Projecting what Padres’ outfield might look like amid uncertainty

San Diego's outfield situation is a mess at the moment, although there's hope.
Seattle Mariners v San Diego Padres
Seattle Mariners v San Diego Padres / Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/GettyImages

The San Diego Padres' outfield looks like a hot mess at the moment. Fernando Tatis Jr.'s transition to went better than anyone could have expected, but the rest of outfield is looking awfully speculative in the wake of the Padres moving Juan Soto this offseason. And as the last few months have dragged on, it's become clear that the free agent market wouldn't have the answers the Padres were looking for.

It wasn't for lack of trying. One report indicated the Padres pushed hard to sign Jung Hoo Lee, who have been a nice addition, only to get beat out by the division-rival Giants.

Cody Bellinger might have been an option if the Padres were spending like they were the last few years, but never was never realistic as the organization is looking to trim costs. Bellinger is still available, but don't expect the Padres to come calling unless his price tag comes way down.

Given that we are just a few weeks away from spring training, here's what the Padres 2024 outfield situation looks like and what changes could come before the start of the season.

Padres internal outfield options for 2024

For starters, Tatis Jr. is most certainly going to stay in the outfield. Given how well he adjusted to the position change, there's a chance the Padres could try him out in center in 2024, although he's stated he prefers right field at the moment. Regardless of whether he stays in right or gets moved over, that is one outfield spot that is covered.

The problem is ... that's the only certainty out there. With Trent Grisham and Juan Soto getting moved this offseason, the Padres may have to get creative with their other two outfield spots given that the only other outfielder they have on the roster is Jose Azocar, who is a decent defender, but whose bat doesn't inspire much confidence at all.

Fortunately, the Padres do have a couple prospects that could make things interesting this spring. Graham Pauley has been getting a lot of buzz this offseason due to the strides he's made at the plate in the minors. He's an infielder by trade, but a move to the outfield may be necessary given the glut of infielders on San Diego's roster.

The Padres' second-ranked prospect, shortstop Jackson Merrill, could also be in the mix here. Merrill's hit tool has impressed over the last couple of seasons, and moving him to the outfield would be right in line with San Diego's goal to apparently play as many shortstops on their roster as humanly possible. A position change is still a risky bet, however.

Free agent and trade options for the Padres' outfield

Assuming a world where the Padres don't want to try out any of their prospects in the outfield in 2024, their external options are looking a bit grim. Free agent Eddie Rosario has been floated as an option previously, and would give the Padres a lefty bat, although his offense is inconsistent and he would almost certainly have to play in left. Other options still available in free agency include Tommy Pham, David Peralta, Adam Duvall, Michael A. Taylor, and Kevin Pillar, but overall the free agent market is very thin when it comes to outfielders at this stage of the offseason.

As for the trade market, the problems are similar. Maybe San Diego could get the Twins to part with Max Kepler given that he's in the last year of his contract and the Twins are looking to cut their payroll a bit, but the AL Central is actively bad and the Twins may want to maximize their chances of contention. The most exciting option would be a blockbuster trade for Randy Arozarena, as he's getting to a salary level where the Rays typically start entertaining moving guys, but getting a deal done would be very costly.

In short, the Padres have a ton of uncertainty in their outfield at the moment. They probably have the internal options to make it work if they so desire, and AJ Preller is still one of the more creative GMs in baseball, so a deal out of nowhere is certainly possible, but there's clearly a lot to sort out this spring in the Padres' outfield.

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