After a relatively tumultuous beginning that included a flurry of trades as well as a 30-day suspension for withholding medical information, Padres’ general manager A.J. Preller has concentrated on what he does best: identifying and acquiring young talent. Now he needs to prove that he can stick to his own plan of building from within, maintaining continuity throughout the Padres’ system and adding a few valuable pieces through trade or free agency. However, the rumors connecting free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer to San Diego fly in the face of that plan.
Although the Hosmer rumors have died down of late, their very existence caused both excitement and consternation among the Padres’ fan base. Hosmer has four Gold Gloves and gets rave reviews for his clubhouse presence and accountability. However, he would come with a hefty price tag and would push Wil Myers from first to the outfield.
The most glaring problem with signing a player such as Hosmer would be a signal that Preller cannot stick to his own plan. The Padres front office has been clear in predicting that the team will have the ability to contend beginning in 2020 and beyond. Adding a pricey free agent when no one expects the team to compete for a playoff spot makes no sense. This year, a worthy goal would be to at least break even, although that’s a steep climb for a club with a 71-91 record and .438 winning percentage last year.
Preller has certainly helped improve the defense up the middle by trading for the slick-fielding shortstop Freddy Galvis from the Philadelphia Phillies for minor league pitcher Enyel de los Santos. According to Steve Adams of mlbtraderumors.com, “Galvis will represent a mammoth upgrade on the defensive side of the game for a Padres club that ranks dead last in shortstop DRS (-38) and UZR (-38.4) across the last two seasons.”
Recently the Padres traded fan favorite Yangervis Solarte to the Toronto Blue Jays for minor leaguers Edward Oliveras (outfielder) and Jared Carkuff (pitcher). Although Solarte will be missed by his teammates, the move does clear out some of the infield logjam further complicated by the addition of former Padre third baseman Chase Headley.
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The starting pitching staff remains a work in progress. Jhoulys Chacin, who led the Padres with 13 wins, 153 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.89, has signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. Clayton Richard (8-15, 4.79 ERA, 1.52 WHIP), Luis Perdomo (8-11, 4.67 ERA, 1.51 WHIP) and Dinelson Lamet (7-8, 4.57 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) will all return, and Preller has added a number of other pitchers including old friends Tyson Ross and Chris Young. Bryan Mitchell, acquired in the trade for Headley, will also get a chance to pitch in the rotation.
Possible spring training invitees may include starting pitching prospects Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi and Jacob Nix, although none are expected to make the team at the start of the season. Colin Rea, Robbie Erlin, and Matt Strahm should all be healthy and in the mix. Recently Preller added Japanese submariner Kazuhisa Makita to a team strength: the bullpen. Brad Hand, Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates and Phil Maton will return, and Carter Caps should finally be healthy.
Unfortunately, however, FanGraphs.com predicts that the Padres will not make any improvement in 2018 and end the year with the identical record of 71-91. Frankly, such an outcome could lead to panic in the front office and derail the plan of slowly building a team capable of contending beginning in 2020.
So far during this offseason, the moves made by the Padres indicate that A.J. Preller remains true to the plan. The question remains though, will he have the courage to stick to that plan no matter what the results of the 162-game schedule are?