Ben Gamel has become somewhat of a spare piece to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but could the San Diego Padres end up overpaying for him at the trade deadline?
The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates traded with the San Diego Padres was at the 2021 trade deadline. The Padres acquired Adam Frazier from the Pirates in exchange for Jack Suwinski and Tucpita Marcano.
Although a trade criticized by Pirate fans at the time, Frazier struggled heavily on the West Coast and was soon after that salary dumped to the Seattle Mariners. Meanwhile, Suwinski leads all rookies in home runs while providing plus defense in the outfield, and Marcano has displayed a solid ability to play multiple positions with a decent bat.
It wouldn’t be the first time the Padres overpaid for a commodity on the trade market. In the offseason prior, they sent Luis Patino, Cole Wilcox, Francisco Mejia, and Blake Hunt to the Tampa Bay Rays for Blake Snell. At the 2020 trade deadline, they sent Cal Quantrill and Justin Naylor, both of whom have been valuable pieces to the Indians/Guardians since arriving, but also netted top 100 prospect Gabriel Arias, top pitching prospect Joey Cantillo, and infielder Owen Miller in the same trade. Clevinger has pitched just 42 innings since being acquired, and they gave up Ty France for Austin Nola during the same deadline.
While that’s not to say that the Padres have overpaid for every single guy they’ve brought in through swaps, they have made their fair share of bad trades. With the outfield being a significant hole in the Padres’ depth chart, could they pursue Pirates’ outfielder Ben Gamel, and is there a chance they give up more than he is worth?
Before landing on the injured list, Gamel was hitting for a .257/.350/.386 line, .329 wOBA, and 112 wRC+. Although those are decent numbers, he could have been much better. Gamel’s 12.5% walk rate is the second-best of his career. He also had a 32% line drive rate and .373 expected wOBA. With his heavy line drive approach, it’s surprising he isn’t hitting over .260. His expected batting average clocks in at .306.
Gamel is a good but not great fielder. He has -3 outs above average this year but is an average defender in the eyes of defensive runs saved and well above average in UZR/150 (+11.8). Gamel is a much better right fielder than he is a left fielder, but he can play either position. He gets the job done, to put it simply.
The biggest downside is that Gamel is only controlled through 2022. He’ll hit free agency after this year. But the Pirates do have a decent corner on the market. The only outfielder with a higher wRC+ (min. 200 plate appearances) and an equal or better chance of being traded is Cub slugger Ian Happ. David Peralta and Tommy Pham also represent two likely trade candidates, though Gamel has the edge in wRC+ over Peralta and brings less of a PR headache than Tommy Pham, but more importantly, Gamel has the better xwOBA and less drastic home/away splits. It’s also not likely the Padres would consider Pham given the little effort to re-sign him this past off-season and the beef he spurred with Padre DH Luke Voit early in the season.
Aside from Jurickson Profar, the Padres’ outfielders have not hit well this year. Trent Grisham is showing off his typical high-end defensive prowess in center field but has a .617 OPS. Former Rookie Of The Year Wil Myers had a .583 OPS before landing on the injured list. They’ve gotten surprise contributions from former Texas Ragers’ top prospect Nomar Mazara and Jose Azocar. However, both have a .364 batting average on balls in play despite pretty average line-drive and ground ball rates.
The Padres are fending off a tight National League West race. They are just one game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and 4.5 games ahead of the San Francisco Giants at the time of writing this. Now Ben Gamel isn’t going to be their big prize, but they’ll likely acquire multiple outfielders. Plus, last year, they traded for Frazier after missing out on some bigger names. A similar situation could happen again where they acquire Gamel out of desperation after missing out on a big fish on the market.
If that happens, could they somehow sneak Adrian Morejon from the Padres? Maybe the Bucs will grab two more underrated prospects who are trending in the right direction as they did with Frazier last year. Only time will tell what goes down at the trade deadline, but if the past two years have shown us anything, it’s that the Padres aren’t willing to hold back in trades, for better or for worse. The Pirates have an opportunity to take advantage of one of their weaknesses and potentially get away with a decent prospect.