SAN DIEGO -- It's officially trade season.
With the non-waiver Trade Deadline looming on July 31, the Padres have a number of available pieces -- and they figure to be one of the Majors' most active teams. With that in mind, this week's Padres Inbox focuses on the precise probabilities that those players are dealt in the coming weeks.
Who are the likeliest trade candidates at the Deadline, and what are the chances of a trade?
-- Eric, San Diego
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The five players who have been discussed most frequently are Brad Hand, Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen, Tyson Ross and Travis Jankowski. I'd agree they're probably the five likeliest to be dealt. Here's how I'd rank the chances that each player gets moved, putting a percentage on all of them.
Stammen: 70 percent
Stammen, 34, is a reliable veteran presence in the bullpen. He can pitch multiple innings, and he's a master at stranding baserunners. Stammen isn't a rental, but he does not have a burdensome contract, either. He's only due $2.25 million next season. How many playoff-bound teams could use legitimate bullpen help from a guy with postseason experience? All of them.
Ross: 50 percent
A year ago, the Padres had an effective right-handed starter with a killer slider who was in the final year of his deal. They opted not to trade Jhoulys Chacin, and he left for Milwaukee during the offseason. The Padres came away empty-handed. This time, Ross -- who signed a one-year Minor League contract for just $1.75 million last winter -- has expressed a desire to return to San Diego next season. But it's not a guarantee. In a thin starting-pitching market, Ross could fetch a nice sum if packaged with one of the team's controllable relievers.
Hand: 45 percent
Same old story. Hand is the top available lefty reliever on the trade market. The Padres will field calls from nearly every contending club. But they're not going to budge from their lofty asking price. The contract extension Hand signed during the offseason makes him even more appealing; he is signed through 2020 with a club option for '21. It also makes the Padres less inclined to move him. It's a virtual tossup, but Hand remaining in San Diego is probably slightly more likely.
Jankowski: 30 percent
Jankowski checks all the boxes for a useful fourth outfield piece on a contender. He's an excellent defender, an excellent basestealer, and he's very good at reaching base against right-handed pitching. The thing is, Jankowski's only 27. He's not a free agent until after the 2021 season. The Padres might believe Jankowski could be their useful fourth outfield piece when they're contending.
Yates: 25 percent
How valuable, exactly, is Yates? He's been one of the best relievers in baseball during the first half of the season -- with a 0.79 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 34 innings. But he's never produced like this before, and general manager A.J. Preller's trade partners might be a fair bit skeptical. Yates is under contract for 2 1/2 more seasons. The Padres are willing to move him. But if they believe in his rapid ascension more than their opponents do, they'll happily hold onto him.
Now for some quick responses to a few other questions ...
Is Matt Strahm seen as part of the starting rotation in 2019? Will he be able to throw 90-110 pitches per game?
-- Sergio Q., Tijuana, Mexico
The front office doesn't know those answers yet, but it is willing to find out. Since he was acquired at the 2017 Trade Deadline, the Padres have loved Strahm's upside. They just aren't sure whether it plays best in the rotation or the bullpen.
Strahm is a year removed from major knee surgery, so he's not going to be stretched out this season. But I'd expect the 26-year-old left-hander to enter Spring Training in the rotation mix. If he thrives, the Padres have a starter. If he doesn't, they're content to have a left-handed weapon in the 'pen.
Austin Allen vs. Austin Hedges? Does the organization seem higher on Hedges' defense or Allen's bat long term?
-- Aaron K., Costa Mesa, Calif.
The short answer: Hedges' defense. It's elite, and there's no better spot for elite defense than behind the plate.
The longer answer: They'd really like Hedges to hit -- at least at a higher clip than his current .520 OPS. If he doesn't make significant strides, that could leave the door open for Allen, the team's No. 27 prospect. He's a big-time, left-handed bat with questions defensively. Hedges is still the Padres' catcher of the future, but Allen could force his way into something of a platoon with the defensive-minded right-handed hitter (or, at the very least, he could turn himself into trade bait).
Which Padres on their Top 30 Prospects list will have to be added to the 40-man roster before this year's Rule 5 Draft?
-- Devin O.
There's going to be a roster crunch come November, when players need to be added to the 40-man roster or risk being selected by another club. Recently, San Diego has been on the other side of that dilemma, adding Luis Perdomo, Allen Cordoba, Luis Torrens and Miguel Diaz via the Rule 5 Draft.
This time around, nine Top 30 prospects must be added: second baseman Luis Urias (No. 3), right-hander Anderson Espinoza (No. 7), right-hander Chris Paddack (No. 8), right-hander Jacob Nix (No. 12) outfielder Edward Olivares (No. 18), right-hander Trey Wingenter (No. 19), right-hander Pedro Avila (No. 23), Allen and outfielder Michael Gettys (No. 28).
It's not going to get any easier in the coming years, either, given the Padres' loaded farm system and the influx of talent that arrived internationally and via the Draft in 2016.