Trade season has arrived in San Diego.
The Padres made a significant deal Sunday, reportedly acquiring All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier from the Pittsburgh Pirates, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. In exchange, the Padres are sending INF/OF Tucupita Marcano, OF Jack Suwinski, and RHP Michell Miliano back to Pittsburgh. The Pirates are also covering a portion of Frazier’s deal, meaning that the Padres will only be on the hook for a small portion of Frazier’s salary. Frazier is also under team control for the 2022 season, assuming the Padres tender him a contract.
Frazier, 29, is the current National League leader in hits with 125 and his overall slash-line of .327/.392/.453 is good for an OPS+ of 131 – 31 points above league-average. On paper, Frazier’s arrival is a bit of a curious fit – the Padres already deploy an All-Star second baseman of their own in Jake Cronenworth but both players present a ton of flexibility.
Cronenworth has seen time at first base this season and could slide over on occasion to allow both of their bats to be in the lineup. Frazier also has experience in the outfield. Over the last five seasons, Frazier has played 158 games in the outfield, with the bulk of his work coming in left. Theoretically, Frazier can spell Wil Myers or Tommy Pham from time to time.
This trade also presents the question of what the Padres will do with highly-paid first baseman Eric Hosmer. Hosmer is right at league-average at the plate and has struggled in the field. He has seen better production in July but a first baseman slugging .382 isn’t optimal.
The Padres gave up three interesting but not necessarily top prospects in this deal. The Padres dealt with the Pirates this winter when they acquired starting pitcher Joe Musgrove. Between those two deals, the Pirates have acquired seven former Padres prospects. Here is a look at what the Padres gave up.
Infielder/outfielder Tucupita Marcano: At first glance, Tucupita Marcano appears to be the headliner of the deal for Pittsburgh. He is a versatile player, who comes with high contact rates. Originally signed out of Venezuela in 2016, put himself of the radar with his stateside debut back in 2018. He first appeared at the back of our Top 20 list heading into 2019, and was at #9 on our MadFriars Top 25 list headed into this season. We wrote that he was a difficult player to strike out (8% K-rate coming into 2021) but that he will need to unlock more power to be considered anything more than first-guy-off-the-bench bat.
Marcano, 21, made the Padres roster out of spring training in a utility role. In very sporadic playing time, he hit just .182/.280/.205 in 21 big league games. He showed excellent plate discipline (12% walk rate) and an 18% K-rate which is high for him.
Marcano’s second stint with the Padres ended on June 7, when he was optioned back to Triple-A. Marcano immediately went on a tear, hitting .417/.506/.653, with four homers, 14 walks, and just eight strikeouts in 90 plate appearances. The increased power was significant, even in the highly hitter-friendly Triple-A West league. Marcano came into June with just two career homers.
He has tailed off quite a bit in July, hitting just .180/.263/.320 with a pair of homers. The poor July brought his wRC+ down to 101 – making his .272/.367/.444 right at the league average. If Marcano can add more strength to his narrow frame, he could profile similarly to the player he was traded for – a top-of-the-order hitter with a little power to the gaps and excellent contact rates. He also comes with six years of control, something that obviously appealed to the rebuilding Pirates. In San Diego, Marcano didn’t have a path to regular playing time but he should be able to slot right in at second base for Pittsburgh.
Outfielder Jack Suwinski was unranked in our preseason top-25 list, and his breakout is among the biggest positives of the Padres minor league system this year. Originally drafted in the 15th-round in 2016, the Padres paid him an over-slot, $550,000 bonus to bypass his commitment to Indiana University. He hails from the Chicago area.
Coming from a cold-weather state, Suwinski was put on a slow path to begin his career, and spent two full years in Low-A. While we had him pegged as a sleeper candidate going into 2019 because of his easy power, instead he struggled mightily at then-High-A Lake Elsinore, hitting just .208/.303/.350 with 12 homers and a K-rate at 30%.
The 2021 season has been a different story for Suwinski, however.
The 22-year-old left-handed outfielder opened the season with a bang, hitting .265/.359/.603, with five homers in May. Suwinski followed that up with an even better June slash-line of .265/.392/.639 and a whopping eight homers to put himself on the map as a player to watch. In July, he hasn’t showcased the same power (.385 slugging percentage) but an increased walk rate has led to a .442 on-base percentage.
Overall, Suwinski ranks fourth in the Double-A Central with a .949 OPS and 15 homers, and fifth in both slugging (.551) and on-base percentage (.398). Suwinski’s walk rate is an elite 16.6% but he hasn’t improved his K-rate (27.7%) at all.
He has added some strength and in looks we have had, his swing seems more explosive in the zone this year. His HR/FB rate has doubled, meaning more of his fly balls are leaving the yard. That is especially impressive, considering he plays his home games at Wolff Stadium. He has decent speed and can play center in a pinch but probably is better suited for a corner. Assuming his power breakout is real, he could develop into an everyday big leaguer.
The third player going the Pirates in the deal is right-handed reliever Michell Miliano. Miliano, 21, was part of the Padres’ vaunted international signing class of 2016. He signed for $450,000 and started his professional career in the Arizona League. In his first two seasons, Miliano worked primarily as a starter but struggled to command his mid-90s fastball and didn’t produce. In 2019, he worked as a reliever and continued to display wicked stuff (a 15 K/9) but poor control, walking a ghastly 26 in 21 innings.
The Dominican Republic native finally got to full-season ball this year, opening with the Low-A Lake Elsinore Storm. While his walk rate was still way too high (7.36 per nine innings), he dominated by relying on a devastating split-fingered fastball to pair with his fastball. He racked up 52 strikeouts in 25.2 innings before earning a promotion to Fort Wayne.
Between the two stops, Miliano has a 3.60 ERA in 30 innings with 59 strikeouts and 25 walks. A full 64% of plate appearances against him this year have ended without a ball being put in play. He is purely a bullpen piece going forward and will need to significantly improve his command to emerge as a high-leverage reliever for the Pirates. He will require a spot on the 40-man roster to avoid being a Rule 5 draft target.
Synopsis: This has the potential to be a win-win deal for both organizations. The Padres get a proven and versatile big leaguer for the rest of this season and next. It’s plausible to see Frazier play in left field next year since current left fielder Tommy Pham is eligible for free agency after this year. Any time you can add an All-Star caliber player without giving up the very best prospects, you have to feel pretty good.
For the Pirates, they get a big-league ready infielder who can play all over the diamond with excellent bat-to-ball skills. If Suwinski’s power is sustainable, the Pirates may have an outfielder to pair with former Padre prospect Hudson Head. Miliano is the wild-card; if he becomes a successful reliever, the Pirates will have recouped a lot of value for Frazier. As with any deal involving prospects, time will tell who the winner is. Today, you have to feel good about the trade if you are a Padres fan.