Is it Already Time to Get a New Outfielder?


Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Padres be shopping for more outfielders?

I know this sounds insane, since they already added an outfielder in the offseason and viewed this position as a strength going into spring training. But with Cameron Maybin’s injury keeping him out for as many as three months, Carlos Quentin’s inability to play an entire season, Seth Smith’s struggles against lefties, and the question marks surrounding Will Venable’s previous season (was it a breakout or a fluke?), the Padres may find themselves desperate for outfielders sooner than later.

Yes, I am aware that doctors say Maybin may (I repeat MAY) be able to return in four-to-six weeks, but I would be very cautiously pessimistic about that timetable. If you’re the Padres, and you’ve got millions of dollars invested in this guy, would you rush him back unless he’s 100%?

As I mentioned in a preview earlier this year, if you see Alexi Amarista logging 87 games in center field this year, you know it’s a lost season.

I don’t think the Padres want to rush any of their outfield prospects up this year for a couple of big reasons. One, I believe that the front office wants them to develop at a slower pace and make sure that they’re ready to contribute. I want to see Reymond Fuentes and Rymer Liriano play entire seasons at Triple A and Double A respectively before I want to see them manning the outfield in Petco.

I also don’t think that the Padres have a player on the major league roster right now who’s a plus defender in center field. Venable filled in and did a decent job. But he’s a much better right fielder and I think the lineup is more versatile when he stays there and Quentin (or Smith and Denorfia) handle left.

On an aside, how long until I can remember how to spell Chris Denorfia’s name? I always write Denofria, second guess myself, and then forget the process the next time I write about him. No other player causes me such confusion.

So even though the team has many outfielders, right now they don’t have a healthy center fielder. They will in 3 months, if Maybin comes back healthy, but they will still have to hope that he is able to regain his eye for the ball and his ability to read flyballs as well as stay healthy for the rest of the year. And that’s not even worrying about whether or not he can hit. I think they have to do something – if the Padres are going to contend in the West, they can’t sacrifice three months without Maybin and hope he can come back after, essentially, one and a half years off.

I think the Padres have three options: the cheap, the risky and interesting, and the crazy but why not. I took a look at every lineup in the majors and thought about which teams would be willing to make these trades, which teams could match up with the Padres player-wise, and which teams had extra, major league level outfielders who could play center. That’s the key: I wanted to bring back a player who had, in the past, played at least a few games in center.

The Cheap:

League Average minor league reliever (no one of any value) to the Phillies for John Mayberry.

It’s no secret that the Phillies are actively trying to trade Mayberry. Honestly, he’s not that great of a player. He can play center, but probably shouldn’t, and he’s got some pop, so he might get a few home runs during the season. He’s not really an upgrade anywhere and he doesn’t do anything that other players can’t. He can hit lefties, so he’s got that going for him.

Why mention this when it’s so obviously a bad, or misguided, move? This is the most likely trade for the team to make. Mayberry’s cheap, comparatively, at only $1.59 M per season and he’s got two years of arbitration left, although he probably gets released before that. He will cost the Padres none of their young prospects and will be a nice face on the bench when Quentin hits the DL again. It’s a low rent move that wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

The Risky and Interesting:

Chris Denorfia, Kyle Blanks, and Dale Thayer to the Blue Jays for Colby Rasmus and Moises Sierra.

Why the Blue Jays do it: they’re ready to hand center to Anthony Gose and they need another DH to take over when they finally get rid of Adam Lind. Plus, Denorfia becomes the key bat off the bench and the older, experienced vet to fit on a team that actually thinks it’s going to compete in the AL East. They also get a proven bullpen arm to add to an already tough collection of pitchers.

Why the Padres do it: they get a power hitting, good defender in center who’s in a contract year, so he’s motivated to play well. If he plays well, the Padres can resign him. If they can’t, draft pick compensation is always nice. If Maybin comes back and can still play, he slides into left (or right) while he gets his legs back. Just imagine how many flyballs would go to die with a Maybin – Rasmus – Venable outfield.

Sierra is well known for being… hmm, what’s the nice way of saying this… not the smartest man on the field… but he can hit, he can take a walk, and he can play a very good right field. He’s not going to see a lot of playing time in the Blue Jays organization as long as Bautista’s there and the Padres can get him some playing time when Quentin’s hurt. Or traded. Or Sierra goes back to Triple A and works on his baseball intelligence. He’s worth the risk for the Padres to pick up because if he can get his head on straight (or working), he’ll be a good outfielder for many years.

It would hurt to give up Denorfia, but getting back two players who can start, play every day, and have survived playing in the Rogers Centre without too many injuries, would be well worth it. As I always say, anytime you can deal a backup or a bullpen piece for a starter, you’ve got to do it.

The Crazy but Why Not:

A bag of balls to the Yankees for Ichiro Suzuki (and a bucket load of money to pay his salary).

Ok, this definitely won’t be happening, but it sure could fit. Ichiro’s already looking at riding the bench for most of the season and the Yankees are very motivated to deal him. He gets regular playing time with the Padres and the fans get to see if his instincts in the field are completely gone. He’d be playing center, which could get frightening, but no more so than Amarista’s time there. When Maybin comes back, he slides back to right field in a part time role, becomes a base stealing threat off the bench, and can provide some good leadership and comedy.

He’d also be a ticket seller and merchandise pusher. Padres games would immediately get shown in Japan and his jerseys would be a hit. National League cities would get to see him play and that might increase ticket revenue for everyone. He may be way past his prime, but don’t baseball fans always love to say “I got to see…. that guy… in person”, regardless of their age?

When I wrote my piece looking at the outfield and their expected improvements, I kept everything as positive and bright as I could. All of my projections involved Maybin playing a full season and improving in this, his age-27 season. With him losing at least a month and a half, those projections drop. His presence in the field is critical to this team’s early performance and his ability to turn deep flyballs into outs would help settle and give confidence to a pitching staff that is still rebuilding.

If the Padres really wanted to shake things up, to give their fans something to talk about, to make themselves competitive in 2014 and beyond, I believe they need to do something to show everyone that they’re not content to stumble out of the gate and play towards another mediocre season. The trade I mentioned with the Blue Jays would be the perfect opportunity to surprise fans who might already be gloomy about the start of the season with Chase Headley not yet ready.

Spring Training is all about getting ready for the upcoming season. If a piece is missing, it’s a good idea to go out and find a new one.