Status: Ending the rebuild
The Padres have not made the playoffs since 2006 and have not finished over .500 since 2010. Projections don’t expect either of those streaks to end in 2019, but optimism is growing in south California.
There’s no better way to show the rebuild is ending than handing out a $300 million contract to an All-Star. Manny Machado is a Padre, locking down the San Diego infield long-term alongside Fernando Tatis Jr., Luis Urias and Eric Hosmer.
Garrett Richards arriving on a two-year free agent deal was perhaps the non-Machado highlight for the Padres. Richards is out for the 2019 season, but that’s not a great concern for San Diego. It’s a cheap deal, and one that could provide brilliant value in 2020 if the former Angel is healthy.
Another veteran infielder was picked up in free agency. Ian Kinsler will help bridge the gap to the Tatis/Urias middle infield era after winning the World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2018. Kinsler’s glove means he’s still a valuable player, and his experience will be key around a young team this year.
Clayton Richard gave San Diego nearly 160 innings last season. His 5.33 ERA left him with -1.2 bWAR, however, and saw the Padres send him north of the border to join the Toronto Blue Jays. Connor Panas was sent to California in return.
Christian Villanueva and Cory Spangenberg combined for over 700 plate appearances in 2018. Both were designated for assignment in the offseason and subsequently released, making space for the prospects to move onto the Major League roster.
What to watch
In an admittedly tiny sample, Urias struggled in the Majors last season. He’s not good the hype or coverage of his future middle infield mate, but he’s still an elite prospect and one that San Diego are relying on offensively. It’s very unlikely he’s a complete bust. We will, though, get a good idea about how good he can be.
San Diego have talented young pitchers coming out of their ears. The rotation is going to be inexperienced behind Joey Lucchesi, who has only thrown 130 Major League innings himself. Hopes are high for Chris Paddack, Logan Allen and others – the Padres need to see them prove that they can deliver against elite hitters and, most importantly, stay healthy.
Hosmer has an odd knack to alternate between good and bad seasons. The 2018 campaign was one of his mediocre ones. There’s nothing to suggest the pattern is a thing, but the Padres could do with a sign or two of positivity to suggest that contract wasn’t a complete disaster. A .720 OPS is not good enough.
Breaking the .500 mark is possible. It’s probably a year too soon to think about the postseason, though anything is conceivable if Tatis, Urias and a few pitchers have big years.
Somewhere between 78 and 84 wins is the most likely outcome. That would be okay, and a key sign that they are heading in the right direction without losing key prospects through trades.