That Trent Grisham Trade
Breaking down the Padres and Brewers trade from last week
Ben Bailey · December 1, 2019 · 4m ·

On Wednesday, the Brewers and Padres made the first big trade of the offseason.

The Brewers got:

The Padres got:

As others have written, this is an unusual trade. All the players involved played in the majors in 2019, and both teams are trying to compete in 2020. It all comes down to each team believing they have more accurately evaluated the players of the other team, which is a little rare these days, when most major leaguers involved in trades come from rebuilding teams.

To start with, here's a table showing the 2019, career, and 2020 Steamer-projected Fangraphs WAR of each player involved in the trade:

Player2019Career2020
Luis Urías0.10.21.7
Trent Grisham0.60.61.5
Eric Lauer2.33.11.5
Zach Davies1.67.80.9

It seems like the player with the least current career WAR has the highest ceiling (Urías), but the Padres obviously soured on him. It's not usually a good sign when a team is willing to trade a top prospect, especially when they're not exactly a World Series contender at the moment. Urías has been a well-above-average hitter at Triple-A the last two seasons despite being younger than most of the competition.

Meanwhile, Davies has had the longest and most-productive major league career, but the projections aren't high on him for 2019. Davies is a sort of Kyle Hendricks-lite, a soft-tossing righty who relies primarily on his sinker and changeup to get soft contact. His results haven't been nearly as good as Hendricks’, but it's possible he'll pitch better in San Diego.

From the Brewers’ point of view, they traded an outfielder who had a breakout season in the high minors and a low-strikeout pitcher with two, more expensive years of team control for a good defender with All-Star upside and a durable pitcher with double the team control.

From the Padres’ point of view, they traded a prospect who hadn't proven himself in the majors and a non-dominant starter for a more established starter and an outfielder who has shown more promise at the big-league level.

Personally, I would tend to take Grisham over Urías, and Lauer over Davies. The fact that the Padres were willing to part with Urías, a highly-touted prospect coming into the season, for Grisham, is a red flag (you could make the same argument against Grisham, but he doesn't have the same prospect pedigree). On the pitching side, I think Lauer could have some untapped upside, and he was the more durable pitcher last year. In combination with the extra team control, I think that's enough to sway the trade in the Brewers’ favor for me, but the fascinating part about this trade is that either team could very quickly come to regret it, and it's not clear which team that would be.


In other news, on Wednesday the Padres also signed Drew Pomeranz to a four-year, $34M contract. This initially seemed like a huge overpay to me, despite how much I believe in Pomeranz’ small-sample relief success. However, the more I think about it, the more reasonable it seems. Pomeranz was one of the best relievers in baseball, and the underlying numbers backed up his improved performance. Four years sounds like a lot, but a three-year, $27M contract wouldn't have seemed too excessive (that's how much the Cubs were paying Brandon Morrow each year). Adding on an additional $7M to that won't break the Padres budget, and it's possible they just signed the best reliever available this offseason. I don't think this would have been the right move for the Cubs to make, but I don't think it's a bad risk for the Padres.

On Wednesday, the Brewers made a risky trade, and the Padres made a risky signing that the Cubs could have made. It's very possible that neither aggressive move works out for the teams involved, but it's also possible that Cubs fans will look back at this set of moves and wish neither had happened.


Finally, the Cubs claimed hard-throwing lefty CD Pelham off of waivers. Pelham has a great fastball, but not much else, and doesn't seem to have the ability to locate it well. Still, I'm a fan of the move—it can't hurt to get Pelham into the pitch lab and see what he can do.


That's all for this week. I'll be back here again next time, probably with some analysis of players non-tendered on the non-tender deadline. Until then!


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