SAN DIEGO, CA - Anthony Rizzo #27 of the San Diego Padres hits a triple during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Petco Park. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
The San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays match up as potential trade partners better than any team in recent memory. Will they swing a deal?
I could see the Rays and Padres getting a few beers after work and complaining a bit. The beer would be Pabst, and not because it's kitschy and ironic, but because that's what they can get for $3 a pitcher. They'd tell the server that they weren't interested in appetizers, and then when no one was looking, the Rays would pull out some celery sticks with peanut butter that they brought from home.
Then they would complain about the teams in their division.
Padres: Do you know what it's like to watch two rivals spend $100 million every season, with no freaking idea how to do it? If I had that kind of money, I'd build a 105-win team and have enough left over for a stretch-hovercraft to take us all to the airport.
Rays: You can't expect me to care. Teams in my division spend and know what they're doing. Total nightmare.
They'd offer each other advice.
Padres: Telling you, man. New ballparks don't fix everything.
Rays: No, no, I know. I'm not saying you screwed it up somehow. I'm just saying … well, I guess that's what I'm saying.
Padres: Everyone's excited at first, but then -- poof -- they have better things to do when the weather's spectacular. Suddenly Everth Cabrera doesn't cut it.
They'd complain some more.
Padres: You know who's the worst? Pat Burrell.
Rays: Oh, man, I hate that guy.
But mixed into the normal routine this time, the Rays and Padres can actually talk some shop. The Padres just acquired Yonder Alonso. They already had Anthony Rizzo as their ostensible first baseman of the future. They also have Kyle Blanks, whose gravitational pull is at least partially responsible for Petco Park's pitcher-friendly reputation, and Jesus Guzman, who was one of the team's best hitters last season.
Blanks can play the outfield, but he's best at first. Rizzo has played at first base only as a professional. Alonso plays the outfield as if Blanks is Velcroed to his leg. If all of these players hit like they're supposed to, at least one of them will have to go. There just aren't enough spots for them all.
The Rays have an opening at first. They enjoyed a surprising career year from Casey Kotchman, but he's a free agent now. He shouldn't be too expensive to retain, but the Rays are almost certainly looking for long-term solutions, especially if the alternative is Kotchman at market prices. They'd love to get a young, majors-ready first baseman who's a few years from being expensive.
Which is exactly what the Padres have in bulk. The Padres have a bunch of young first basemen, and they're likely looking for young pitching. The Rays have a bunch of young pitching, and they're looking for a young first baseman. It's like a single, corporate executive mother from Connecticut looking for love, while her live-in Italian housekeeper is right there under her nose. It's the perfect match, and it's so obvious to everyone else. Just get together already. And keep that daughter of yours away from baseball players.
The Rays can offer high-ceiling arms that are a couple of years away (Enny Romero), high-ceiling arms that are close (Alex Torres), and lower-ceiling arms that are close to major-league ready (Alex Cobb). They can mix and match. They can toss in a position player. Or two. Or three.
Of the Padres' four potential first basemen, Guzman is probably the least expensive of the bunch in terms of what it would take to acquire him. Blanks would be next, as he's pretty far from a sure bet to produce in 2012, but his enormous potential -- pun intended -- might tempt the Rays into putting up with his strikeouts. While Yonder Alonso was the hot acquisition, he probably has comparable trade value to Rizzo. Both are young, high-ceiling types -- though Rizzo's relative youth suggests that his ceiling is even higher -- and both would take a substantial bundle of talent to acquire.
Once the Rays get a pricing sheet from San Diego, they can decide which one of the four makes the most sense for them. But the two teams match up. The Rays have cheap square pegs and round holes. The Padres have cheap round pegs and square holes. And when they're on the phone talking about a deal, they can talk about coupons to break the ice. Here's predicting that a deal will go down between the two.