It’s hard to see a fan favorite get traded for a relatively unknown player, so when the San Diego Padres trade away pitcher Luke Gregerson for outfielder Seth Smith this offseason, it was a sort of a tough pill for Padres fans to swallow.
I’m sure many Padres fans immediately got online to run a background check on Smith, only to scratch their heads wondering why the team would trade one of their best relievers in Gregerson for a player with a career .265 average, .324 on-base percentage and 73 homers in 2,036 at-bats. To be quite honest, I wondered the same thing.
Well, the Padres needed another left-handed bat in the lineup and felt that Smith’s career .279 average against right-handed pitchers would be a good fit on their roster. His experience as a pinch-hitter might have also factored into the equation. No matter the reason or opinions surrounding the trade, the deal was done and only time would tell if the trade was wise on the Padres’ part.
In Tuesdays’ 6-5 win over the Oakland Athletics, Smith got a chance to play against his old teammates and played well, singling in three at-bats. That single would leave him with a .316 batting average on the spring with a .381 on-base percentage — so far so good.
Smith has at least one hit in all but two of his seven games played this spring. While 19 pretty good at-bats isn’t enough to make Gregerson fans forget about him in San Diego, his play this spring has to make things a little better for them.
The Padres’ bullpen seems to be in pretty good hands with new players like Joaquin Benoit and Tony Sipp on the roster, so if Smith can continue to make consistent contact, the Gregerson deal could turn out to be a pretty good one for the Padres. Smith’s defensive versatility in the outfield as well as experience and level of comfort as a role player will also come in handy on a Padres team that tends to deal with injuries and could use a reliable bat off the bench.
Before playing with the Athletics, Smith spent four seasons playing for the division rival Colorado Rockies, so there is some familiarity with both the league and division. If we’re judging statistically, Smith might just be a better NL player than an AL player. His best seasons statistically happened to occur when he was an NL player.
If a return to the National League can facilitate the return of the Smith that hit .293 with an .373 on-base percentage and 15 home runs in just 335 at-bats, then I’m sure Gregerson fans in San Diego will forget all about him. Only time will tell if that will happen.