The San Diego Padres swung a trade today, dealing infielder Luis Urías and LHP Eric Lauer and either a player to be named later or cash to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for outfielder Trent Grisham and RHP Zach Davies. The deal was first reported via Twitter by Jon Morosi of Fox Sports and MLB Network and later confirmed by several national writers.
On the surface, the move involves an exchange of highly touted prospects, which is fairly rare. The Padres dealt Urías, a consensus top-100 prospect for Grisham, who was Milwaukee’s first-round pick back in 2015 but struggled until breaking out in a big way this season.
What the Padres gave up
Coming into the 2019 season, Luis Urías ranked as the number three prospect in our consensus top 20 list. Here was our assessment on him going to the year:
“Luis Urías is not a future superstar. He is not going to be a stellar defensive second baseman, though he’ll be plenty good. He will probably never swipe 10 bases in a season, though he won’t clog the base paths. He’s not going to have enough power to put up eye-popping offensive production. But the man will hit, and he’ll do it with a line-drive approach to spray hits to all fields.”
Urías broke out a bit this season in Triple-A El Paso, where he flashed power that he never displayed before. In 73 games, the infielder hit a robust .315/.398/.600 with 19 doubles and a career-high 19 homers. Coming into 2019, Urías had only 17 homers total five professional seasons
Urías also displayed improvement in the field, and looked very capable at shortstop. He has always displayed an above-average arm but he was able to show more range than he did in previous seasons.
“[Urías] was excellent defensively at shortstop,” Chihuahuas broadcaster Tim Hagerty told us for our end-of-the-season announcer series. “I know he had mixed results with San Diego, but he’s still only 22, the same age as a lot of the Lake Elsinore players. Not all players will surge into the big leagues like [Fernando] Tatis [Jr.]. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him improve next season and become an everyday big league player.”
Urías was recalled by the Padres on July 20th and played pretty well down the stretch.
He hit .300/.371/.425 with a 115 wRC+ in September while holding down the shortstop position, although he did strikeout in nearly 25% of his at-bats. Still, the young infielder seemed to be showing some of the ability he previously showcased in the minors.
In addition to Urías, the Padres also sent former first-rounder Eric Lauer to the Brewers. The former Kent State star went 8-10, with a 4.45 ERA/4.23 FIP in 149.2 innings. He averaged 8.3 K’s per nine innings and just over three walks per nine innings.
The southpaw has never possessed big-time stuff but does throw four pitches capably and has generally been healthy throughout his career. He pitched well at Petco Park last season (3.08 ERA) and poorly on the road (5.99 ERA) which was exacerbated by three hellish outings in Coors Field (17 ER in 8 innings). With the Padres looking to add depth this off-season, and with young pitchers like MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño in the upper minors, Lauer may not have had a guaranteed spot in next year’s rotation.
Both Urías and Lauer are pre-arbitration; Lauer will not be eligible for free agency until 2024 while Urías will be under team control until 2025.
What the Padres got back
The key to this deal — at least on the surface — appears to be the acquisition of outfielder Trent Grisham. Grisham, 23, was drafted 15th overall out of high school in Texas in 2015, when the Padres did not have a first-round pick.
Coming into the season, Grisham was ranked as Milwaukee’s 27th best prospect, according to Baseball America. They praised his eye at the plate but had questions about his ability to get to his raw power and to stick in center field. However, the Grisham we saw during the 2019 season may have answered those concerns.
The left-handed-hitting outfielder started the year in Double-A Biloxi, where he dominated the competition. He hit .254/.371/.504, with 13 homers in 62 games, production that was 50% better than league average. In addition to the surge in power, Grisham walked in 15.5% of his plate appearances while striking in just 17% of his trips to the plate.
From there, he earned a promotion to Triple-A San Antonio, where the breakout continued. In 34 games for the Missions, Grisham hit an absurd .381/.471/.766 with 13 homers. While you can attribute some of the production to the hitting environment and new ball in the Pacific Coast League, San Antonio remained a pitcher-friendly environment in its first Triple-A season. Perhaps more impressive than the surge in power, is the fact that Grisham walked more than he struck out in the PCL.
“[Grisham] was an advanced hitter who showed a strong knowledge of the strike zone,” said San Antonio Missions’ broadcaster Mike Saeger. “He was also a pretty solid center fielder. I was very impressed with what I witnessed for the six weeks he was with us.”
Grisham’s improvement in the minors led to a promotion to Milwaukee, where he received a lot of playing time down the stretch. In 51 games in Milwaukee, he hit a respectable .231/.328/.410 with a wRC+ of 92. His 10% walk rate in the big leagues would have ranked second on the 2019 Padres, trailing only infielder Greg Garcia.
Prior to the season, Baseball America pegged Grisham as a “left-field only” prospect with average speed and a below-average arm. However, in a very small sample size of 136 innings in center field, Grisham posted a positive UZR and was worth one defensive run saved. It is unclear if the organization views him as a center fielder but he should be able to fill in there without an issue. Like Urías, Grisham will come with six years of control and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2025 season.
The other piece that the Padres receive is veteran RHP Zach Davies. Davies, 26, was 10-7 with a 3.55 in 159.2 innings in 31 starts for the Brewers in 2019. The righty has posted solid results throughout his career and will be under team control through 2022. He is arbitration-eligible this winter and MLBTradeRumors projects him to earn a $5 million salary.
Davies isn’t the top-of-the-rotation arm the Padres are rumored to be looking for, but he has thrown at least 163 innings in three of the last four seasons. If there is a major question mark about him, it is the fact that he doesn’t miss many bats. Among pitchers who threw at least 150 innings last season, Davies’ rate of 5.75 Ks per nine innings was the third-lowest in all of baseball. His fastball velocity also averaged just 88.5 mph, per Fangraphs.
However, there is some reason for optimism. Davies posted a 2.94 ERA in 16 starts away from Miller Park last season and his road home run rate was half of what it is at home. He also fared quite well when he faced hitters for the third time. Hitters in their first at-bat against Davies posted a .778 OPS, followed by a .739 OPS in their second look, followed by just a .578 OPS in their third plate appearance against the righty. However, the Brewers rarely deployed him a third time through the order. On paper, it would seem like Davies would fit into the middle of the rotation.
This is the type of deal that is difficult to evaluate right away. It is essentially two deals; the prospect-for-prospect (Grisham and Urías) and a swap of back-of-the-rotation arms (Lauer and Davies). It is incredibly difficult to predict who won this deal immediately.
“Grisham may have been the most improved player in baseball last year,” said Jim Callis, a senior editor at MLB Pipeline. “He looked terrible in the Arizona Fall League after the 2018 season, then made some swing changes and ended 2019 as a regular on a playoff team. He’s interesting but I would be lying if I said I knew exactly what to make of him. If the improvement is for real, he profiles as an outfield regular — which probably means more trades are coming for the Padres.”
“I’ve always been a big Urías fan, so I like the Brewers’ side a little bit more. I will like the deal less for the Padres if this prompts them to trade [Hunter] Renfroe. I acknowledge Davies has been more productive than Lauer, though I like Lauer a little bit too.”
John Conniff contributed to the reporting of this story.