young age. He should immediately slot in within the Pads' top 10 prospects, with the ability to move up or down by the offseason if his success continues in the MWL and beyond.
Hot Take Corner
This trade feels like a tough pill to swallow for the Marlins. I give them credit for putting their cards down in the NL East dogfight, and for bringing in one of the few players that were viable for them considering their salary structure.
But Miami's farm system wasn't exactly flourishing before this move, and dealing an emerging young arm further weakens it. Paddack missed time with shoulder soreness in spring, but he's obliterated early concerns with a brilliant first-half performance and is trending up.
The Fish have so few assets with Paddack's ceiling that sacrificing one for a youth-impaired reliever feels hasty. I've seen the Marlins in action recently and their bullpen didn't stick out as a weak point; David Phelps, Nick Wittgren, and Kyle Barraclough have been revelations setting up closer A.J. Ramos. If the idea was to solidify a playoff push by sending away a prospect, I'd be curious what Paddack could have brought in terms of rotation or lineup help to better move the needle. As it stands, Miami will rely on a historically-combustible reliever to both continue his dominance and return for his age-40 season to make the trade worthwhile.
The move looks like a nice piece of business from San Diego's side. They signed Rodney to a cheap, one-year deal with a club option in January, showcased him in the closer's role to great effect, and come away with perhaps their top pitching prospect to show for it. Paddack is a few years away, but on the surface it's a badly-needed hit for Preller's crew. With the team 15+ games out in the NL West, striking a quick deal allows them to focus on further stocking the farm talent after regrettably staying put at last year's deadline.
video courtesy Christopher Blessing