By: Mark Collier
OF - FRANCHY CORDERO
PHOTO CREDIT: MARK COLLIER
The San Diego Padres have made a flurry of moves this offseason with eyes towards becoming contenders in the National League. Tommy Pham, Trent Grisham, Zach Davies, Jurickson Profar, Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagan, and others. With those upgrades to the 2020 club there have been some significant opportunities that have not been realized. Shogo Akiyama, Starling Marte, and Mookie Betts who are all outfielders that Preller was in on but for whatever reason ended up missing out on this off-season. With what looks like a full outfield, even after the Manuel Margot trade, it seems that the club was still looking to upgrade over current in house candidates.
As it stands today, the Padres have one outfielder who is locked in as a starter, newcomer Tommy Pham in left field. Even with the departure of Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot in separate trades to Tampa Bay, the Padres have a variety of options with upside that will compete this spring for the final two starting spots. It’s a safe assumption that the Padres will carry five outfielders as they enter the 2020 campaign.The Padres traded 2B prospect Luis Urias and Eric Lauer in order to land Trent Grisham and Zach Davies. With high expectations of Grisham, he is likely to get a long look at being one of the starters with an inside track to the center field job. Franchy Cordero is very talented and if he proves that he can stay healthy (79 MLB games in 2017-19) has an inside track to earning a roster spot and will push for starts in either center or right.
We can’t forget about Wil Myers as we’ve heard his name all off-season dangled in trades as a way to dump his salary. It would seem logical that Myers has an inside track to be an Opening Day starter, if he has a decent spring as the Padres remain saddled with his $20+ million annual salary. His salary alone guarantees him a roster spot and a lengthier opportunity to build trade value in the least. The Padres also have recently acquired Juan Lagres signing him to a minor league contract as insurance in addition to talented journeyman Abraham Almonte who are both unlikely to make the club but offer some nice insurance in El Paso.
Taylor Trammel, who came over in the Franmil Reyes trade had a strong finish to the 2019 season and helped the AA Amarillo Sod Poodles win the AA Texas League title. Trammel could push his way into the conversation but the Padres are not in a rush to bring him to San Diego in 2020. Finally, second year player Josh Naylor, a converted first baseman has some nice upside but is really not an outfielder and is currently blocked by Eric Hosmer at first. Naylor’s name has been part of several rumors this off-season as he profiles more as a DH with his hit tool and limitations in the field. With the DH position looming as a National League addition possibly by 2021, he is a name to keep an eye on, just maybe not in the outfield.
There is an abundance of outfielders in camp with much potential and talent, but outside of Pham, not a lot of proven production. Due to this, the team has had a different trajectory than most years with an edict to win from ownership on down. Let’s start with the Padres pursuit of Mookie Betts. Historically when have the Padres been in on a talent like Mookie Betts, even if it was for a one year rental? AJ Preller is clearly not satisfied with the pieces he currently has in the outfield. The idea has even been floated by local media of giving time to Fernando Tatis in the outfield to have yet another talented option.
So after missing on Akiyama who landed with the Reds, Starling Marte who went to Arizona, and Betts who landed with the Dodgers, what options are left the the Padres and Preller? There are few free agent names still floating out there, the likes of Yasiel Puig but he’s a rather acidic addition to most clubhouses and unlikely to be signed. With the plethora of talent the Padres have in their farm system and young expendable players who were on the roster last year, it is easy to expect that Preller is going to stay active and try to add a significant final outfield piece before opening day in a trade, even if we hear otherwise.
Three names the Padres have been linked to this off-season and still possibly available are Nick Senzel, Whit Merrifield, and Kris Bryant. Bryant makes a lot of sense for San Diego as he can play multiple positions and has a history in San Diego as a local college star at USD, but the Cubs will most assuredly be asking a king's ransom to consummate a deal. Senzel is a very talented former top 10 prospect with the Reds who can play second base and outfield, both positions of need for San Diego of which the same can be said for Merrifield, a 2019 AL All Star for the Royals. Both of those organizations have different priorities but would likely mean the Friars giving up multiple impact prospects.
There are likely other names that could be added to the list that Preller has inquired about but the reality is Preller knows 2020 is the year to take a step forward, to make the postseason, or at least come very close. He has to like the upside and potential of his current outfield pieces but entering a critical season for the franchise with his job on the line, the uncertainty for Preller appears to be too much ambiguity for him and Fowler to start the new decade. Padres fans eagerly await to see how this is all going to play out.