A quick plea: do not trade the farm right now

It’s been over a calendar year since I’ve written here, so I might as well reset Jagoff’s “when was the last time Marver wrote something” counter. I’ll make this short and sweet, unlike my most “recent” post, which numbered several thousand words.

Please click here to send a pre-written email to the Padres front office expressing that you agree with the premise: the Padres should not trade minor league prospects (right now) to acquire a starting pitcher.

The Padres should not trade for a starting pitcher right now, for a number of reasons. For brevity, I’ll list my top five:

    1. The Padres aren’t good and likely will not be good in 2019. While some top prospects, like Fernando Tatis Jr., Luis Urias, and Francisco Mejia will likely contribute positively in 2019, it’s difficult to accurately predict the degree and number of players who will be immediately good. The Padres need many – maybe even all – of their upcoming youngsters to be immediately good in order to compete. Competing isn’t even the goal anyway – winning a World Series is – and any improbable 2019 push for the second wildcard slot is extremely unlikely to produce a World Series title. If the Padres aren’t a World Series contender in 2019, any production from the acquired starting pitcher during that season is for naught.
    2. If the Padres are good in early 2019, the Padres can acquire a starting pitcher anyway. While many will still argue this would also be a pre-mature acquisition, it is a reasonable, digestible context for trading from the farm. Strategically, it makes little sense to acquire a player (like Archer) when a sizable percent (~12% for Archer) of his controllable service time is spent during the clearly dead 2018 season, and when the 2019+ seasons are outstanding questions. It may be the case that the Padres end up unnecessarily trading for an asset who exhausts his service time on bad Padres teams. Why not wait for some certainty, like the Padres successfully have in the past (like when they acquired Kevin Brown)?
    3. Trading Luis Urias or Francisco Mejia or (insert advanced prospect here) doesn’t necessary accelerate the window: these guys have tangible value in the immediate future. If the Padres are counter-intuitively good in 2019, it’ll likely be because of Luis Urias or Francisco Mejia complimenting Fernando Tatis Jr. at the MLB level. The Padres can’t both possess a valuable Luis Urias and also trade Luis Urias. One step forward and one step backwards is not an acceleration of the window.
    4. Starting pitchers are notoriously fickle assets: attrition rates are high. Just three years ago, Matt Harvey, Tyson Ross, Johnny Cueto, Sonny Gray, Madison Bumgarner, and David Price all ranked in the top 20 for pitcher fWAR. All six, representing 30% of the top 20, suffered significant injuries in addition to large production dropoffs. Several other arms – Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta – on that list suffered significant regression. This is but one example: 5 of the top 20 projected starters for 2018 have suffered a non-trivial injury, requiring a lengthy DL stint. Acquiring a starting pitcher now doesn’t mean you’re acquiring a good starting pitcher for 2021: it’s roughly a coin flip.
    5. The NL West will still be good in 2019. The Dodgers have a lot of good young talent. The Rockies and Diamondbacks have a vested interest in making a big push in 2019: Arenado and Goldschmidt hit free agency at the end of next year. The Giants window is just barely clinging open. Even if the Padres have many prospects succeed at the MLB level in 2019, it’s still a steep climb to the top of the standings. Once Arenado and Goldschmidt leave, Buster Posey and Clayton Kershaw continue to age, and some of their expensive, lengthier contracts start to return negative value, there is a much more tangible path to the postseason. The Padres should focus on optimizing their postseason path; moves are not made in a vacuum.

This is only a small part of the significant, reason-based argument against making such an acquisition at this moment. Sometimes it is difficult to gauge how Padres fans will react to a given trade, but I have little doubt that Padres fans will lose their collective mind if such a deal is executed – and will likely be depressingly correct in the long run.

The Padres have finally – FINALLY! – committed to a long-term plan with a reasonable chance of World Series success. I cannot remember a more promising future for a professional sports team that I have ever followed. Please do not unnecessarily rush this or otherwise deviate from the plan. We believe!

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