The San Diego Padres are in the middle of a roster overhaul this offseason. After arguably pushing past their payroll limitations in their quest for a World Series, the 2023 season was a disaster and the team finds itself in need of cutting back going forward.
Trading away Juan Soto did the bulk of the heavy lifting when it came to alleviating the financial burden, but general manager AJ Preller and Co. still have to find a way to field a competitive team in 2024 with multiple roster holes at the moment and limited resources to fill them.
One way they could, in theory, pull that off is via the trade market. While most of the trade chatter with the Padres has centered around Ha-Seong Kim, one Padres insider seems to believe that two-time All-Star and 2020 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Jake Cronenworth could end up getting moved instead of Kim.
Could the Padres' infield logjam force the team to move Jake Cronenworth?
The problem the Padres currently have is that the only real opening they have in their infield is at first base, where Cronenworth's bat and glove don't profile all that well. Even in the best of times, Cronenworth's bat is a bit above average with his defense carrying his value, so sticking him at first base suppresses his upside significantly.
However, with Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts, and Ha-Seong Kim around, Cronenworth finds himself on the outside looking in. The return for Cronenworth wouldn't be as high as it would be with Kim, who is the superior player, but that same decision calculus makes Cronenworth the more expendable of the two.
The Padres might find a trade package for Kim that could prove to be too good to resist, which would allow Cronenworth to move back over to his natural position at second base. There is also the question of Machado's return from injury being delayed, which could force the team to play Kim at third base with Cronenworth shifting over to second in the interim.
The best bet at the moment is that both Kim and Cronenworth stick around unless a team blows them away with an offer. There is no such thing as having too many good players on the roster and the Padres will probably need the depth early in the season. However, all bets are off at the trade deadline, especially if the Padres are out of the NL West race. If that happens, Cronenworth may (officially) end up being the odd man out.