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Something Rather Than Nothing: Reviewing the 2015 Marcus Greene Jr. Trade

If you are anything like me, you love trades, and you love speculating about how much a player is worth or about whether or not they should be traded.  You stand ready with your optimism, pessimism, or pragmatism to react as you see fit once the trade does or doesn’t happen.  And once a trade is made, you rush to Twitter to read and write snap judgments, which scrutinize and analyze each player that the Padres received (with any luck, you’ll not say anything regrettably ignorant in your state of frenzy and rush to judgment).

In truth, though, not all trades are created equal, and some arouse more excitement than others. You might remember where you were when you heard that the Padres acquired Matt Kemp from the Dodgers, but I doubt you recall your whereabouts when they swapped Abraham Almonte for Marc Rzepczynski. Yet, sometimes it’s only in retrospect that we realize how impactful a minor trade was. In a series of articles over the coming weeks, I’ll be cherry picking a few minor trades made by the Padres in recent years to check in on a few intriguing prospects that the organization received.

The Trade

August 18th, 2015: Padres trade OF Will Venable to the Rangers for Catcher Marcus Greene Jr and Pitcher Jon Edwards.

The Context

As the 2015 trade deadline approached, Will Venable had little trade value. He was 32 at the time and in the second and final year of his recently extended contract with the Padres. The year prior, in 2014, Will had arguably his worst year as a pro, slashing just .224/.288/.323 and hitting only 8 home runs. 2015 was only slightly better for Will as he was slashing .258/.318/.378 with 6 home runs.

Nonetheless, Will was a slightly above replacement value player whose skillset screamed fourth outfielder because his value was tied to his defense, baserunning, ability to hit right handed pitching, and versatility in the outfield.  All told, Will Venable was not particularly valuable, considering his recent numbers, age, and miniscule amount of control.  Still, AJ Preller managed to find a suitor in his former team, the Rangers, and shipped Venable to Arlington for two players, Jon Edwards* and Marcus Greene Jr.”

The Return

The headliner, Marcus Greene Jr., was still recovering from Tommy John surgery when the Padres acquired him.  Since he wasn’t in the Rangers’ top 30 as a prospect at the time, my guess is that Preller liked Greene from his time with the Rangers and saw him as a high risk flier worth picking up while his value was low.

In his two years with the Rangers, Greene showed an advanced approach, with nearly as many walks as strikeouts (92 walks to 117 strikeouts) and a robust .390 OBP; however, he hadn’t shown much power with a .147 ISO, and, transitioning to catcher, had thrown out only 28.9% of attempted base stealers.

Once healthy in 2016, the Padres initially sent him to Lake Elsinore for his Padres organizational debut. Unfortunately, he was clearly overmatched in 18 games in the California League and was sent down to Fort Wayne, where his numbers didn’t improve. In total, he slashed a terrible .189/.268/.331 between both levels on the year, so amidst the turmoil of an injury, surgery, recovery, trade, and shuttling between affiliates, Greene was yet to find solid footing as a prospect.

After missing a year of development time to injury, Greene chose to play Winter Ball in the Australian Baseball League (ABL) for the Adelaide Bite. His time in Australia seemed to act as a renaissance of sorts for Greene. Sporting a more aggressive approach, he slashed .307/.333/.457 with 6 home runs in 38 games. Additionally, his walks were down and strikeouts were up. Baseball America has a great article about his success in the ABL, which is worth a quick read and can be found here.

The Padres decided to repeat Greene Jr., now 22, in Fort Wayne to begin this season, and he has begun to show signs of the potential that Preller saw in him. In 72 games for the TinCaps, he has seen the success he realized in the ABL translate to the Midwest League, posting a solid .276/.362/.467 line.  A few of the more encouraging signs are that his on base skills are still present and he is beginning to hit for a bit of power with 9 home runs and a .191 ISO. He’s also thrown out 32% of runners attempting to steal and reports about his makeup are positive.

The Outlook

For optimistic fans, his recent production offers at least a glimmer of hope that he can one day contribute to the Padres. If you squint, you might see a strong-armed backup catcher, with good makeup, above average on base skills, and 10-15 home runs in him. This trade represents, at the very least, AJ Preller’s first attempt at extracting upside from a low value trade asset in the form of high risk, low level minor leaguers.

Less rosy-eyed fans will rightly point out that, despite his recent success, you won’t find Marcus Greene Jr.’s name on any top 30 prospect list for the Padres, and, turning 23 in August, he’s now old for his present level and won’t be young for any level moving forward in the minors. They’d argue that his current uptick in production is due more to his age and the fact that he’s repeating a level than anything else, and that even still, he isn’t dominating. They’d also point out that he’s played a fair amount of DH this year and that young pitchers have been trusted to pitch to AJ Kennedy more than Greene.

Pragmatic fans understand that, like all fringe prospects, Greene’s most likely outcome is to never make it to the big leagues. Although this is the harsh reality for baseball prospects and fans alike, Greene’s recent resurgence ought to earn him a promotion back to Lake Elsinore shortly, where he’ll get a chance to build on this year’s positive developments. No matter your stance, you might agree that whatever Marcus Greene Jr. becomes, trading two months of a declining Will Venable to acquire him was probably worth it.

*Jon Edwards was also a part of this trade. Edwards was the PTBNL sent to the Padres in the deal and he was a position player who had been converted into a pitcher before coming to the Padres. He made a brief stint with the Padres in 2015, but was released after the 2016 season. He is seemingly out of baseball now, and it’s simple enough to say that he offered very little value to the Padres.