The Padres were able to take 2 of 3 from the Atlanta Braves this week at home, but it also gave a glimpse of what they could have been had they taken different paths last year. The Padres may have won this battle – but they will have a hard time winning the war.
Of course, comparing the Braves and Padres in 2016 isn’t too hard to do. Considering the many trades the two teams have made over the last couple of years, many players have now played for both teams.
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The Braves of course won a professional sports record 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005. They then faded for a few years before getting back to the playoffs in 2010, 2012, and even winning the NL East as recently as 2013. Then came Spring Training 2014, when they lost two starters Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to Tommy John Surgery Part 2 in spring training. This set the franchise into a rebuild mode as they also planned to enter a new ballpark in 2017.
At that point the Braves had a few core players but probably not enough to make a serious run. So as 2014 ended they started selling off parts prior to the 2015 season. They dealt Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel (separate deals) to the Padres. Alex Wood was traded to the Dodgers. Jason Heyward, Melvin Upton Jr. all cleared out. They saw Cameron Maybin resurrect his career after several lackluster seasons in San Diego. It was going well.
Meanwhile in San Diego the Padres were gearing up for a potential championship run with a new GM in A.J. Preller and stable ownership group who is very serious about winning and was putting up the money to go for it. The Padres stocked up with Matt Kemp, Derek Norris, and now recently departed James Shields.
As 2015 went along the Braves were bad but not the worst. They wanted more. They traded Andrelton Simmons, the “new” Cameron Maybin and Shelby Miller to get their farm system as the top rated one in all of Major League Baseball. Some former Padres prospects made the big leagues like Matt Wisler and Jace Peterson.
The Padres? They held on to their top tier talent at the deadline for a few draft picks, but watched Justin Upton go to Detroit and even former top picks Trea Turner and Joe Ross excite in Washington.
Now they are playing each other in 2016. The Braves are even WORSE this year, currently battling the Twins 1990 style for the worst record in all of baseball. The Padres, still with a lot of those contracts and big names aren’t too much better but now starting to deal off some of that rebuild. Craig Kimbrel is gone, James Shields is gone, and the Padres are left with few players to build around.
The Braves have Freddie Freeman as their franchise anchor, and while the Padres look like they could build off of Wil Myers, his injury history is still concerning. The Braves have a young rotation with even more coming and the 2015 first overall pick Dansby Swanson (not from the Padres for once but Arizona) ready to open their new park in 2017. Not to mention it looks like Julio Teheran is putting it all together again – will he last for 2017?
The Padres might need to get worse yet to get good again, and the Braves have a lot of their future hinging on minor league prospects. Mallex Smith (former Padre) is already up with more on the way for the Braves like another former Padre Max Fried. Meanwhile the Padres do have some great outfield prospects and SS prospects ready to go, but not much in the way of pitching. Their best bet is to try and trade off many of the remaining quality pieces they do have and get better minor league prospects until their draft picks can be ready. When that will be again? Who knows. I expect the Padres to be ready to compete for the NL West by 2018 or with a few aggressive moves in 2017.