Friday, December 24, 2010

Hawpe Signs for One Year in San Diego

According to Bernie Wilson of the Miami Herald, the Padres have come to terms with Brad Hawpe on a one year deal to play first base.  Terms of the contract have not been disclosed.

Hawpe will replace the recently traded Adrian Gonzalez at first base.  Despite only playing nine games at first base in the majors, Hawpe is no stranger to the position.  He came up thorough the Rockie farm system as a first baseman, but was moved to the outfield upon reaching the majors due to the presence of Todd Helton.  Unfortunately for the Rockies, he never took to the outfield.  Over the past five seasons, Hawpe has been widely considered to be one of the two or three worst outfielders in baseball.  UZR, in particular, does not like his defensive skills in the outfield.  Since 2006, he's been worth -78.3 runs (including a league worst -36.0 runs in 2008) in the field.  As you can imagine, this has had a major effective on his overall value. 

2010 will be somewhat of a redemption season for Hawpe.  After putting up above average offensive numbers for four seasons (.288/.384/.518), Hawpe struggled mightily in 2010.  With poor offensive numbers to go with replacement level defensive contributions, Rockies manager Jim Tracy took away his starting job in early August.  This eventually led his eventual August 26th release.  He didn't last on the market long (signing the Rays the very next day), but couldn't find his offensive stroke in Tampa.

While this looks like a good low-risk, high-reward signing by Jed Hoyer and the Padres, it's not entirely without risk.  Will Hawpe rebound in San Diego?  That's a tough one.  Hawpe struggled to produce in one of the greatest offensive environments in baseball history.  What makes the Padres think he'll produce at Petco, one of the worst offensive environments?  Based on his skill set and age, one would think he should be able to rebound in 2011.  Then again, a lot of people said that about his former teammate, Garrett Atkins just one year ago.*

* Atkins just signed a minor league deal with the Pirates.  That's about as low as you can get in the major leagues.  If he can't make the Pirates in 2011, his career is likely over--unless Dayton Moore and the Royals come calling.

Worst case scenario, Hawpe doesn't work out. He gets released, and Kyle Blanks, who is recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, replaces him at first base sometime mid-season.  If he does work out, the Padres end up with a solid offensive player making a reasonable salary.  Looks like a pretty solid signing.  If Hoyer is going to build another 90-win team on a shoestring budget, he'll have to hit on value moves like this.

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