About three weeks ago, I broached the topic of whether or not San Diego Padres’ GM A.J. Preller had risked too much of the organization’s future to make the team a contender now. The 2015 regular season in Major League Baseball ends after Sunday, and the Padres are in a familiar position–sitting at home during the postseason. 2015 will mark the ninth straight season without October baseball in America’s Finest City. It’s admirable that Preller tried to shake things up, and he did bring back excitement to a fan base that desperately needs a winner. As we all know, his makeover is far from complete, and with the 2016 Midsummer Classic being hosted by the Padres, along with the amount of money spent on payroll, it’s imperative Preller remain true to his vision, and complete the reconstruction of the San Diego Padres. Some of you asked what the Padres should do this coming winter, so today, we’ll take a peek at some options moving forward.
- Upgrade the shortstop position. Going into the season, most people were not buying into the idea of a Clint Barmes/Alexi Amarista combo working out real well. The two are slugging a combined .325 on the season, have slugged a whole six home runs, and are adequate, but nothing special with the leather. If Preller wants to continue the increase in payroll, and upgrade the position offensively, he has to go all-in on Washington Nationals free agent to be, Ian Desmond. If Preller wants to look at other routes, Alexi Ramirez (if the White Sox decline his option) and Asdrubal Cabrera could also be on the radar. While only Desmond is an elite talent, anything would be better than what they have now.
- Upgrade the first base position. I said it throughout last winter, and I’ll say it again now, the Yonder Alonso experiment has to end…NOW! Continued injury issues, and no power, this deal that brought the once highly thought of prospect is indeed a failure. Unlike shortstop, there is some obvious talent to be brought in via free agency. The prize of the winter would obviously be Chris Davis from Baltimore, but players such as Edwin Encarnacion and Justin Morneau would be better than anything the Friars have had since Adrian Gonzalez left town.
You might be sitting back and saying, well sure, spending top dollar is easy, but the Padres aren’t the Dodgers, Cubs or Yankees. That is true, but we must remember, Preller traded off almost all of his top-tier minor league talent to upgrade the big league roster for a run at the postseason in 2015. The Padres could ideally try and reload their farm system by making a couple of deals as well. Let’s take a look.
- Trade Tyson Ross. Yes, I said it. The unthinkable coming into the 2015 season, Ross was considered nearly untouchable after his breakout season in 2014, in which he posted an ERA of 2.81 and stuck out nearly 200 hitters. Record-wise, Ross is similar to last season, but his ERA is up almost a half run per game, and he leads the National League in both walks and wild pitches. The Padres made a mistake by not dealing Andrew Cashner last year, and now he’s worth next to nothing, so the team seriously needs to consider dealing Ross while he can still fetch some solid minor league talent.
And who will pitch for San Diego along with James Shields and Andrew Cashner with Ian Kennedy hitting free agency and dealing Tyson Ross? This is where Preller would have to let young guys like Casey Kelly, Robbie Erlin, along with veterans Cory Luebke and Odrisamer Despaigne bring up the back of the rotation. If Cashner had any value whatsoever, I’d suggest dealing him as well, and attempt to bring some talent back to the minor league system.
Juston Upton will no doubt receive a contract far more than he’s worth in free agency, but the Padres would be wise to make a qualifying offer so in the likeliness that he leaves, the team will receive a compensatory draft pick in next summer’s draft. If for some reason the market is tepid on Upton, he could accept the offer, try and get his numbers up to an elite level, and try it again next winter. He won’t turn 29 until next August, so it’s a win-win either way for San Diego.
Finally, the Padres need to determine who is going to lead this team into the future. Bud Black was shown the door after the team’s slow start, and longtime minor league manager Pat Murphy is ten games under .500 since taking over. Is he the answer? Obviously not. If Preller continues to spend, and brings in more seasoned veterans in the hopes of catching lightning in a bottle, and competing in the NL West with Los Angeles and San Francisco, they are going to need someone with a winning pedigree, who knows how to bring guys together. I’ve been barking up this tree for a year or so, but I think Dusty Baker is the perfect fit for this group. If Baker could manage the egos of Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, and was able to win a NL pennant, then go to Chicago, and turn them around, and then do the same with a Reds’ franchise that hadn’t been successful for quite some time, then why not with another group of vets, who by all accounts, have no clubhouse or chemistry issues? What can’t happen, is for the team to bring in a rookie manager with no experience such as Jason Varitek, or a hot head who comes apart at the seems at the first sign of trouble such as Bobby Valentine or Ozzie Guillen.
The window of opportunity is small for Preller and the Padres, and while little advancement was made in terms of record in 2015, without minor league talent to replace the departing big league roster, spending to finish the job is the only other option Preller has moving forward.