Here we sit. Less than three weeks remain in the 2015 regular season, and unless something miraculous occurs, the San Diego Padres will be sitting in a familiar position once the season ends: at home, and out of the playoffs. Shortly after last season ended, Padres’ ownership made the conscious decision to go in a direction that wasn’t familiar to their organization’s blueprint nor their fan base: they were going to take on some big money contracts, attempt to sign some big name free agents, and go from ho-hum to a roster full of stars, practically overnight.
Enter A.J. Preller. The former executive with the Texas Rangers, whose calling card was international talent. He requested and received permission to increase payroll dramatically. As of this moment, the Friars’ payroll is north of $108 million. Are they the Dodgers or Yankees? Not even close, but for a small market, with limited resources, the Padres couldn’t afford to be THIS wrong. Is it Preller’s fault? Is it the players’ fault for not performing up to expectations?
To acquire much of the talent that he did through trades, A.J. Preller had to part with most of his quality minor league talent. Gone are Matt Wisler, Mallex Smith and the most important piece: Trea Turner–acquired in the three-team deal that netted the Padres the oft-injured Wil Myers. To add salt to the wound, the Padres have gotten exactly zero production from the shortstop spot in 2015, and there is nobody on the horizon on the farm that looks big league-ready.
Most likely, the Padres will lose Justin Upton, another big bat, big contract outfielder whom the Padres parted with talent for. So they lose him. They are stuck with Matt Kemp, who was a ghost during the first half, while Yasmani Grandal has flourished up the freeway in Los Angeles. Gone is Jesse Hahn, parted with for catcher Derek Norris. While Norris has been a nice add, he’s hitting in the .240s, and is a much less talented defender than the Padres are used to seeing.
The Padres had offers on the table for Andrew Cashner this past winter. They could’ve reloaded the farm by parting with he and Ian Kennedy. Not top-tier guys by any means, but better than what San Diego has waiting in the wings now. Cashner and Kennedy have suffered through sub-par seasons, and Kennedy will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. I’m not sure if he’s a long term fit in San Diego, but he will leave a hole. Cashner’s stock has all but fallen off the map, and San Diego would be lucky to get a bag of baseballs and a bucket of mud in return for him now–especially given his long history of injuries. For once, he’s been healthy all season long, but the results just aren’t there.
The one big free agent contract: James Shields, was placed on waivers in August, and the Padres still owe who in reality, is no better than a #3, a boatload of cheddar over the next few seasons. This winter should be interesting to say the least for A.J. Preller and the Padres. Will ownership cut the purse strings, or will they allow their young GM the chance to spend them back into contention in 2016?