By: Mark Collier
LHP MACKENZIE GORE (Photo Credit: Mark Collier)
Well Padres fans...we made it. The year the franchise promised us we would be competitive and make it to the postseason is on the horizon. So naturally we should start to talk about how we are going to accomplish this feat.
First things first. Ron Fowler has stressed progress so let's aim high but also be realistic for 2020. Let’s grab a wildcard spot, which means we should target at least 90 wins. For perspective, the Brewers had 89 wins this past season which was the lowest win total of any playoff team. As a lifelong Padres fan, a win total plus 90 seems daunting, but the bar has been set high and we should now expect more from this team and the franchise that seems ready to settle for nothing less than winning...or else “heads will roll.”
So how do we win at least 20 more games and grab a wildcard spot?
If you watched this years World Series the mantra, “you can’t have too much pitching” rang true yet again. Scherzer, Strasburg, Cole, and Grienke are the type of pitchers that are going to help a franchise get into the postseason and win games in the World Series. So I started asking myself, if the Padres had a postseason game today who would get the starting nod? My bet is that it would be Chris Paddack. The reins are off this year and the “Sheriff” seems poised to take a major leap forward and establish himself as ace material. Chris will also need to show he can beat clubs like the Dodgers which will gave Jayce Tingler the confidence to want Paddack on the hill in the biggest of situations. We saw the signs in 2019 and a step forward in 2020 will be crucial to us sniffing the postseason.
Behind Paddack there are a handful of talented and also unproven arms that will inevitably be in the rotation from the opening series or at some point during the season that each have different things to prove in order to earn a spot. There is room for optimism here, but a dose of reality is needed here before we go further. The options we have today will not lead this club to 90 wins.
Garret Richards returns the rotation and should have with improved stamina and overall arm strength. He will need to be able to give the Padres north of 150 innings while providing much needed veteran stability to the rotation while winning 12-15 games.
Dinelson Lamet and Joey Luchessi will also need to provide consistency and build on last years performance. If one of them can take a big leap forward (my money would be on Lamet) this will ease the burden on the bullpen as well as Richards and Paddock. Lamet has the potential to be an ace for the Friars.
Mackenzie Gore and Luis Patino seem destined to make their appearance in San Diego at some point. It would not be practical to expect either of them to throw over 100 innings at the big league level, but would be exciting if one of them showed dominance from the beginning, but is not something we should expect their rookie seasons.
The reality is the most important arm on this years staff is not even with the club today. It has become very very clear that the AJ Preller led Padres need to land an ace. Someone who has proven their worth either in the postseason or at the top of a rotation and is ready to grab the reigns at the top of youngest staff in the majors even with Garrett Richards as part of the group. This staff ace is going to cost us in dollars or prospects but this move is necessary for Preller who has effectively been put on the clock by Ron Fowler to turn this team into a winner.
The Padres have young unproven rotation talent so they desperately need someone like a Zach Wheeler or Madison Bumgarner to take the top spot in the rotation. There are other candidates we’ll consider like Cole Hamels, but only as a secondary option, he is no longer an ace. My ideal pitcher for the Padres to land is Madison Bumgarner as he brings a winning pedigree and attitude the Padres need right now and is a big game pitcher. A three year deal with a fourth year as an option seems fair, but at this point in the offseason we simply don’t know enough about what Bumgarner will command but the good news is that the Padres are already showing interest. Plus, MadBum can rake for a pitcher which is nice for a club who could use some more offensive production.
At the end of the day I don’t think the Padres can compete with what Strausburg or Cole will command on the open market and they will have to put their stock in the youth and a select veteran or two. With the money the Padres spent on Machado and Hosmer the club needs to make some smart plays on putting together an improved rotation for 2020. We simply can’t afford to invest money in a veteran arm that doesn’t produce. More bluntly, our investment in a frontline starter cannot yield a James Shields result.
Clearly there are other elements to this ball club that need to be addressed, but no area is more glaring than the starting pitching. I’m not as concerned about the offense which needs to improve but areas of deficiency will be addressed in some capacity. The reality is two years ago that Clayton Richard was our Opening Day starter. We’ve come a long way since then and there is still work to do, but there is reason for optimism.