Gone are the days of Tony Gwynn trotting out to right field. His 3,000 hits, eight batting titles, and countless All Star appearances have moved on to the television booth and the San Diego State dugout. Since his departure, the Padres have struggled to find their long-term right fielder. The upcoming season is no different.
Padres right fielders hit .258/.350/.389 in 2011. The on-base percentage is actually pretty surprising, but still below where it needs to be. Will Venable, Chris Denorfia, and Jeremy Hermida made up the triumvirate of Padres players to start in right field last season. This season, the team needs to create a clear depth chart. They need to establish their starting right fielder. Even a platoon approach is not a bad idea as long as the team has a plan.
Will Venable may be the best internal option in right field. He hit .246/.310/.395 with 9 HR. His numbers were well off his career pace of .250/.321/.410. At 29 years old, Venable is running out of chances to prove himself. He still makes less than a million per year and is under team control until 2016, so he may be an attractive option for the Padres.
Outside of internal players, rumors have been swirling around a Carlos Quentin trade with the Chicago White Sox. At first glance, Quentin looks like he might be a nice fit with San Diego. He doesn’t make too much money, especially considering the Padres rid themselves of Aaron Harang‘s and Heath Bell‘s contracts. Quentin has some pop in his bat, gets on base, and doesn’t strikeout too terribly much. However, his defense is awful. For his career, Quentin’s dWAR (defensive WAR) stands at -0.7. According to Fangraphs, Quentin’s DRS for his career is -22. He is the opposite of Cameron Maybin.
While offense is a plus for the corner outfield positions, a lack of defense in Petco Park could hurt Quentin and the Padres more than it has the White Sox. For the $6 or $7 million he will get per year, Quenitn’s defense needs to be much better. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m of the opinion that offensive stats should be weighed much heavier when evaluating a player, but Quentin’s defense, or lack thereof, will hurt the Padres.
Another option on the trade front may be Daniel Murphy. This is a relatively new rumor and I’ll have more on that later.
From a free agent standpoint, Jason Kubel may be a possibility. His numbers read like a bell curve though. 2007, 2008, and 2009 were years on the upswing for Kubel. 2010 and 2011 were on the downswing. Obviously if that trend continues, it may not be a very good investment for the Padres. However, Kubel’s career numbers are pretty solid. He’s hit .271/.335/.459 over the course of seven seasons. He has some power, can hit for doubles, and gets on base. And his contract is within the Padres price range. He made a little over $5 million in 2011 and shouldn’t command much, if any, more than that for 2012.
Down on the farm, we’ve already covered Matt Clark while talking about left field. The organization still have Eric Patterson as well. Patterson, of course, has Major League experience, but he lack the offensive power you would expect from a right fielder. In his Major League career, Patterson has only seen 574 plate appearances, so if the Padres were to give him a shot in right, they’d need to commit to it. He would need to get regular play there if he is ever going to put together a solid season. Patterson’s career numbers .217/.294/.343, but his biggest asset may be his speed. Again, he hasn’t had much chance to show it off, but he could be a base stealing threat and an plus right fielder. However, Patterson is naturally a left fielder or a center fielder. I doubt the club will even give him a look for right field.
My guess is, the Padres will pursue Quentin and may even land him. He may provide the Padres with some decent offensive numbers and all we can do is hope his defense won’t cost them too much. From the above options, Quentin is probably the best fit and clear favorite. Now, it’s just a matter of whether the Padres are willing to make a trade and pick up his contract. We should know soon.