The San Diego Padres designated outfielder Jabari Blash for assignment this week, potentially ending their affiliation with the 26-year old, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time power hitter.
The team made the move before Friday night’s game, amidst a flurry of roster moves. One wonders if the team might not have cut ties with the potential slugger if not for the short-term needs created by the events of last week.
Following several days in which catcher Derek Norris was hit on the hand by a pitch, limiting his ability to play, Andrew Cashner was placed on the disabled list with hamstring cramps, shortstop Alexei Ramirez got removed from a game with hamstring issues, and a weather-induced double-header which created strain on the bullpen, the team needed to make a number of moves for this weekend’s final two games in Milwaukee.
These moves included using Luis Perdomo as a starter, bringing Christian Friedrich up from AAA to start a game, activating catcher Hector Sanchez, who had been claimed on waivers Wednesday from Toronto, using Brad Hand for a four-inning stint in the bullpen, recalling Jose Pirela from AAA to play second base, and calling up Leonel Campos to pitch Saturday, and then subsequently sending him back down and bringing up Tayron Guerrero to pitch Sunday.
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And at one point during this gaggle of roster moves, the Padres felt that their best option was to designate Blash for assignment. The Rule 5 player was considered more of a long-term project, and with the team winning nine of its previous 14 games and trying to play back into contention in the weak NL West, they simply needed to use their roster to focus on winning now. This is the catch-22 with Rule 5 guys. Their best chance of sticking around to help the team is for the team to be non-competitive.
With the Padres this year, Blash was used as a pinch-hitter, collecting only 29 plate appearances in 23 games played during San Diego’s first 37 games. Without regular playing time, the slugger never found a groove, and hit only .120 with one double and no homers.
Blash isn’t necessarily gone forever. In fact, if he clears waivers, there’s a chance the Padres could bring him back in a trade with the Mariners, who own his rights. When the two teams traded this offseason, the Mariners offered a player to be named later for Nick Vincent. Blash could potentially be that player and return to the Padres, who could then send him to the minors for additional seasoning. But there are a lot of “ifs” in that scenario.
As a long-time Padres fan, it hurts to see the team give up on a guy with the kind of power that makes people want to come to the park early to watch batting practice. Before Justin Upton hit 26 dingers last year, it had been 15 years since a Padres outfielder hit 25 or more in a season. And even though Matt Kemp, seems likely to break that barrier this year, it feels like outfield power is just something that Padres fans don’t get to have. That’s something for the fans of other teams to enjoy. It’s been a generation since a Padres outfielder has hit 30 homers in a season. And the next Padres outfielder to have two 30-home run seasons – will be the first one ever.
Of course, there was no guarantee that Blash would ever hit in the bigs, let alone become a legitimate major league power hitter. But few abilities capture our attention quite the way that hitting a baseball a country mile does. And Jabari Blash had that ability.