The 2023 season will be remembered mostly by San Diego Padres fans as one that caused the gutting of arguably the most fun roster in franchise history. After barely finishing above .500 with the third-highest payroll in the league, San Diego has seen Juan Soto, Blake Snell, Josh Hader and others all leave town as the Padres look to cut payroll and re-evaluate their operations going forward. To say it has been tough is a gross understatement.
That isn't to say the Padres aren't trying to find less flashy ways to improve their roster for 2024. Losing one of the best relievers in baseball in Hader certainly hurts, but the team has at least restocked its bullpen with the signings of Yuki Matsui and Woo-Suk Go. However, it appears as though one roster opening could lead to a reunion.
While Gary Sánchez brings real hit tool concerns with him, as his .204 batting average since 2018 shows, his 2023 season with the Padres went pretty well before he got hurt. He posted a .780 OPS in 72 games of work thanks to 19 homers, and his defense behind the plate helped him get to 2.4 rWAR on the season. A broken wrist cut his season short, but he was a bright spot nonetheless.
It looks like the Padres are interested in a reunion as Jon Heyman reported San Diego has reached out to Sanchez this offseason. However, nothing appears to be close as the two sides are still pretty far apart, but it's at least nice to see the Pads trying to find real value in the market.
More Padres News: Are the Padres rushing Ethan Salas?
Speaking of the catching position, The Athletic posted a piece recently about top Padres prospect Ethan Salas and how quickly San Diego is pushing him through the minor leagues as a teenager. It's a fascinating look at the level of talent Salas possesses in addition to emotional maturity beyond his years. By all accounts, Salas is a special player and Padres fans should be excited for when he does arrive in the big leagues.
However, this push to seemingly get Salas to the big leagues while he's still a teen has some real concerns. Catching at the highest level is uniquely difficult with the need to call games, manage a pitching staff, and still perform at the plate. Most of the time, that means taking longer to develop with the need to get reps behind the plate and learning the ins and outs of being a pro catcher (and all the responsibilities that come with it).
To put this another way, there's a reason why teams typically shy away from relying on high school catching draft picks. In the big leagues right now, Jonah Heim is the most recent high school catcher that was picked. He was drafted back in 2013 and didn't debut until 2020. JT Realmuto was another success story from the high school ranks, but even he still had to toil in the minor leagues for four seasons after being drafted in 2010.
Is it possible Salas is just such a unique talent that he can blast his way to the big leagues and be just fine? Sure, and no one is denying how great he could end up being. It's just perhaps a bit of a red flag that San Diego is pushing him as hard as they reportedly are given the demands of his position and the potential drawbacks of rushing his development.