With the San Diego Padres trading Juan Soto and Trent Grisham to the New York Yankees, could a former Yankee outfielder be a solid fit to take over in center field for the Friars in 2024?
Grading the fit for Harrison Bader and the San Diego Padres
Harrison Bader turns 30 in June and has battled through injuries for much of the last two seasons, spending them with the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds. With those injuries, Bader's production has slumped, with him posting just a combined OPS+ of 69 last season while slashing .232/.274/.348 with seven home runs and 40 RBI while also stealing 20 bases.
When healthy, however, Bader has been a defensive stalwart in center field. "Among all centerfielders who have played at least 4,000 innings since 2017, Bader ranks second in FanGraphs defensive value and fourth in defensive runs saved," as detailed in this article.
The Padres need a veteran presence in center field with Grisham gone, and Bader could provide that. Bader made $5.2 million last season and will likely need to prove his worth this season, so his money demands could fit well into San Diego's framework for the season as well.
However, there are other options for the Padres in center field as well, with San Diego linked to Jung Hoo Lee. Bader has some experience at the corner outfield spots, but his strength comes from playing in center, so the Padres may have to make a choice between Lee or Bader, both of whom are most valuable in center field.
Interestingly, the battle for both Bader and Lee could come down to the Padres and San Francisco Giants, with both teams looking for help in center field. Whichever team lands one, expect the other to be in deep talks with the other to fill their needs.
If Bader can return to the form he showed with the Cardinals before his injury in 2021 (114 OPS+), he makes sense for the Padres on a number of levels, including his relationship with former St. Louis and current San Diego manager Mike Shildt.