For second base, instead of discussing the possible effectiveness that Cory Spangenberg or Ryan Schimpf could have in two years’ time, since injuries and limited service time cloud their projections, I will focus on which second basemen will hit the market in the 2018-2019 off-season. In this off-season, there could be three stars whom the Padres can fixate on. From the slugging Brian Dozier and Daniel Murphy, to the defensive star who won the 2016 N.L. batting title, D.J. LeMathieu, the 2018-2019 free agency class will be loaded with difference makers at the keystone.
Yet, each has their own set of concerns, namely the power sustainability of Dozier, the defense of Murphy, and the hitting prowess of LeMathieu brought on by Coors Field splits and an unlikely .388 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). With each choice there is some risk, but there is also some great potential in play as well. To maximize such potential, the Padres, in case neither Spangenberg or Schimpf becomes a reliable starter, should choose to sign Dozier as their new second baseman. Although 40 home runs might be too tall a task for Brian to repeat, a run at 28 like in 2015, or possibly even more, could be in the cards for the Twin once he cashes in during free agency. Also, power isn’t the only asset that Dozier possesses, thus limiting the effects of any regression. With 18 stolen bases, only two times caught stealing, a .989 fielding percentage, and a range factor of 4.77, Dozier can add good base running and defense to his repertoire. This is especially true since he ranked fourth among second basemen in stolen bases and was above average on defense. Thus, such effectiveness would look enticing to a Padres team looking for solid veteran contributions.
Moving on to third base, the Padres have a few choices. They could keep the solid and consistent contributions of Solarte or move onto a superstar such as Josh Donaldson or Manny Machado. Since I will be saving Machado for later, Solarte and Donaldson will be considered. At one time, the Padres had their own star third baseman in the form of Chase Headley, but because of ineffectiveness, most likely from being stuck on bad San Diego teams with little lineup protection, Headley lost a substantial amount of value and was traded to the Yankees in the summer of 2014 for a middling major leaguer by the name of Yangervis Solarte.
Two years later, the outcome of that deal has become much more favorable to the Friars than the Bronx Bombers. Since joining the Padres, Solarte has served as the most reliable player, consistently posting a pretty batting average (.275), as well as putting up good power numbers (33 since becoming a Padre) and slightly above average defensive stats. With each year, the man from Venezuela has also improved on offense as evidenced by the fact that in 2016 he hit for the highest average (.286) and most home runs (18) of his career even though he had about 130 fewer at bats than in 2015. Yet, even with the contributions on the field, Solarte has become more valuable to the Padres as he has become the heart and soul of the team. From showing his best effort each day, to playing for the team in the same year his wife died, Solarte has given everything to the team. As a result, the team has refused to trade him this off-season as a sign of reverence to Solarte’s impact. He might not be the flashiest of players on the roster, especially with Renfroe, Schimpf, Hedges, and Margot occupying it, but he has become irreplaceable to the team. Therefore, his heart and leadership beats out Donaldson’s superior stat line and MVP capabilities so long as the Padres are rebuilding, which seems plausible in 2019.
Otherwise, if the Padres are in contention by 2019, then obviously the Friars should be looking at Donaldson to play third base for them. After all, he is an MVP level player with a great offensive attack as well as superb glove work and good base running to his name. Last season, a season which has been seen as his best career year, saw him put together a slash line of .284/.404/.549 with 37 home runs and positive additions to running the bases with seven steals. In addition, Donaldson has taken the extra base 41% of the time and has slightly above defensive stats; however, he remains a solid third baseman because he has a track record of great fielding range as well as a strong arm. Overall, his silver slugger season would look amazing on a future Padres team, especially since last year is not seen as his ceiling. Instead, like 2015, Donaldson could win more MVP awards so long as his productivity holds up, which is his only real worry since he will be 33 years old once he reaches free agency.
Although he does not play shortstop regularly for the Orioles, Manny Machado could be a great fit for the Padres, who always need players who can man shortstop. Since the Padres are willing to try out the average defender, Luis Urias, at short, why not try someone who once played the position himself and was drafted as such. Therefore, Machado could be a neat experiment, which might reap huge rewards for the Padres and their fan base. To illustrate the effectiveness that Machado may have at shortstop, we must first examine his defense, since that is the biggest question.
When J.J. Hardy injured his foot, Machado took over at his natural position, position 6. During that time, the native Floridian posted a higher range factor than the average, but a slightly below-average fielding percentage. Moreover, the Gold Gloves that Manny has gained in 2013 and 2015 emphasizes how sure-handed and strong-armed he is. Therefore, the man is capable of playing the position defensively and could get better with experience. Either way, Machado should be an upgrade defensively over the Urias experiment. In addition, Machado’s offense would instantly become the best at the position if he were to shift positions. Although he has never won an MVP, Machado has earned a career .294/.343/.533 offensive attack and finished in the top-5 MVP candidates the past two years. His massive power, 37 HRs last year, would make for an incredible shortstop, as no shortstop today has that kind of strength. Lastly, even though Manny did not steal a base last season, his 53% success rate on taking an extra base on hits describes the athleticism that he has. Overall, if Machado moved to short, then he would instantly become a 5-tool standout and the best in the game, even in baseball’s shortstop revolution. As a result, the Padres should try to sign him as the end to the shortstop drought would end with him.
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I write, I write, and then I write some more.. Lifelong Padres & Chargers fan who is tired of the acceptance of losing that grips all of San Diego sports fans!