The Editor’s Desk with Billy Brost: Three Spots Of Concern For The Padres
By Billy Brost
We are inching closer to the end of what has been an interesting season to say the least for the San Diego Padres. So much hope and promise heading into 2014, quickly fizzed with ice cold bats, a slew of injuries, and some franchise strife helped send this Padres’ team to the bowels of the National League. It could be worse, they could be the Colorado Rockies!
While the Los Angeles Dodgers up the freeway are most likely going to be competing for a National League pennant in a month or so, the Padres are in a familiar position: rebuild mode. During the season, the Friars saw the passing of the franchise icon in Tony Gwynn, and witnessed the disfunction and eventual dismissal of Josh Byrnes as the team’s general manager.
Heading into the 2015 season, the Padres seem to be in a much better position to at least compete for a Wild Card berth than they were at the beginning of this season. A handful of young players could prove to be steadying forces, while inept and troubled veterans are moved out. Yes, I’m talking about cutting bait with Carlos Quentin and Everth Cabrera.
Friars On Base has discussed some options for next year’s Padres with existing talent, such as moving Jedd Gyorko over to third base, keeping September call-up Cory Spangenberg as the everyday second baseman, handing Rymer Liriano the regular left fielder’s job, and giving Tommy Medica 500 at-bats, three spots of concern could either hinder San Diego next season, or put them over the top as a wild card squad: right field, first base, and catcher.
For those of you that are screaming from the top of your lungs that Austin Hedges is the future behind the plate in San Diego, you might be right. The problem is, his bat, is not anywhere near big league-ready. I suppose for the right field problem, you could simply hand the job to Liriano, and pray that Carlos Quentin returns healthy (you can stop laughing now), and and Padres could continue running Yonder Alonso/Yasmani Grandal/Tommy Medica or anyone else out to first base, never giving any of the three enough ABs to get consistent production.
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Let’s forget about Quentin, assuming he is DFA’d or dealt to an American League team needing somd DH punch, because that is all he is now. That gives Liriano and Medica a chance for consistent at-bats in left and right for Liriano, and left and first base for Medica. Two names to keep an eye on for a non-platoon right fielder: Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. Cruz might be a little too spendy for the Padres’ taste, but he does have a previous relationship from his Texas Rangers’ days with A.J. Preller. As for Markakis, he’s still young enough (31) to be a solid, yet affordable bat to insert into the Padres’ lineup. Over his 9-year big league career, Markakis has averaged 17 home runs, 78 runs batted in, and a .290 average over a 162-game schedule. He’s also a top-flight defender, having won a Gold Glove in 2011. Again, solid, productive, AND affordable.
Another focus spot for the Padres is first base. Looking for a professional, productive bat who again, can bring solid run production AND is affordable? Look no further than Adam LaRoche. He’s hit 77 home runs over the past three seasons, and has driven in 248 runs. The Nationals, while I’m sure would love to keep him, have to do something with Ryan Zimmerman, who is doing his best Steve Sax impersonation at third base and in left field. LaRoche just happens to be the expendable bat because of his pending free agency. He’ll never bring home a Tony Gwynn batting title, but his glove and power bat can’t be ignored. When scoring runs is the name of the game, and you’re needing to augment a young group of players with solid clubhouse leadership AND production, Adam LaRoche is a solid and affordable fit.
Depending on your view of Austin Hedges, will determine whom you go after in free agency to keep the seat warm until he’s ready to play at the major league level. The top of the heap is Russell Martin, who has always been a solid defender, and a solid bat in his days with both L.A. and New York. He is having a tremendous year in Pittsburgh with the stick, just in time to snag most likely, a three-year deal on the open market. If you’re of the school of thought that Hedges’ bat will never develop, you sign Martin as the final free agent offensive piece. If you believe Hedges is the next Benito Santiago, you look for more of the one or two-year deal type catchers on the market, such as A.J. Pierzynski or David Ross.
It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense. The Padres have both the starting rotation and bullpen to go toe-to-toe with any squad in baseball. ANY. The problem is, they need to score runs and we won’t review the disaster that has been this season. Any combination of two to three proven offensive pieces, turns the stay at home San Diego Padres in 2014, into the darling of Southern California in 2015, and fighting for a playoff berth immediately. Then again, the right field issue could be solved with Yasmani Tomas. I’m not a mind reader, nor am I A.J. Preller. But, the Padres DO NEED to upgrade the offense sooner rather than later.
Keep the Faith.