Catch My Drift??

Sorry, but the popular Austin Hedges must be dealt this off-season

Chris Ello
October 05, 2018 - 8:49 am

Judging from the hate-mail I received the last time I posted here that the Padres should think about trading someone, I don't expect a love affair this time around, either. A couple of months ago, I suggested that Wil Myers, as much as I like him, needed to be moved in order to open up corner spots in the outfield for Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes.

You would have thought that I suggested Myers be blindfolded with a lit cigarette stuck in his mouth. Fast forward, however, to the recent season's end, and most fans -- even die-hard Myers supporters -- can understand what I was trying to get at. 

The Padres even seem to agree. Though they have not said they are actively seeking to trade one of their best players, they did move him to third base in September to give Renfroe and Reyes a chance to play every day. Being as though the move was considered mostly a failure, because Myers proved inadept at third, most are now wondering what the Padres are going to do with him.

The same logjam issue exists behind the plate for San Diego. So let me the be the first to make another suggestion (I'll duck down right after you read this, so as to avoid all of your bows and arrows). But here goes:

Austin Hedges must be traded this off-season as well.

Sorry. But there it is. Here's why:

Hedges hit a decent .231 in 2018 and smashed 14 home runs. But -- mostly because he was hurt -- he had just two homers and a .188 batting average through the month of June. He picked it up after the Padres were eliminated from contention in July and August, but then tired and finished up in September at .203 with three HR's.

A lot of guys can hit after their team is no longer a contender. Hedges has yet to prove he can get his bat cranked up early in the season. But this is not about Hedges leaving as much as it is about the Padres opening up the full-time catcher spot for super prospect Francisco Mejia, acquired in the deadline trade from Cleveland for closer Brad Hand and reliever Adam Cimber.

Hedges wants to play about 130 games a season. Good. Let him play them elsewhere. If he's in San Diego, that leaves only 30-40 starts for Mejia, which is not nearly enough. You could say that Mejia can find some playing time in the outfield, but we've already discussed how crowded the situation is out there.

What about Hedges' top-rate defense and handling of pitchers? Important to be sure. But everything we saw from Mejia the last month-and-a-half of the season proved he can be close to Hedges defensively, if not his equal. Ask General Manager A.J. Preller about Mejia's throwing arm. He'll tell you it's already the best in baseball for his position.

Mejia needs 100 games next season -- at the very least. The Padres also need some starting pitching. Well, not just some. They need some good starting pitching. Hedges could fetch that if the proper trade is made. Put Myers up for auction, as they should, and the Padres might be able to add a pair of arms.

Look. I'm trying to help build a championship contender here in San Diego. Some difficult decisions will have to be made by Preller and company. Loyalty can not factor into these decisions. Sorry, but that's the way it goes.

We like Hedges. He's young and his best days are ahead of him. But Mejia projects to be a whole lot better. So go with Mejia behind the plate and trade Hedges for pitching. 

The Padres will be better off for it. (Even if I'm not better off for suggesting it).