Padres Dilemma: Youth or Veterans?


One of the many dilemmas facing the Padres in 2016 is the question of youth versus experience. In nearly all aspects of the diamond this question comes up, from the rotation to catcher to who will man shortstop in 2016. The question is what difference does it make?

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The Padres need to find a shortstop, and are rumored to be close to signing 30 year old Ian Desmond. The average MLB roster age was right around 27 years old last year, with the Blue Jays being the oldest average age at 28.4 (thanks R.A. Dickey) and the Milwaukee Brewers being the youngest at 26 years old.

In center field, the Padres will likely have a battle between 31 year old and 11 year veteran Melvin Upton Jr.and 24 year old rookie Travis Jankowski. Behind the plate, they have several options of course. From Derek Norris and his 4 years of experience at 26 years old – to 24 year old Christian Bethancourt about 2 full months of MLB experience and their own prospect Austin Hedges who is 23 and appeared in over 50 games last season.

If moderation is what you are looking for, the World Series Champion Kansas City Royals clocked in at number 11 average age last season at 27.2. Random fact: they were also MLB’s lightest team at 199 pounds, for what that matters. In other words, there really is no correlation either way. Also, you have players like Felix Hernandez, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout who at 24 already have 5 years of MLB experience.

The common logic would be that a team that is rebuilding would take on all youth and shed all the veterans. The Yankees for example rarely have a lot of young players on the roster, unless they are very sure of them like say Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera in 1996. Yet is there a middle ground?

By trading away Joaquin Benoit and Yonder Alonso the Padres got younger. James Shields is the oldest member of the Padres 40 man roster and he was born in 1981. That adds to the speculation he is likely to be traded – both because of his age and his large contract.

More than ever, youth and experience are playing into baseballs economy with teams trying to lock up young stars with low MLB service time. That however is being challenged by some players, including the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant.

Watching how teams mix and match age and experience will be another way the game evolves. There is always a place for the veterans who can help the youngsters, the way Jason Giambi took on a player/coach role his last few seasons in the league or Mark Kotsay as the Padres pinch hitter specialist his last few years.

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As for the Padres, to me it doesn’t make sense to latch on to any free agent 30 or above unless they sign them to a contract less than 3 years, which in my view makes signing Desmond a bad idea. They already have Matt Kemp and Upton Jr in the outfield. What would make sense is a veteran who can back up first or third base, and even that role might already be capable of being filled by Brett Wallace, who is just 29 but already appears settled more into a back-up role than an everyday one.

What do you think? Should the Padres add more veterans or try and get rid of the ones they already have to get younger?