The Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners pulled off a massive trade earlier this week. The Twins sent second baseman Jorge Polanco to the Pacific Northwest in exchange for starter Anthony DeSclafani and reliever Justin Topa, along with prospects Gabriel Gonzalez and Darren Bowen.
Jon Morosi of MLB Network is reporting that Seattle inquired about Max Kepler's availability during their trade negotiations with Minnesota. Ultimately, however, Kepler stayed put.
The San Diego Padres could sure use another major league-caliber outfielder on the 40-man roster. Rather than continuing to sift through the leftovers in free agency, AJ Preller could act and attempt to land Kepler in a trade.
Could Padres capitalize on Twins roster shakeup with Max Kepler trade?
Kepler fits a lot of what the Padres are said to be looking for this offseason. Some fans and pundits have tossed about the idea of adding a left-handed hitting first baseman who can also take on the role of designated hitter; someone like Joey Votto or Brandon Belt. But why not add a player who can actually provide above-average defense and still put up 20-plus homers?
Kepler has plenty of pop from the left side and plays good defense in the outfield. While last year wasn't his best defensive effort, Kepler was still worth 2 defensive runs saved (DRS) while playing right field. The year prior, Kepler was worth 10 DRS and has accounted for 48 DRS over his nine big league seasons, per FanGraphs. If the Friars were to trade for Kepler, San Diego could move Fernando Tatis Jr. to his right and allow last year's Platinum Glove winner to play center field.
While Kepler's defense would certainly benefit the Padres, his bat is his carrying tool. Last season, Kepler hit .260/.332/.484 with 24 home runs. Kepler has consistently maintained a good walk-to-strikeout ratio (0.55 BB/K) and kept his strikeout-rate below 20%. The 30-year-old has been worth 2.0 fWAR or better in each of the last three seasons.
Kepler is under contract through the upcoming season after the Twins picked up his $10 million club option, so his salary would definitely fit within the Friars' budget for the 2024 campaign. The question then becomes, would Preller and the San Diego front office be willing to give up the assets that Minnesota is seeking in return for Kepler's services?
The free agent market is beginning to dry up, and the Padres' current 40-man roster has just two true outfielders (Tatis and José Azocar). Whether San Diego attempts to capitalize on Minnesota's desire to trim salary, or looks to free agency, the Padres have to find a way to bolster their outfield ahead of the 2024 season.