Yasmany Tomas, Jay Bruce, or Justin Upton?


If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the Padres are serious players in the Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes. Sandoval and Tomas are two of the sweetest plums hanging from the free agent tree, and GM A.J. Preller and the Padres front office are clearly looking to take a big, attention-grabbing bite. Unfortunately, the Padres’ bid for Kung Fu {anda ended earlier this morning when he agreed to a contract with the Red Sox.

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The Friars are also being named as one of the teams interested in Reds slugger Jay Bruce, per Ken Rosenthal. Bruce has topped 30 homers in three of the last four years, and is one of the top 10 power bats in the game. At this point, though, it is unclear how likely the Reds are to move Bruce this winter.

And the latest rumor has the Padres being a potential trade partner for the Braves, looking to add outfield stud Justin Upton at the expense of either Andrew Cashner or Tyson Ross, plus another top prospect or two.

Each of these moves is designed to bring some much-needed punch to the Padres anemic lineup.

What’s the order of priority here? Two free agents. Two potential trades. With all these potential moves, which should the Padres pursue most aggressively?

To add top level talent via free agency, you’ve gotta overpay. Tomas will sign a contract for more than his market value.

Sandoval is a .294 hitter (although that’s trending downward slightly) with 15-20 home run power. He is a very good defensive third baseman, and is the best postseason hitter this side of David Ortizso they should make a nice tandem.

For Tomas, the reports are that it will take 5-7 years and over $100 million to win his services. That’s more than the Panda. Tomas has more raw power than Sandoval, is 23-years-old, and is not carrying an extra 40 pounds. His ceiling is higher, and so his contract will be, too. But Tomas is unproven in this country, and reports are that he has a few exploitable holes in his swing. He has yet to prove he can hit major league pitching.

Bruce is coming off a poor year (.217, 18 HR, 66 RBI), which may bring his price down a bit. The Reds aren’t likely to trade him unless they decide to make 2015 a rebuilding year, according to Rosenthal, so if he does become available, that means the Reds will probably be looking for prospects instead of major league talent. So Bruce might be a very attractive prize, but at this point, we just don’t know if he’ll be on the market.

As a slugger with more speed and a better average than Bruce, Upton might command the most interest of the four. The Braves seem to be in the midst of a reconstruction of their lineup, and with Upton having only a year left on his contract, they may be looking for maximum return now. Upton would likely cost the Padres either Cashner or Ross, plus additional prospects. Such is the price for power in the post-steroids era.

In order to improve and be taken seriously as a team with World Series championship aspirations, the Padres need to make a statement now.  A big splashy free agent signing or trade is the first step toward credibility. The Mariners did it last year with Robinson Cano. Now, any player who gets an offer from Seattle instantly knows that they’ve got the game’s top second baseman hitting in the middle of the order. The Padres need to make a similar statement in order to be taken seriously by other free agents.

Given the situation of each player, Sandoval was the best choice of these four. He’s an established star with huge marketability and a reputation for excelling in October. Outbidding the Giants and Red Sox would’ve let the Padres “announce their presence with authority,” as Nuke Laloosh would say. And a lot of very good players would like to have the Panda as a teammate.

Tomas, while he may end up a better player than Sandoval over the course of these contracts, is just too unknown a quantity to be the first major signing by the new regime. The first major move shouldn’t be on an unestablished player who could end up being a big disappointment.

Between Bruce and Upton, Bruce would be the better choice if it meant the Padres could keep Cashner and Ross. In the flurry of activity to improve the offense, we cannot forget who brought us to the dance. The starting pitching, specifically these two players, are the core of this team right now. It would be foolhardy to dismantle the rotation to add a single bat. And at this point, there’s no guarantee either of these players will actually be traded.

Bruce. Tomas. Upton. In that order.