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Monday, April 14, 2014
Padres smartly sign Gyorko to extension

By David Schoenfield

Jedd Gyorko is off to a slow start for the San Diego Padres, but he's one of my favorite young infielders in the game, a power-hitting second baseman who has a chance to turn into an All-Star-caliber player. In what is no longer a trend but almost a given for any young player who shows signs of stardom, the Padres and Gyorko agreed to a six-year contract extension on Monday that will buy out at least one season of Gyorko's future free-agency years.

Gyorko's power is legit. After hitting 25 and then 30 home runs in the minors, he cracked 23 in 125 games as a rookie with San Diego in 2013, the most by a second baseman in Padres history. Originally a third baseman in the minors, Gyorko eventually moved to second base, and 2013 was the first season he played there every day. His range was adequate, but he displayed good hands, making just four errors. He finished with minus-1 defensive runs saved, pegging him as an average defender overall.

I see a player who may end up resembling Dan Uggla or Jeff Kent -- a run-producing second baseman you can hit in the middle of the lineup. (The comparison to Kent is a little extreme considering Kent had a borderline Hall of Fame career, but both were college players who reached the majors at 24 and moved from third base to second. Kent, of course, was better in his 30s than his 20s, but Gyorko's upside could be Kent-like for a season or two, minus some of the batting average and hitting behind Barry Bonds.)

It's possible, however, that considering his age, Gyorko doesn't get a lot better than the .249/.301/.444 line he produced last year. At 25, he's already fairly polished. Those numbers were held down by a groin injury -- he was 5-for-50 in July after returning from the injury but then hit 15 home runs over the final two months. Playing in San Diego won't help, although 13 of his 23 home runs in 2013 did come at home. But even if he doesn't get better, he's a solid regular. (A few more walks to boost the OBP would be nice.)

For the Padres, they originally controlled Gyorko through 2018 via the arbitration process but now get him for a year beyond that plus a club option for a reported $13 million. Gyorko gets $35 million in guaranteed salary. The Padres get an above-average player at a team-friendly price; Gyorko gets enough money to last several lifetimes.

The bonus for the Padres is they could always move Gyorko back to third base because Chase Headley hits free agency after this season. Now the Padres -- who have scored 33 runs in 12 games while hitting .228 as a team -- just need Gyorko (and Headley, both under .200) -- to start producing.