The biggest week in the recent history of the San Diego Padres is taking place at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee. The fate of the organization's top star (Juan Soto) could be decided before the conclusion of the meetings.
There is a sense of urgency as the San Diego Padres seem to be stuck in neutral with their offseason plans. Everything seems to have been put on hold until the resolution of the Soto situation occurs. Moving on from him is the type of heavy lifting that allows the Padres to make other player moves and remain a postseason contender.
No one can deny that the Friars can contend without the star outfielder. Why? Well, the Padres have a talented roster, as the team is led by four stars (Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.) who can pick up the slack left from the loss of Soto in the lineup. However, the road would be less bumpy if other players exceeded expectations.
If a Juan Soto trade happens, the San Diego Padres lineup has players who must step up in 2024.
Let’s take a closer look at three players...
The Friars may regret signing Xander Bogaerts to a 11-year, $280 million contract. Critics believe the money could have been better served to keep Soto in San Diego long-term. But that is a story for another day.
It is too easy to overreact to a star player's poor season with the bat, but Bogaerts needs to get back on track driving in runs more consistently. If so, the Padres offense could be revitalized in 2024.
The inconsistency with scoring contributed to the Friars' disappointing 2023 season. The lineup was expected to lead the majors in runs scored. Instead, the offense languished in the middle of the pack all season in the category (4.64 runs per game). The bats struggled driving in runners in scoring positions as the Padres had a .241 team batting average in this category (23rd in the majors). The Padres late-season surge (14-2 in the final 16 games) skewed the offensive numbers for the season.
Individually, Bogaerts ranked near the bottom with a .191 batting average in 141 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Results of this nature were the cause of why it took so long for the Friars to get over the .500 mark.
And another slow start by Bogaerts will raise everyone’s concerns. It will not matter if his launch angle is on the rise. The Friar Faithful wants Bogaerts to become a primary run-producer in Soto’s absence. It could happen if he returns to hitting line drives by squaring on each pitch.