The San Diego Padres have elected to keep Carlos Quentin in town for a while longer, as they officially inked the power-hitting outfielder to a deal that guarantees at least three years and $27 million. The contract also includes a $10 million mutual option for the 2016 season, and if that’s exercised in addition to all incentives being earned, it could end up being worth as much as $40 million over four years. Quentin, who turns 30 at the end of August, was set to hit the free agent market for the first time in his career this off-season.
The former first round pick has put together a solid career from the offensive side, hitting .253/.348/.492 in 2,239 at-bats for three teams. In the midst of a fine season (.392 wOBA) and with his prime years coming, Quentin figures to earn his modest raise over the next three or four seasons, with just one caveat: health. First breaking into the majors with the Diamondbacks in 2006, Quentin has never once accumulated 500 at-bats in one single season. He missed the first two months of 2012 with knee issues, and it’s highly unlikely he won’t continue to struggle staying healthy as he ages. Furthermore, he’s not much with the glove, although FanGraphs UZR data has been kinder to him the last few seasons.
Considering how badly the Padres need offensive production, this doesn’t necessarily come across as a terrible deal, but the timing seems off. Just about every minor league ranking publication considered San Diego’s farm system to be the best in baseball or at least close to it, so it’s not difficult to see this currently awful team improving steadily over the coming seasons. That said, there are likely to be growing pains before they’re playoff caliber, so why invest in injury risks like Quentin instead of keeping the books as tidy as possible while the rebuilding process occurs?
Perhaps the Padres feel like keeping Quentin’s bat in their lineup puts them closer to competing in the NL West, but they’re still in dire need of other offensive contribution, and unless they’re planning on trading prospects for proven players, they won’t be able to change their fortune overnight. This is a perfectly reasonable contract for Quentin if the signing team feels confident he can stay on the field long enough to let his bat do its thing, but the Padres were not the right team to pull the trigger. The fit could end up being a good one, but it’s a questionable decision for sure.