Could Padres revisit trade deadline interest at key position in offseason?

Jerry Trotta
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 21: Austin Nola #26 of the San Diego Padres reacts after striking out during the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in game three of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 21, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 21: Austin Nola #26 of the San Diego Padres reacts after striking out during the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in game three of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 21, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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It wasn’t long ago San Diego Padres fans were envisioning the team playing in the World Series. After running in to what proved to be a buzzsaw in the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS, attention has quickly shifted to the offseason, when A.J. Preller and Co. figure to explore any and all avenues to improve the roster.

Preller has shown a rare willingness to dole out mammoth checks to ensure regular season success. Now that he’s got a taste of a deep playoff run — just three wins shy of a World Series appearance — you have to think a big offseason looms for the Padres.

While getting Fernando Tatis Jr. back healthy, laying the ground work a Juan Soto extension and addressing the pitching rotation, bullpen and first base position likely sit atop the priority list, might Preller and the front office revisit their trade deadline interest at catcher?

Before the Padres stunned the baseball world and acquired Soto, they were poking around a deal for Cubs slugger Willson Contreras.

Could the Padres splurge on a catcher this offseason?

Austin Nola and Jorge Alfaro formed a solid duo in 2022, and both players are signed through next season (Alfaro is in his final year of arbitration), but it wouldn’t hurt to add more pop at the position. Both Nola and Alfaro were inconsistent at the plate this year, and Alfaro seems the more likely to leave this winter.

While Alfaro delivered five walk-off hits, his free-swinging nature isn’t conducive to the Padres’ hitting philosophy. For someone whose future in the league might consist of being a designated hitter against left-handed pitching, the Padres could certainly justify cutting bait with Alfaro. That would open the door for rookie Luis Campusano to get more playing time after he logged 46 at-bats this season.

While San Diego is bullish on Campusano, would a Nola-Campusano platoon really satisfy Preller’s appetite following an NLCS appearances? That probably depends how the rest of the lineup (and payroll) looks. Some teams are happy to sacrifice an offensive-minded catcher for defense and an elite game manager.

But after watching Phillies star J.T. Realmuto tear up the playoffs (he’s hitting 265/.345/.469 with three homers and six RBI in 13 games), Preller could seek more offense from the catcher position.

With that in mind, Contreras, who clubbed 22 home runs with 55 RBI and a .815 OPS this campaign, is a free agent and will be a hot commodity. Other names include Mike Zunino (4.5 WAR), Omar Narvaez (4.0 WAR), Gary Sanchez (2.8 WAR) and Christian Vazquez (2.0 WAR).

Contreras clearly has the most upside of that group, but he’ll also cost the most by a considerable margin. Whatever happens with Contreras, Padres fans shouldn’t be shocked if Preller looks to shake up the catcher rotation this offseason.

It simply isn’t in the general manager’s DNA to settle.

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