In case you missed it, the San Diego Padres are kind of a big deal. A year ago, the hapless franchise was preparing for offensive futility of epic proportions, a GM that ended up getting the heave-ho, and a rapid transformation in both ownership attitude and a new direction for their young front office boss.
A Baseball Winter Meetings for the ages, a complete revamping of the lineup, with plenty of new faces stoked the hot stove fires that fueled excitement throughout America’s Finest City. Just when the embers of those off-season fires began to cool down, up came more rumors. Was Cole Hamels coming to San Diego? Was A.J. Preller going to pull the trigger on another big trade to bring in an adequate first baseman, shortstop or lead-off hitter?
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In recent weeks, the rumors have been non-stop. A pair of Cuban infielders holding individual workouts were connected to the Padres. More rumors of Cole Hamels, and then late in the process, the name James Shields entered the fray. There was no way that Preller and Co. could possibly have enough cash left to bring in someone of Shields’ pedigree was there? Of course there was, and late last night, A.J. Preller worked his magic once again, sending a lightning bolt through the city as Shields agreed to a four-year contract to join the Friars. But that was yesterday.
Never the guy to sit back and think his job of remaking the San Diego Padres is complete, the team has now turned their full attention to shortstop Yoan Moncada. Yes, THAT Yoan Moncada. The one who is 19-years old, and has the attention of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers as well. In this Brave New World, could Preller and the Padres actually compete with the heavyweights of baseball spending, and reel in one more big fish before spring training begins in just under 10 days?
Well, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, that’s exactly what’s about to happen. Passan tweeted earlier today, that the Padres were holding a private workout for the best Cuban prospect since Jorge Soler, and with said workout, are prepared to as Passan puts it, “…be aggressive in pursuing him.”
Moncada, even if he does agree to terms with the Padres, most likely won’t be the shortstop of the future. He’s viewed more as a second or third baseman, but you never know until you see him actually play games in the United States. Perhaps some additional seasoning in the minor leagues could keep him at shortstop, which would be ideal for San Diego, as Preller has newly-acquired Will Middlebrooks at the hot corner, and Jedd Gyorko at second.
What about Hector Olivera? The Padres have been deemed the favorites to land him for a couple of weeks now. What if the team were able to sign BOTH? My guess, is that Gyorko either becomes the third baseman, or becomes trade bait. Olivera is big league ready now according to scouts who have seen him work out. Moncada is most likely a year or two away, and if he’s able to remain at shortstop throughout his development, it lessens the blow of losing Trea Turner to the Washington Nationals in the Wil Myers, three-team deal, along with giving up the #13 overall pick in this summer’s First Year Player Draft by signing Shields.
I can’t pretend to know the inner-workings of the Padres’ front office, but so far, Preller along with Logan White and Don Welke, seem to be a few steps ahead of everyone else in the game.
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