For the outfield, I will make one mention. The Padres have a lot of potential there already with prospects such as sluggers Jabari Blash and Hunter Renfroe as well as speedster Manuel Margot joining the similar Alex Dickerson and Travis Jankowski. On the farm, there is slugger Jorge Ona, possible 5-tool player Michael Gettys, intriguing Jession Rosario, under-the-radar Franchy Cordero, speedster Buddy Reed, and consistent Nick Torres. Therefore, any additions to the outfield might not be needed in the future.
There won’t be many intriguing left fielders in the 2018-2019 free agent class. Brett Gardner, who will be 35 when he reaches free agency, will lead an uninspiring group. He still holds some value though. Described as a power/speed threat with great fielding skills, Gardner hit for a .261/.351/.362 line with 7 home runs and 16 stolen bases. Although his power backed up last year, there is no reason to believe that he can’t rebound to his high of 17 per year, especially since that was only 2 years ago. Even though he may not find his power stroke once again, Gardner’s value comes from his base running and glove work. In addition to the 16 stolen bases he had in 2016, Brett also took the extra base 55% of the time on hits and played Gold Glove defense. He may be old at 33 but Gardner is not slowing down. His good OBP., speed, range, and extra-base power makes him a complete player, but his age is a problem.
The free agents in center field will be more interesting than the men who flank them to the left. The three best ones are Charlie Blackmon, A.J. Pollock, and Adam Jones. Since Adam Jones will be 33 at the time and derives most of his worth from hitting for a decent average and good power, Blackmon and Pollock are more reasonable options to look at. Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies has grown considerably during his tenure at Coors. Once dominated by the usual Coors v. Away splits, Charlie has become a more complete player in each year he plays, culminating in a Silver Slugger season (.324/.381/.552) in 2016. His power/speed combination would be a nice addition to any team as his 29 home runs and 17 stolen bases would be valuable anywhere. He does have some concerns though, namely his decreasing stolen base efficiency as well as his poor defensive metrics. With less than ideal range as well as a weak throwing arm, Blackmon is questionable to start in center for much longer. Yet, his potential at the plate still enhances his value and the Padres could always put him in left field to get him at his best.
Otherwise, A.J. Pollock is the better choice to man the large confines at Petco. He is a Gold Glove Award winner in 2015 and is no slouch at the plate. With a 20 home run/39 stolen base season under his belt, Pollock makes a large impact in the Diamondbacks’ lineup. What’s more is that he hits for a high average, with a .315 in 2015. Thus, he is a superb player and a 5-tool threat. Yet his worth will always be determined by his health, which is shaky since he has only had more than 500 at bats in one of his five full seasons, including only 41 at bats in 2016. However, the risk would definitely be worth the reward. Picturing Pollock and Myers in the same lineup is salivating as both men have the skills needed to reach 30/30 seasons. Therefore, Blackmon could be an option in left for the Padres and Pollock could be amazing at Petco, providing similar value as a Betts or Trout. The only reason why Jones would be a good option would be if Pollock’s health issues continue to pop up. Jones’ ability to play an average center in addition to having a good bat and 30 homer/season production would make him valuable to the Padres. He’s also a San Diego native so that would be neat to the San Diego fan base.
With the concerns surrounding every other right fielder available in the 2018-2019 free agent class, Bryce Harper would be the most flashy and logical choice. With a hand injury being the most likely reason why Harper struggled to live up to expectations in 2016, Bryce is ready to prove that his 2015 MVP season was no bluff. The potential for such a rebound is plausible since even at his worst, Harper provides 20+ home runs and a very high OBP (.373 in 2016), or simply is an All-Star. At his best and at his most likely level, Harper provides at least 30 home runs, a .280 batting average, a .400 OBP, and excellent fielding marks. In the last two years, Bryce has walked almost as much as he struck out, allowing him to also start stealing some bases and taking more extra bases than before. In the field, baseball’s “chosen one” exhibited great range to go along with a cannon for an arm. Overall, Harper could be one of the best players in the game with his ability to reach 9 WAR. He just has to put his health concerns and ego away. By doing so, he could become an exciting and fun symbol for baseball.
Arguably the best reliever in the game, Oriole, Zach Britton, will also reach free agency after the 2018 season. Having produced one of the greatest seasons in relief pitcher history, Britton will try to stay just as good this season as last. Although the 0.54 ERA and .836 WHIP he tossed in 2016 might be impossible to replicate, Zach could always top his previous best of 1.65 set in 2014. Not known as a reliever who relies on his fastball, Britton uses his overpowering sinker to produce a very high whiff rate as well as a superb ground balls induced rate (80%). This surprisingly leads to a reliever who has been an All-Star twice, who will continue being an All-Star, who garnered some votes for the Cy Young Award, and AL MVP awards. By signing him, the Padres would have a dangerous bullpen spearheaded by a beast. Also, they’ll have such a bullpen for a longer time than they would if another dominant reliever were signed.
It’s Clayton freakin Kershaw. ‘Nuff SAID. But if you want some stats, here they are: 2.37 career ERA, 159 career ERA+, career 9.8 K/9, career 2.4 BB/9, and 1 career postseason save. Some more notable feats of his include a very rare 300 K season, three Cy Young Awards, three close finishes in the Cy Young race, one Gold Glove, one MVP award, and six All-Star teams. Not only that, but Kershaw also is durable as evidenced by the fact that he almost or did top 200 innings six times and has made at least 20 starts in each of his nine seasons. Also, even in his injury-marred season in 2016, Kershaw accumulated a 5.6 WAR mark by maintaining a 1.69 ERA, a 230 ERA+, a .7BB/9 rate, a 10.4K/9 rate, and a .0725 WHIP. Like I said earlier, it’s CLAYTON freakin KERSHAW. ‘Nuff SAID!!!
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!