What next for the Padres?

Padres 2016 Record  68-94

Top Prospects (Fangraphs 4/11/16) – Anderson Espinoza (RHP), Manuel Margot (CF), Cal Quantrill (RHP), Hunter Renfroe (OF)

Notable 2016 Trades – Traded Drew Pomeranz to BOS – Received Anderson Espinoza

So what happened to the Padres?

For some in the media, the San Diego Padres were the “winners” of the 2014-15 offseason. Among a large number of signings and trades, the acquisitions of Matt Kemp, Derek Norris, James Shields and Craig Kimbrel were deemed to have catapulted the Padres to a higher level and potential post season baseball. In my opinion it was the equivalent of replacing your ageing Land Rover Defender with a brand new one to conduct the school run, it’s still a great vehicle but is it very costly and is it actually the right purchase? Could you have gone in a different direction, like not putting all your eggs in the ace closer basket? As we now know the Padres didn’t achieve as they expected and held onto players like Craig Kimbrel for too long, had they lost their chance to cash in?

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Kimbrel had 43 Save Opportunities with the Padres, the lowest in his career at the time.

Come the 2015-16 offseason, it was time to ask the standard questions a team should ask. Could they win the World Series? No. Were they going to achieve post season status? Probably not. Is our farm system loaded enough to stand a chance in the near future? Not really. The Padres clearly and correctly entered a rebuilding phase, even if it wasn’t ever really admitted. It wasn’t a “crap yourself” rebuild (I’m looking at you Phillies and Sixers – what is it about Philadelphia?), but it was more like knocking over an old shed and looking to convert the pile of rubble into an extension or workshop. They knew they had to something this year, they needed to shift contracts (Kemp & Upton Jr) and also see what they could get for ace closer Kimbrel. The rebuild started in November 15, the Kimbrel trade achieved a good return, that included one of the Red Sox’s top prospects, Manuel Margot.

It wasn’t a “crap yourself” rebuild (I’m looking at you Phillies and Sixers – what is it about Philadelphia?)

The Padres made trades to shift money (whilst still paying some of it) including Jedd Gyorko, James Shields, Melvin Upton Jr, Andrew Cashner and Matt Kemp. They signed free agents and shifted some players for cash or in Fernando Rodney’s case now Padres number 8 prospect Chris Paddock. Some of the prospect returns included Hansel Rodriquez (Padres No. 31 prospect), Josh Naylor (No. 26), Fernando Tatis (No.6) and the jewel in their crown Anderson Espinoza (No. 1), who was received from the Boston Red Sox for Drew Pomeranz. Were the Padres looking to win the off season before the season was done? If they were trying to it wasn’t going to happen, due to some discrepancies in the medical details of Drew Pomeranz (And other players in other trades) the Padres lost out on Marlins No.6 prospect Luis Castillo. The mishandling of medical information led to the Padres GM A.J. Preller being slapped with a 30-day suspension without pay. Will this cause teams to be less likely to deal with the Padres? Probably not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it leads to the Padres overpaying in the near future to guarantee a trade.

The trades the Padres made along with the aggressive international signings have left the organisation in a much better place than they were coming into the 2016 season. Fangraphs have recently produced an article (http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/prospect-reports-san-diego-padres) detailing the top 32 prospects of the Padres. An evaluator calls them “the best he’d seen in a decade of scouting instructs”. The Fangraphs article has the Padres top 3 prospect entering the league in 19, 17 and 18 respectively. The next man on the list is OF Hunter Renfroe, drafted by the Padres in the first round of the 2013 draft who has already made the step up.

Towards the end of the 2016 season we got to see Hunter Renfroe enter the Majors, possessing a slash line over 500+ PA of .306/.336/.557 (OPS – .893), 30 HR and 103 RBIs form his time in AAA El Paso. After 36 PA in the big leagues, he slashed .371/.389/.800 (OPS – 1.189) 4 HR and 14 RBIs, clearly the Padres are excited about what he can bring to the team come next season. With the OF currently consisting of a combination of Jon Jay, Alex Dickerson, Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot (after his recent promotion to The Show), the future is most certainly looking bright in the outfield.

After spending the previous season moving around the OF, Wil Myers was almost cemented in place at 1B this year. He also had a breakout year hitting 28 HRs and 94 RBIs, and finishing second in the team WAR rankings (3.2). At 25 and not eligible for free agency until 2020, he is in for the long haul.

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Myers had a breakout 2016 and give the Padres a 1B for the future

With Jedd Gyorko gone, it was time for the team to move on to a new second baseman, the 28 year-old Ryan Schimpf is the guy. A man that will give the Padres the second baseman they hope they can trust to perform. Making his debut in the majors this season saw him have a BA of .217 (276 AB), it doesn’t look pretty on the surface, but his 20 HRs and 51 RBIs do make up for the lack of balls in play. His minor league stats show that he can hit balls in play, and still hit low 20’s when it comes to HRs. Making the leap when he did could have had an effect on his hitting, but lets give it a full season before we judge.

At SS the Padres have the 23-year-old Luis Sardinas, a player the Padres traded for from Seattle, with a PTBNL going the other way. He didn’t set the league on fire during his time in Seattle, Milwaukee or Texas. In fact he didn’t even cause the league to become tepid, he was bad. But the Padres traded for him and gave him 34 games to prove his worth, during that time he hit .287 with an OPS of .770. Beating his previous OPS effort in 2015 by .313 points. This guy can hit (again his minors numbers prove it) and he should continue to do so next year. If all else fails, he can do as he did for the Mariners this year and pitch an inning (giving away no hits and no runs). Check out that 0.00 career ERA.

In fact he [Luis Sardinas] didn’t even cause the league to become tepid, he was bad.

At 3B is the ever reliable Yangervis Solarte. I like this guy and I began to admire him even more than I thought possible. He spent just a single week away from the team (during September when there was no chance of postseason baseball) after his wife passed away due to complications from her fight with cancer. I don’t think I need to say anymore, a team player.

At catcher is 24-year-old Austin Hedges. The only player more frustrating for me on the Padres roster is the streaky hot and cold inconsistent “backup” catcher Derek Norris. Hedges can hit, so so so SO well. Well proven in the minors, but in the Majors he is absolutely awful. We’re talking worse than “Christian Vazquez awful” when it comes to catchers hitting. If Norris wasn’t so inconsistent it would be pretty disrespectful of the Padres to be listing Hedges as their number one catcher. But Hedges has to be number one, he HAS to sort his hitting out.

After various trades and moves, the Padres bullpen saw too many changes throughout the year to be competitive. Maurer found himself closing after the Rodney trade and Capps being out for the season. With Shields, Pomeranz, Cashner all being traded (I’m not counting Returning Rea – Could that nickname stick?), this meant many others had to step up and become starters including Luis Perdomo. Not an ideal situation, but even if it was the end of any postseason chance, it’s not the end of the world. But where the rotation is bad, is the lack of any form of ace (unless Ross returns and stays healthy), but on the positive side the rotation is young and cheap (oldest starters are Friedrich and Ross at 29). Which means they have plenty of movement (options/trades) and no huge contracts that they will struggle to shift. Don’t get me wrong, their rotation isn’t great, but I don’t see it as bad as some of those teams carrying giant contracts with ageing arms.

So what’s next for the Padres? They have to try and sign a starting pitcher and bolster that depleted bullpen. The market isn’t great for starters and they will be fighting for the scraps with other mid to lower market teams. Edinson Volquez could be a name they look at, but I hope they don’t, his location is a major issue at times and there’s a reason the Royals let him go. Jason Hammel pitched ok in Chicago, but he was backed up by a great defence and an incredible lineup. Let’s not get our judgement clouded by that. The man I want to see them go for is ex-Phillies 29-year-old Jeremy Hellickson. Posting a 3.71 ERA and a 12-10 record with the Phillies is pretty impressive, his SO/9 of 7.3 is good, but it’s his GB/FB 0.71 (MLB Avg 0.83) and GO/AO 1.10 (MLB Avg 1.11) that I like. The guy gets outs and with him theoretically moving from the slightly batter friendly park of Citizens Bank to pitchers dream of Petco Park, we could see a true ace take charge of this rotation. The problem the Padres have is money, in 2017 they will be paying over $37 million to players that aren’t on their roster anymore. This debt does drop in 2018 to $13.5 million, so if they can find wriggle room in 2017, they should make a push for Hellickson. Spotrac has Hellicksons value at $11.9 million per year and he is expected to attract a 4-year deal. What the Padres must not do is overpay and become bogged down in big contracts again, if Hellickson (or any other free agent) drives too hard a bargain, walk away Padres, you have some serious talent on it’s way up to the bigs. If you have to wait for the 2017/18 free agent class of starting pitchers then so be it. With such names as Sabathia, Ubaldo Jimenez and Clay Buchholz being VERY MUCH available, it’s time to get excited (obviously I jest).

What do I see the Padres doing in 2017? Depending on off-season moves, if they bring in a Hellickson or another good starter, have Tyson Ross and Carter Capps return healthy and go the whole season, I can see the Padres being either slightly below .500 or hitting even. If these things don’t happen, then they will be sitting at the bottom of the NL West waiting for Espinoza and Quantrill to mature like a fine wine. Either way Padres fans, stick with it, enjoy the delightful tones of Don Orsillo’s giggle, the beautiful city of San Diego and wait for that fine wine to step onto the mound at Petco and take down the Giants and Dodgers once again.

If all else fails, ask MLB for a realignment move to the AL West.

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