Big Decisions Pt 1: Padres
With the playoffs just under way, we have not yet truly entered the offseason. But more than one team already has a full plate. From a last place team with a pitching staff in shambles, to a second half steam roller with a 30/100 corner infielder, few team’s have seen their outlook change as quickly as the Padres over the last few months. But it will be the next few that truly define the era of baseball that is about to begin in San Diego.
Deciding whether to trade Chase Headley is the club’s top priority, and it affects the direction of the club as a whole, not just this offseason, but for the next several years. No matter what they decide, additional choices will follow. The Padres have been making progress on a heavy rebuilding effort since Jed Hoyer took over as their GM in October of 2009. Drafts got better and the system got richer. Major players were traded off to bring in even more talented prospects.
Today, the Padres are either at the end of a rebuild, or at the beginning of an era in which they consider themselves to be annual contenders. The former is true if they trade Headley, the latter if they hold on to him. This team is still young, this rotation was a medical case study (read: disaster) in 2012 and Jedd Gyorko (JERK-oh), the Padres’ top prospect, is a third baseman with nothing left to prove in the minors.
Scenario 1: Keeping Headley
If the Padres choose to hold on to their team MVP, their course of action this offseason will likely be more aggressive in terms of attempting to achieve immediate success. This kicks off a very complicated chain reaction.
With Headley planted at third and due a big pay bump in arbitration, they have to decide what to do with Gyorko. Having spent time at second base last season, he would be groomed for the position in 2013, entering Spring Training with the job being his to lose. Then what happens with end of the season every-day man Logan Forsythe and streaky spark plug Alexi Amarista? With a log jam at second the Padres have an expendable piece to dangle in trade.
In the event that they do hold onto Headley in an attempt to compete next season, the Padres would look to upgrade the rotation with a number two type starter, and would likely pursue a right fielder. They could deal Gyorko if they can get a big enough return for him, but are more likely to package a young arm and one of their surplus middle infielders for a bat, while exploring the free agent market for a starter. Anibal Sanchez is one name that has been floating around, but considering how thin the market is, the price will probably not be worth it for San Diego. Brandon McCarthy seems a more plausible candidate in my opinion, though if his price tag is within the Padres’ price range it is hard to imagine the Athletics not trying to retain him. Although the Padres have new owners, do not expect an immediate leap in payroll.
Scenario 2: Trading Headley
If the Padres trade Headley they will likely do so for prospects that are very nearly ready or for a top young player that is just ready to begin contributing immediately, similar to Yonder Alonso was in 2012. If they can get a young bat for right field or a top flight arm to add to the young nucleus already in place, along with Jedd Gyorko manning 3B as a rookie, 2013 would be the final year of the rebuild, with 2014-2020 looking like a window for annual contention. One of the surplus middle infielders could be included in the Headley swap to sweeten the return, or used in a separate deal to address any needs not filled via the Headley deal.
Every pitch that has been delivered at Petco Park in 2004 has been aided by the Sea Level playing field, the cool, moist air. Pitches break more sharply and batted balls cannot fly as far. When the park was first built team ownership blamed wind patterns, a result of the lack of development around the new ballpark. But then the neighborhood grew up around the park and still fly balls went nowhere. Players hammered outs into the abyss and returned to the dugout stunned or frustrated. Padre hitters changed their swings, their approaches, they left town. Free agents hitters stayed away, while Kevin Correia, Jon Garland, Aaron Harang and others flocked to the pitchers playground to salvage faded careers.
In 2012 offensive numbers were again suppressed by this supreme environment. Only AT&T and Safeco played larger. Left handed batters have suffered far more. Lefties hit only 66 home runs versus 97 by right handed batters, despite all other batted ball statistics remaining all but a mirror image of one another.
This fact is the most concrete evidence that something must be done, but the devastating impact of not being able to sign or keep impact offensive players is what makes it most compelling for the organization to consider remodeling. The new ownership group has stated that they will look at the studies and proposals that had already been explored by the Moores and then Moorad groups. Fans of the Padres can only hope that the Fowler group does what the other groups had already decided was prudent before the change over.
No possible plans have been revealed to the public, but it seems likely that the right field porch that was the intended signature of Petco’s right field corner will be extended toward the gap to accommodate the visitors bullpen and one or two dozen more taters annually.
There are several arbitration eligible players who could be non-tendered by the Padres. Among them are two pitchers who each made just 1 start in 2012. Tim Stauffer lost time to an injured elbow. Dustin Mosely tore his labrum, after missing a significant portion of 2011 becuase of a dislocated shoulder he suffered swinging a bat during a game.
John Baker is also viewed as expendable due to the fact that Yasmani Grandal has emerged as a young source of offense for the squad. Despite the fact that Baker is likely a much better option than Nick Hundley as a backup, Hundley is owed $3MM in 2013 and $4MM in 2014. The club will be sorry to see him go, but it is possible Hundley could recover from a dreadful offensive season. The 29 year old flashed a 132 RC+ and compiled a 3.5 WAR in 2011.
Jason Marquis is a pending free agent, and while he pitched well for the Padres in emergency fill-in duty, is probably an odd man out between the club’s rumored pursuit of dependable middle of the rotation starters and a host of young, and more affordable, arms.
– Andrew Cashner: The club rushed him into a starting role and saw him get injured twice in that role before ultimately shutting him down for the season with a strained lat. The Padres have to consider carefully whether they want him in the rotation or whether they want to protect him in the ‘pen.
– Forsythe or Amarista: Both players contributed in 2012 but Forsythe hit a lot of hard outs, has a bit more pop and produced more consistently, while Amarista flashed brilliance occasionally, but had a couple of major slumps.
– Kyle Blanks: The oft injured LF/1B has run out his prospect clock, and is arbitration eligible for the first time, but it remains to be seen whether the Padres will waste another year on the 6’6″ former star of the future. His name hasn’t been floated as a non-tender candidate, but I think he is.