Padres’ 2018-2019 Free Agency Shopping.
With the Padres’ current payroll at an estimated $55,477,500 for the 2017 season, the team has seen some huge shifts in spending.
Whereas two years ago Padres G.M., A.J. Preller, created the largest financial outlay in the team’s history, mainly due to the ill-fated acquisitions of Matt Kemp and James Shields, today there is a more conservative means of building a successful baseball team in San Diego.
Although this process relies mostly on prospects that are still ascending the minor league ranks, there are most certainly going to be some free agent splashes in the Padres’ future, resembling the rebuilds in Chicago and Houston. While the Cubs paid $427 million dollars to bring in seasoned veterans such as Jason Heyward, Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, and John Lackey to surround their competitive youth, the Astros have taken on similar contracts through trades (Brian McCann), international signings (Yuliesky Gurriel), and their own free agent signings (Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick) to give leadership and contribute to a team composed of talented youngsters.
In order to win a championship like the Cubs did, and the Astros seem destined for, the Padres must be willing to add some impressive free agents to their own youth movement. Luckily for San Diego, Preller will be given the opportunity to spend on the 2018-2019 free agent class, a class which analysts say could be the best ever, as a result of the upcoming low payrolls in 2017 and 2018.
Therefore, without further ado, I will discuss one free agent per position that the Padres could look at acquiring during the 2018-2019 off-season as well as list other notables for each position.
At catcher, San Diego has two real choices to impact their roster: the consistent, power-hitting Yasmani Grandal and the high-ceiling, yet currently injured Wilson Ramos. Since Wilson Ramos is a question mark behind the plate due to his ACL injury, and his most likely position on the 2017 Rays will be DH, ex-Padre Yasmani Grandal is the pick here. Although Grandal previously served a 50-game suspension for taking testosterone to improve his performance, he once rated as the sixth best catching prospect by MLB.com due to his ability to hit well from both sides and gun down runners at an impressive mark. As a result, he has become one of the top receivers in the senior circuit.
His 2016 slash line of .222/.329/.468 may look unsightly, but his power, 25 home runs in 425 plate appearances, as well as his defense, which includes a decent 28% caught stealing rate and one of the best pitch-framing abilities, allows the Dodger to be an elite-level player. There are holes in his game as well though, such as his low batting average, his slow speed, and his propensity for passed balls (10 in 2016 for the co-lead in the N.L.).
Yet there are more things to like about the backstop than there is to hate and he should be able to maintain the same height of success for a few years after his contract year since he has a patient eye at the plate, a pull-habit built for home runs, and good defensive qualities. Overall, Grandal is a player capable of playing in more all-star games than his lone 2015 appearance. Any possible interest the Padres might have in their former backstop does depend on the emergence of Austin Hedges though.
As with catcher, first base is a position where any free agency acquisition will be determined by the effectiveness of a current Padre. With a 6-year/$83 million extension, the businessmen at Petco Park have determined that Wil Myers is the future at the keystone. With goals of a 40-home run and 40-stolen base season, Myers could become the most valuable offensive first baseman in the game. However, defense is another asset that Myers possesses as evidenced by the fact that he accumulated a .998 fielding percentage, third best in the circuit, a range factor of 9.19, sitting comfortably above the league average of .905, and a measly total of three errors, being ranked once again at third best in the majors.
Lastly, Myers threw in some spectacular base running, which first basemen often don’t have. In 599 at bats, Myers stole 28 bases, including home, to lead every other first baseman not named Paul Goldschmidt by 16. Considering that this was the first season Myers ventured into the stolen base facet of baseball, his totals stand out even against Goldy’s 32. Overall, Myers has become one of the top first basemen in the game, and could easily become the best with visible improvements and another season under his game. This is even more true considering the fact that Wil slowed down a lot in the second half with a .223/.316/.381 slash line after having a .286/.351/.522 first half. Yet, since he never played more than 90 games in a single season before the 157 he played in 2016, the first half numbers are more indicative of Myers’ skills. Although this production is great for any team and seemingly irreplaceable, I’m going to try to do just that in accordance with this exercise.
So in the 2018-2019 off-season there will be a number of productive first basemen; however, they will also be old, so the average stat lines of these players will represent a shell of their former selves. From Adrian Gonzalez to Joe Mauer, the pickings would be good had free agency come for them several years earlier. Since their age will most likely limit them by an astonishing amount, the only really solid choice for the Padres here would be to buy Matt Adam’s bat. Once a stalwart in the Cardinals’ lineup, Adams has fallen on some tough times due to injury, ineffectiveness, and replacement by Matt Carpenter, a previous third baseman. However, hoping for a stat line similar to the one Adams posted in 2014, .288/.321/.457, is not out of the realm of possibility especially given the fact that Adams will still be only 30 years of age. This would be a darning scenario for the Padres though, since Myers holds a lot of promise and will be paid roughly $20 million annually, once this off-season comes around.
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