Warming Up the Hot Stove
The 2020 MLB offseason is in full gear with the top catcher and reliever both off the board a full week before Thanksgiving. The Padres have been from all reports in many different conversations from the starting pitching front, to every position other then third, short, and first for obvious reasons. While the “hot stove” has started to churn early, it seems the trade market is still finding its footing which is sure to pick up steam as we march towards Dec. 9th-12th in San Diego as the GM Meetings come to town. As the host city and with a mandate from ownership to begin moving towards contention and out of the cellar of the NL West, AJ Preller is motivated to make a splash with the resources to do so.
Going into the offseason, the team has acknowledged that there are too many question marks across the roster to breakthrough into a playoff spot without significant growth internally and some key additions in the lineup and in the starting rotation. The glaring spots last season where the team seemed inefficient and futile sometimes were the ability to hit right handed pitching and a starting rotation unit that could be depended upon to eat a serious amount of innings. Collectively as a team in 2019, the Padres hit .234/.301/.404 vs RHP while hitting .249/.330/.430 against southpaws. The only projected 2020 opening day starters as of right now would be first basemen Eric Hosmer who has his own platoon splits that are dreadful and switch hitting catcher Francisco Mejia. Hosmer had a .600 OPS versus southpaws which deeply hurt his overall value, especially as a first bagger, but not to digress. The obvious spot to improve would be in the outfield where Hunter Renfroe regressed from his first half performance with a .161/.263/.299 slash line over 205 plate appearances to finish off the second half. Unfortunately, Manuel Margot and Wil Myers never really got started with both disappearing for large swaths of the season mired in prolonged slumps that seemed to last months as opposed to days or weeks. Keep in mind, that Preller is not necessarily looking for a left handed hitting outfielder but simply a hitter that can hit both handedness of pitcher. On the free agent market, outfielders that are most relevant to this cause would be corner outfielders Corey Dickerson, Marcell Ozuna, Nicholas Castellanos, Kole Calhoun, and Yasiel Puig, all with the deficiencies ranging from defensive chops, contract demands, or in Puig’s case, clubhouse chemistry/fan reaction. The trade market seems more preferable with possible names bandied about such as CF Starling Marte and COF David Peralta among others.
Starting pitching is a much more robust market on the free agent side of things then previous years with multiple impact pieces available for nothing more than money and our third highest draft pick which as of now seems to end up somewhere in the mid-high 70’s. At the top of the market you have Gerrit Cole and hometown boy Stephen Strasburg, both sure to come away with six plus years at high AAV’s of thirty or more per season. This duo is followed by a large group of starters that in most years would be battling for the best starter available between Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Dallas Keuchel. Even the group after this consists of useful hurlers like Kyle Gibson, Tanner Roark, and Alex Wood. The Padres projected 2020 rotation as it stands consists of a combination of RHP’s Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet, Garrett Richards, and Cal Quantrill, and lefties Joey Luchessi and Eric Lauer. With almost of these pitchers coming off of partially missed seasons or inning counts, there is a lot of uncertainty regardless of the pure talent. A wild mustang is a thing of nature but not dependable in its actions which sums up the current staff. The high water mark for innings pitched on the team last year was 163.2 IP by Joey Luchessi, which replicated in 2020 will result in another losing season. One thing most top starters have in common that the Padres have interest in is they take the ball every fifth day and keep their teams in the game. Case in point, Cole, Strasburg, Bumgarner, and Wheeler all pitched 195+ innings over the course of the 2019 campaign. This is valuable for a young team that needs to ease young pitching into the majors. Another name to keep an eye on would be Rancho Bernardo HS alum Cole Hamels. Even in an injury marred season that saw an oblique injury put him on the shelf, he still put up a 3.0 WAR season. A willingness to sign a one year deal as has been reported also make him an enticing sign to a rumored 14 different teams.
As you can see, the Padres have their hands full, but with a GM and ownership group eager to lay claim to San Diego as “the team” in the region, the farm system and financial resources to boot, this is not your dad’s Padres. But to convince him, it’s going to take something this team hasn’t ever seen, a consistent winner not happy to be the little brothers of the NL West. We’ve all heard the talk about prospects and potential, but winning is done on the field and reflected in the standings. 2020 is the time for this group to show it walks the walk as well.
PHOTO CREDIT: MARK COLLIER
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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.