I've understood most of the Padres' moves this winter, perhaps all of them, but this trade, which sends Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton to San Diego, looks like a much better deal for Atlanta than it does for the Padres. Atlanta clears a lot of money -- one tied up in an asset with no apparent value and one tied up in a very high-risk asset -- and gets some young pieces back along the way. The Padres upgrade their ninth inning, but don't address their lack of a true centerfielder or lack of even a reasonable facsimile of a shortstop, and take on even more cost.
The Padres didn't have a major bullpen problem, so while Kimbrel would be an upgrade over just about any other team's closer except perhaps Cincinnati's, in practical terms it's probably worth just a win in the standings for San Diego. Deposed closer Joaquin Benoit is the picture of not-health, throwing just five innings after August 15th last year due to a shoulder injury, and he missed all of 2009 due to a torn rotator cuff in the same joint. (Also, he's not French, so why is his name pronounced like he's from Toulouse?) Kimbrel's more reliable than Benoit, but one-inning relievers are the most volatile assets in baseball, and Kimbrel has already defied the odds with four straight years of health without even losing anything off his fastball. Perhaps he's one of the great exceptions to the high baseline rate of closer attrition, like Mariano Rivera, or perhaps throwing with maximum effort 70 innings a year, about twenty times a year working on consecutive days, will catch up to him. I don't know any team that can predict such collapses, but most clubs discount reliever values because of that uncertainty. This deal doesn't seem to do so, and that's before we consider how the Padres have had a history of composting ballpark refuse into useful relievers ever since they moved into Petco.
To acquire Kimbrel, the Padres took on his entire contract as well as that of Melvin Upton, so Atlanta will end up saving about $48 million over 2016-17. Upton's straight-line descent since he went to Atlanta has been a huge mystery, as he doesn't even have the mistake power that often marks the death rattle of an otherwise decrepit veteran hitter. I would like to argue that a change of scenery and hitting coaches can coax some value out of Upton's bat, but I don't believe in fairy tales.
Atlanta comes out huge winners in this deal, saving all of that cash, adding three players/prospects of value, and a draft pick, and Carlos Quentin, who is the rock that Charlie Brown always gets on Halloween. Quentin's extension in San Diego was a bad idea from the get-go, as he's an "American League player" (a euphemism for a guy who can't defend at any position) who is always hurt, last qualifying for the batting title in 2010. He's 32 and can still flash some power while covering the inner third of the strike zone with his torso, so while Atlanta has already designated him for assignment, I expect him to end up on an AL club looking for DH help or a right-handed bat off the bench.
Everything else Atlanta receives in this deal has value.
Cameron Maybin can still play plus defense in center when healthy, and had some doubles power before injuries derailed his career in 2013; Atlanta was planning to play Eric Young, Jr. in center, even though he's a poor defender who doesn't get on base and has no power, so Maybin has a low bar to clear. They also get right-handed pitcher Matt Wisler, who missed my Top 100 this year but was the Padres' top pitching prospect and is major-league ready right now. He looks the part of a durable mid-rotation guy, with a 92-95 mph fastball, average to above-average slider, and fringy to average changeup -- nothing knockout but enough of a repertoire to be a starter. If one of those pitches becomes plus, he could be a number two, but right now I think he's more of a league-average or slightly worse pitcher who adds value through durability. He becomes Atlanta's No. 7 prospect.
Outfielder Jordan Paroubeck is an outstanding athlete who trains in the offseason with Barry Bonds, who was reasonably good at the sport himself. Paroubeck can run and has some raw power, but is behind developmentally after missing the summer of 2013 due to injury and spending last year in the Arizona Rookie League at 19. His arm is adequate for center after the shoulder surgery but not right, so if he can't play center -- and he didn't last year with Michael Gettys on the same team -- he's going to have to hit for more power to profile in left. You can see the influence of Atlanta executive Chad Macdonald, who was in San Diego when Paroubeck was drafted and for most of Wisler's tenure there. Atlanta also gets the 41st overall draft pick, a competitive balance pick that was tradeable under the current CBA (as all draft picks should be), adding to their haul of picks, with selections at Nos. 14, 28, 41, and 54 on day one. The 41st pick in 2014 carried a slot bonus value of $1,384,900, so Atlanta will have the fourth-highest total bonus pool this year, after Houston, Colorado, and Arizona. To add a legitimate pitching prospect, a potential everyday centerfielder, a lottery ticket outfield prospect, and a top-50 draft pick while clearing one unwanted contract and one high-risk one had to be a no-brainer for Atlanta as they continue to try to retool to compete in 2017.