By Nick Recchia
LHP - MACKENZIE GORE
Photo Credit: Mark Collier
As the Kris Bryant contract grievance has finally concluded, it reminds Padres fans of an important decision the front office made at the end of camp last year. With what has been status quo for a number of years, to hide your MLB ready prospects down in the minors under a false pretense to delay their service clocks, the Padres bucked the trend and in a big way. As the team left Peoria, it informed two very heralded prospects that they would join the big league club for the opening day in shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and starting pitcher Chris Paddack. The club could of claimed how the young shortstop needed to work on some additional “seasoning” at the AA/AAA level or how Paddack needed to refine his breaking ball but instead, opted to bring with them two individuals who could contribute to making the big league team better from day one, regardless of the financial ramifications it could pose down the road.
It was a bold move to punt an extra year of team control over what many times is a handful of additional weeks in the minors to begin the season. With that being said, ownership and the front office were transparent in their approach of putting the best talent on the field possible. This approach will be tested again this spring with top prospect MacKenzie Gore, fresh off the 2019 MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year award as the top pitcher in all the minor leagues. As the top pitching prospect in baseball and reaching the AA circuit last year, there is little left to prove in the minors with four plus or better pitches and the guile that belies his youth, not turning 21 until this February 24th. Paddack ended the 2018 season at AA just as Gore did in 2019 and with less of a repertoire then the younger Gore.
Yet there are questions that have arisen since the dawn of the 2019 campaign like the explosion of contract dollars high level starting pitching has received during this offseason. Pitchers that are elite, always are well rewarded during this process but the game changed this year with multiple pitchers breaking the all time free agent contract given to a starting pitcher, and both by a wide berth. San Diego native Stephen Strasburg received a seven-year , $245 million deal ($35M AAV) to resign with the Washington Nationals while the New York Yankees broke open the piggy bank to sign former Astros hurler Gerrit Cole to a record setting nine-year deal for $324 million ($36M AAV).
Due to these aforementioned contracts, it makes you really analyze the worth of keeping Gore down in the minors for what amounts to early May typically. That “extra” season of control you’d receive could be valued at $35 million or more if Gore is every bit the quality of pitcher most pundits believe he will be. For an organization that will have to find ways to already pay budding stars Tatis and Paddack sooner than later based on the actions of last spring, it might be prudent to benefit from such extra “seasoning” you could deploy at the AA/AAA level in the opening weeks of the 2020 season. We shall see if AJ Preller is compelled to seize the day again with catapulting Gore into the starting rotation from day one to help this team win or a more reserved approach. A GM is motivated more than ever when his job is on the line. Let’s see if we continue to zig when others zag.
Longtime baseball enthusiast who tries to incorporate new age analytics into old school baseball strategy and how the two can coexist in winning harmony. Also a minor league aficionado who delves deep into the farm to share the love of the game from the lower rungs of the minor leagues and up. Always up for sports talk.