San Diego Padres have made a tremendous effort to establish a competitive team, and the 2020 season could show how real their aspirations are. Led by general manager A. J. Preller, the club got Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer, who became the core of a still struggling batting order.
This winter three trades addressed both the offensive production and the rotation. Starting pitcher Zach Davies was brought from the Brewers alongside promising outfielder Trent Grisham, with the Padres’ top prospect, second baseman Luis Urias, going to Milwaukee.
Then San Diego made a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, receiving a strong outfield bat in Tommy Pham, who’s also done a great job getting on base consistently throughout his career with the Rays and the Cardinals. Hunter Renfroe left for Florida in this trade and the Padres have now lost their two most powerful hitters in the span of just six months.
The eventual 26-man roster for the 2020 season might be nearing its completion but it’s not what the team’s front office sees as the plan for breaking the 14-year playoff drought. The squad still has issues when it comes to consistent hitting and rotation depth, and they, after being a bit quiet following a flying start to the offseason, could be looking to shake up the roster in the next three months.
In the following piece, we examine which transactions could help the NL West ballclub to improve before we reach Opening Day.
Sign Hunter Pence
The Padres, who finished 4th-worse in runs scored in 2019, need to prioritise improvement in the batting order and especially in the outfield. The field isn’t very impressive and despite Nicholas Castellanos and Yasiel Puig still out there, San Diego isn’t rumoured to be amongst the interested teams.
Pull Castellanos and Puig out of the equation, and there are only three right fielders with a positive amount of Wins Above Replacement last season (you’ll learn why the Padres are more likely to sign a right fielder rather than a center fielder later). These are Hunter Pence, Domingo Santana and Cameron Maybin. The former is clearly the preferable option.
Pence, who came close to career-highs in on-base percentage and OPS last year, has downside – he’s played just 180 games in his last two seasons with the Giants and the Rangers, and likely doesn’t have much more remaining in the tank. But given the Padres struggles at the plate, he’s the much-needed consistent hitter they have been looking for if he can perform just a fraction like during his strong age-36 campaign.
Wil Myers hit 58 homeruns between 2016 and 2017 and was a solid on-base right fielder for San Diego. In the past two years, he’s accounted for just 2.1 WAR, including career-worst -0.3 last year. Since batting .293 in his 2013 rookie year, he hasn’t had an average north of .260.
Now he’s used to seeing his name make the headlines in trade rumours. After numerous potential prospects, he’s considered to be a handy trade piece and could even be pointed the door this offseason.
His value is still decent enough. Alongside a top prospect, the Padres could easily get a solid starter such as the Rockies’ Jon Gray, who has won 10+ games in each of his last four seasons. That includes two seasons of ERA south of 4.00 – all this while pitching at the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the majors.
Shortstop CJ Abrams, No. 4 in the Padres’ farm system according to MLB Pipeline, or lefty Ryan Weathers, No. 6, could each be something that the Rockies are keen on adding in the wake of a possible Nolan Arenado trade that would virtually put them in rebuild mode. That’s another reason why the team might like that offer and get a 29-year-old Myers despite not really needing him at the moment with Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl in the outfield.
Sign Kevin Pillar
That concludes the plan. One writer was crazy enough to vote for Pillar for the NL Most Valuable Player award. However, that’s no knock on the former Blue Jays and Giants player.
We’re in the middle of January, and Pillar is still searching for a new home. That makes it strange for the Padres to have passed on him after so little production from Wil Myers, who played 155 games. Pillar out-produced Myers by 1.3 WAR, had a higher batting average and slugging percentage and struck out less in more at bats.
If the Padres do all of the things mentioned in this article, they’ll replace Myers with Pillar, who would be a bench player in CF and get the some playing time in right. Pillar has past experience in right which included 27 appearances and 222 innings in 2019. That means Pillar/Pence instead of Myers, which would be a great late-offseason improvement that could make a real difference to the Padres’ 2020 campaign offensively.