Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Padres 1B Solution: Ruscus Thanyan

Replacing an impact player like Adrian Gonzalez while maintaining a sub-$45mm payroll is just one of the many challenges ahead for San Diego GM Jed Hoyer.

Gonzalez offered plus-defense while putting up monster offensive numbers in a home park known for suppressing output. The Padres decided to deal AGonz and his $6.3mm contract to the Red Sox for four prospects. This deal makes sense financially in 2011 (and might make sense on the field in 2013 and beyond) but strips this year's team of any reliable power source.

I think it would make sense for the Padres to sign both Russell Branyan and Marcus Thames (or Ruscus Thanyan, jointly) in an effort to replace some of the lost pop and fill the cavernous hole AGonz left behind at first base.

This duo rakes against right-handed and left-handed pitching, respectively. Check out these strikingly similar career numbers:

Branyan vs RHP: .340 OBP / .501 Slg / .841 OBP / 105 tOPS+
Thames vs LHP: .333 OBP / .505 Slg / .838 OBP / 110 OPS+
Combined, the two made $2.4mm last season or exactly half of what the team paid AGonz. Clearly there are many factors (park, leagues, etc) in play, but for fun, let's see how Thanyan (Branyan vs right-handers and Thames vs left-handers) stacked up against AGonz:

Thanyan: 157 Games, 406 AB, 24 HR, .352 OBP, .500 Slg, .852 OPS
Gonzalez: 160 Games, 591 AB, 31 HR, .393 OBP, .511 Slg, .904 OPS

[Oddly enough, Thames slugged almost .600 last season against righties, but the sample size was small (82 ABs).]
A clear dropoff, but that's incredibly solid production for the combined price these two would run San Diego. Would you rather be on the hook for one-year of Carlos Pena for $10mm? I wouldn't.

Let's look at the potential lineups with Thanyan:

vs RHP

Jason Bartlett, SS
Orlando Hudson, 2B
Brad Hawpe, LF
Branyan, 1B
Chase Headley, 3B
Ryan Ludwick, RF
Cameron Maybin, CF
Fungible, C

vs LHP

Bartlett, SS
Hudson, 2B
Ludwick, RF
Headley, 3B
Thames, 1B
Maybin, CF
Hawpe, LF
Fungible, C

Ruscus Branyan also has some utility at other positions. Thames has played left field and Branyan has played third base. The team would have this depth:

C: Fungible x2
1B: Branyan / Thames
2B: Hudson / Evereth Cabrera
SS: Bartlett / Cabrera
3B: Headley / Branyan
LF: Hawpe / Will Venable
CF: Maybin / Aaron Cunningham
RF: Ludwick / Hawpe

That's only 12 position players meaning they could roster another position player while still being able to carry 12 pitchers if they so choose.

Defense is another story. Thanyan would have less range at first base than my singing voice (non-existent), but for under $3mm you can't have it all.

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