The San Diego Padres traded away another piece from their 2015 spending spree, sending Derek Norris to the Washington Nationals, per William Ladson of

Per Nationals Communications on, the Padres will receive minor league right-hander Pedro Avila back in the deal. 

Norris was one of a number of players Padres general manager A.J. Preller acquired before 2015 in an effort to immediately turn San Diego in to a contender. Preller’s plan was a disaster, as the team finished fourth in the National League West.

After a solid debut season for the Padres in 2015, in which he posted a .250/.305/.404 slash line with 14 home runs, Norris collapsed last season. He posted career lows in average (.186), on-base percentage (.255), slugging percentage (.328) and OPS+ (56). 

Per FanGraphs, among catchers with at least 400 plate appearances in 2016, Norris’ minus-.4 wins above replacement ranked last. 

The Padres had until 8 p.m. ET on Friday to tender Norris a contract for 2017, as he is arbitration-eligible and under team control for two more seasons.  

Moving Norris on allows the team to focus more on the development of Austin Hedges, who is almost certainly the future at catcher. Christian Bethancourt, 25, could be the long-term answer, but Hedges will likely be the front office’s first pick to replace Norris.

The 24-year-old appeared in 56 major league games last year, batting .168 with three homers and 11 RBI. After recovering from a hamate bone fracture in his left hand, he has looked great in Triple-A. In 191 plate appearances, he has a .367 batting average and a .729 slugging percentage to go along with 17 home runs and 61 RBI.

The Padres should feel confident his second promotion to the bigs will go better than the first.

Plus, they got a young arm in the deal who at least offers some upside. Avila will turn 20 in January and spent all of last season in Low-A, holding his own with a 3.48 ERA, 92 strikeouts, 86 hits allowed and 38 walks in 93 innings. 

Given Avila’s small stature—he’s listed at 5’11” and 170 pounds on—starting likely isn’t in his future. But there’s a lot to like about his arm. He was ranked as Washington’s No. 23 prospect in 2016 by, with two quality pitches already at his disposal:

The right-hander’s fastball sits at 91-93 mph with some arm-side run and sink, and he’s already adept at commanding it on both sides of the plate. Avila’s curveball is his go-to secondary offering, thrown in the mid-70s with 11-to-5 shape and good depth. His feel for the pitch is advanced, as he’ll throw it for a strike early in at-bats before taking it out of the zone to induce whiffs. 

The Padres embraced their need to rebuild last year when they dealt Craig Kimbrel and Drew Pomeranz to the Boston Red Sox in separate deals to bolster their farm system. It will take time for their new young talent to develop before results show at the MLB level, but the front office finally has them headed in the right direction. 

The Nationals know Norris as well as any team in MLB. They originally drafted him out of high school in 2007, and he spent the first three seasons of his professional career in Washington’s system before being traded to the Oakland Athletics as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade. 

Norris isn’t among the elite at his position, but he was a consistent hitter and defensive catcher in his final two years with the Oakland Athletics and first year with the Padres. If he can get back to that, then this trade will be more than worth it.

The Nationals were in need of a catcher with Wilson Ramos entering free agency. Norris may not be their long-term solution at the position because of his poor performance in 2016, but he gives manager Dusty Baker options and is a good buy-low candidate who didn’t cost any significant assets to acquire.

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