1 NL East trade target the Padres should pursue this offseason

Jerry Trotta
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 12: Travis d'Arnaud #16 and Ronald Acuna Jr. #13 of the Atlanta Braves high five after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in game two of the National League Division Series at Truist Park on October 12, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 12: Travis d'Arnaud #16 and Ronald Acuna Jr. #13 of the Atlanta Braves high five after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in game two of the National League Division Series at Truist Park on October 12, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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The San Diego Padres didn’t achieve their ultimate goal in the playoffs, but there’s nothing disappointing about making it as far as the NLCS as a wild card team without the face of your franchise. It’s certainly frustrating to think what they could’ve accomplished with Fernando Tatis Jr., but fans aren’t crazy to think this season could mark the beginning of a sustained period of success in San Diego.

After all, A.J. Preller isn’t going to just sit on his hands. The general manager has the blessing of Peter Seidler to spend as he sees fit, and the Padres have plenty of holes to fill in the coming months.

The entire pitching staff could use upgrades, as could first base and potentially left field if Jurickson Profar (player option) leaves.

Next up on the agenda, though, should be catcher after Austin Nola played every game in the postseason. That spoke to the club’s lack of faith in Jorge Alfaro, who’s entering his final year of arbitration, and prospect Luis Campusano.

Seeing that the catcher market is desolate sans Willson Contreras, might Braves star Travis d’Arnaud pique Preller’s interest this winter?

The Padres should try to trade for Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

Like Preller, Braves president of baseball ops Alex Anthopoulos never rests on his laurels. After the defending world champs and No. 2 seed Braves crashed out of the playoffs in the Divisional Round against Philadelphia, you can count on Anthopoulos making big moves again.

While Atlanta would love to offload Marcell Ozuna, they’d be hard-pressed to find a team willing to absorb the remaining two years and $33 million left on his deal.

That brings us to d’Arnaud, who could become a payroll casualty assuming Anthopoulos wants to re-sign All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson, who put together a career year this season. The former No. 1 overall pick, Swanson played all 162 games and set career highs in hits, OPS+, runs scored, RBI and stolen bases.

It doesn’t take a baseball savant to know the Braves should prioritize a franchise shortstop over a plus hitting catcher. Furthermore, Atlanta has plenty of insurance behind the plate in the form of William Contreras and vet Manny Pena.

From a Padres perspective, d’Arnaud is the exact kind of profile they need at catcher. In 2022, d’Arnaud made his first All-Star team, hitting .268/.319/.472 with 18 home runs, 60 RBI, 25 doubles and a 119 OPS+. Nearly all of those statistics ranked in the top 10 amongst catchers this season and they’d represent a major upgrade to Nola’s four homers, 40 RBI, 15 doubles and 91 OPS+.

The idea of trading for a catcher might sound bizarre, but let’s not forget the position was a glaring weakness for San Diego for most of 2022, including October. For what it’s worth, d’Arnaud has 43 hits, nine home runs, 27 RBI and 19 runs scored in 52 career playoff games.

Assuming Preller wants to upgrade at catcher, d’Arnaud should be near the top of his shopping list. The Braves catcher is owed just $8 million in 2023 and $8 million with a club option for 2024. Who says no?

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