Is Padres' looming roster crunch at shortstop about to get even worse?

The Padres have a lot of shortstops that they are going to have to sort out soon.
San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

It is hardly a secret that the San Diego Padres have a crowded infield at the moment. Especially when Manny Machado is fully healthy, the Padres have to play guys out of position as things stand just to get playing time for their best hitters. When the Padres signed Xander Bogaerts last offseason, the problem became particularly pronounced.

So glutted is San Diego's infield that there have already been rumors swirling about the possibility that the Padres could entertain trading Ha-Seong Kim. As good as Kim has been, especially defensively, even he looks expendable at the moment especially when one factors in the big return they could receive in a trade, given his production and how little money he is making in 2024.

The issue goes deeper than just the big league roster, though. Recently, AJ Cassavell talked about about the number of shortstops that the Padres have in their organization, and his take correctly highlights a fundamental issue with the Padres' roster as constructed.

Somehow, the Padres have too many shortstops at every level.

Let's get one thing straight: having too much talent is not an actual problem unless a team fails to use it. Depth at every position has value, and all teams should aspire to have to make tough choices from a lot of good options. The Padres have a slew of guys that play shortstop in some capacity and most can play it very well. Kudos on that.

However, the fundamental issue is that the left side of the Padres' infield is all but locked in for a long time. Manny Machado is under contract through 2033, and the same is true for Bogaerts. Even if they may not end up being the best options at some point in terms of production, that level of financial investment means it is going to be hard to move them out of the lineup or even to a different position.

So far, the Padres have been able to make things work. San Diego moved Kim to second base and Fernando Tatis Jr. to the outfield, with both moves working out great so far. Jake Cronenworth at first base isn't ideal, but even that should be fine, assuming he learns how to hit again.

The problem that is coming, however, is that even more shortstop help is arriving from the minor leagues pretty soon. Jackson Merrill is one of the best shortstop prospects in all of baseball, and he made it to Double-A last season. Further down the line, the Padres just signed Leo De Vries in international free agency, and he could end up being a top prospect himself sooner rather than later. Holding those guys back for a year or maybe two could be fine, but it doesn't look like the Padres will have an opening for at least the next five years.

Assuming that Machado and Bogaerts stay on the field, the most likely path to playing time for some of these guys remains on the trade market. Kim and Cronenworth have already been floated as trade candidates, and with the Padres' needs elsewhere on the roster (replacing 1,000,000 innings of starting pitching, conservatively), Merrill could be the centerpiece of a trade, given his proximity to the majors and the lack of prospective playing time on the horizon.

We shall see how San Diego handles this "problem". If they play this right, they could set themselves up for success, despite their new payroll limitations. If not, San Diego could find themselves in a position similar to the Angels, where they have some big contracts hanging around their necks and struggle to even get into the playoff conversation.

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