MIAMI – The Padres, better than a third-place finisher in the National League West just once in the past eight seasons, have swapped roles in many respects with the Braves, who won 14 consecutive division titles through 2005 and finished no worse than second in the NL East during the past five seasons.
The Padres, long handcuffed by low payrolls and seemingly in a perpetual rebuild mode, reversed course since last season by letting new general manager A.J. Preller open the checkbook and trade prospects for established, big-impact players who came with larger financial commitments.
Meanwhile the Braves, under the new direction of president of baseball operations John Hart and assistant GM John Coppolella, decided it was time to focus on rebuilding a once-revered but recently diminished Braves minor league system, even if that meant taking a step back and trading impact players almost exclusively for prospects.
On Sunday, the Padres and Braves looked to each other to help further those causes fox the second time in four months with a six-team trade involving an Upton brother going from Atlanta to San Diego.
The Braves shipped elite closer Craig Kimbrel and disappointing center fielder Melvin Upton Jr. and his burdensome contract to the Padres in exchange for outfielders Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quention, pitching prospect Matt Wisler, outfield prospect Jordan Paroubeck, and the 41st overall pick in this year’s June first-year player draft.
The Braves got four prospects back from the Padres in the December trade that sent outfielder Justin Upton to the Padres, including infield prospect Jace Peterson, who will begin the season as the Braves’starting second baseman, outfield prospect and minor league stolen-base leader Mallex Smith, and left-hander Max Fried, who’s recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery.
This time, the Braves’ prospect haul wasn’t nearly as deep, since a major component of the trade was the Padres agreeing to take on all salary owed to Melvin Upton Jr. over the last three years of his contract. The Braves still managed to wrangle a couple of prospects in the deal, running their total to six prospects acquired from the Padres in two trades that took the Upton brothers reunion out West.
The big “get” in this deal was Wisler, 22, rated the Padres’ No. 1 prospect — and No. 34 in all of baseball — by Baseball America, after going 10-5 with a 4.42 ERA in 28 games (all starts) between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso in 2014, with 136 strikeouts in 146.2 innings.
Although the numbers don’t jump off the page, dig a bit deeper: Wisler pitched the entire season at a relatively young age 21, and was 9-5 with a 2.80 ERA and 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 26 Double-A starts during 2013 and 2014 before struggling to a 5.01 ERA in 22 starts at El Paso in his first Triple-A stint.
Wisler’s four-seam fastball has reached 96 mph, and he has a plus-rated 92-94 mph sinker and low-80s slider, and decent change-up. The 6-foot-3 Ohio native signed out of high school after being selected in the seventh round, spurning an Ohio State scholarship after getting a $500,000 signing that was large for a pick in that round.
He’ll beging the season at Triple-A Gwinnett and could be ready to compete for a spot next spring and eventually be a top-half-of-the-rotation starter.
Paroubeck, 20, is a switch-hitter who batted .286 (40-for-140) with 14 extra-base hits (four home runs), 24 RBIs and a .346 OBP in 34 rookie-league games in his first season of pro ball in 2014. The 69th overall selection in the 2013 draft out of a San Mateo, Calif., high school, he didn’t play pro ball in 2013 due to a shoulder injury from a collision in a high school game. He’s not among Baseball America’s top 30 Padres prospect, but was rated 15th by another service.