By Nick Recchia
RHP DINELSON LAMET (Photo Credit: Mark Collier)
After a 2019 season in which the San Diego Padres were 70-92, including a dreadful September in which the team under Andy Green performed a whimpering 7-20 record, you’d expect dramatic changes in terms of roster construction. What has resulted, has been an uninspiring offseason at first look, with the only notable acquisitions being for OF Tommy Pham and a four year free agent deal handed out to former Padre LHP Drew Pomeranz, with this round slated to come as a multi inning relief weapon out of the pen. Outside of these deals, a swap of young players which saw 2B Luis Urias and LHP Eric Lauer head to Milwaukee for OF Trent Grisham and RHP Zach Davies and a buy low candidate in IF Jurickson Profar.
There has not been the acquisition of a vaunted top of the rotation arm to lead the young staff as has been rumored for the last couple of seasons nor any changes to the rotation minus the Lauer/Davies swap which seemed to trade a higher ceiling pitcher in Lauer for some security in a higher floored pitcher in Davies. Names have been bandied about from rumor mill stalwarts like Noah Syndergaard and Corey Kluber to surprising names like Mike Clevinger and Jon Gray. Even the free agent scene, with much hype going into the offseason left the Padres looking shocked at the prices being tossed around. When they realized that hometown star Stephen Strasburg, he of the 2019 World Series winning Washington Nationals was going to command a contract in excess of 200+ million, the Padres quickly bowed out. Other starting pitchers ended up with terms that were certainly in favor of the agents and players with the market’s competition bidding up prices for starting pitchers in the next tier like Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, and Hyun Jin Ryu who though quality starters, would not be confused with an “Ace” label on a playoff contending team at this point in their careers.
The team has been playing a long game with the last two offseasons worth of additions but this offseason, amongst talk by Padres Co-Owner Ron Fowler that “heads would roll”, has added urgency to show improvement. So if you’re not adding a glut of talent externally to a team that finished 19 games back of the Brewers for the second Wild Card, where is all of this additional winning going to be coming from?
Starting with the pitching staff, a full season of Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet, and Garrett Richards in the rotation would go along way to solving much of our pitching woes. A supporting cast of young pitchers will compete in Spring Training for the final two spots in the rotation among Joey Luchessi, Cal Quantrill, Zach Davies, and an outside shot for prospects MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino. The bullpen is locked and loaded with a three headed monster in the back of the pen in Kirby Yates, Drew Pomeranz, and young fireballer Andres Munoz. LHP’s Jose Castillo and Matt Strahm will be complemented by RHP’s Pierce Johnson and Craig Stammen with one of the starters who failed to crack the rotation serving as the long guy. Safe to say, the AAA pitching staff at El Paso will be as talented a staff as they’ve had as a Padres affiliate in 2020. Arms like Michel Baez, Adrian Morejon, Ronald Bolanos and possibly even MacKenzie Gore will start for El Paso to begin with bullpen pieces being filled with talented guys who don’t crack the big league pen. 40 Man roster pieces that would seem to be in this group due to depth at the major league level could include David Bednar, Gerardo Reyes, and Trey Wingenter among others.
The offense begins with keeping the phenom on the field for the entire season. Fernando Tatis jr. played only 84 games, though amassing a .969 OPS over 334 at bats. Having your best player on the field the entire season is a good start to a good season but not the only thing. The team desperately needs Manny Machado to recreate some of the magic he had in Baltimore, and have added some familiarity around him in new coaches Wayne Kirby, Ryan Flaherty, and Bobby Dickerson, all with ties to Machado’s days in Baltimore. Think of it as a way to maximize the investment the team has made in him. A return to form for him would take a lot of pressure off of his peers. Eric Hosmer needs to make his best impersonation of a league average first basemen and Wil Myers, if still on the roster needs to try and figure out some level of consistency like his 2016 first half. The honest view of Wil is he is neither as bad as he was last year nor as good as he was in the first half of 2016, but somewhere in the middle could still be a useful use of a roster and lineup space. Tommy Pham is claiming that he played through most of the second half last year injured yet toughed it out to stay on the field. While admirable in that regard, it also does explain the defensive metrics nose diving. His addition to the lineup in 2020 is huge with his ability to get on base at a career .373 clip. Other young players will need to prove in 2020 that they belong on the major league level and with a team in desperation to snap a losing season streak since 2010, you’d have to imagine the leash will be short. Trent Grisham, Francisco Mejia, Jurickson Profar among others have high expectations on them this season with pressure on all levels of the organization to perform. Much of the performance this season in fact will hinge on players with two years of service time of less to catapult the team into the 87-89 win range which is what a 2020 Wild Card berth is expected to require.
Now if everything breaks right for the Padres, internally you’d have health through the big league roster and a couple of breakout performers from the young players and some career years from the veterans, but rarely that happens without a team having to augment the roster at some point throughout the season. Nothing like boosting a playoff run by adding a 27 year old former AL MVP in Mookie Betts or a former NL MVP and local star in Kris Bryant to solidify the lineup. More than likely, a number of players not talked about now or even available this offseason might be part of a “reimagining” of some teams roster and could headline the stretch run of the next Padres playoff team.
AJ Preller will have more than enough motivation to add to the roster if the Padres get close to the break and are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. With one of the top farm systems in the game, a hungry fan base, and a determined ownership group, the Padres will be in on any and all the big names come July, if not before. One thing is for certain, Preller’s job is on the line in 2020, and you can be sure he’ll be ready to pounce on the big deal come July.
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.