An outlook towards the 2021 San Diego Padres

Credit: Padres

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Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 season did not end as most had hoped, but there is plenty of optimism for the San Diego Padres in regards to their future. 

With a new manager at the helm, a certain amount of uncertainty comes.

The San Diego Padres did not pose a threat in 2020 — or at least that is what most experts of the sport prognosticated before the season finally started.

The exact opposite happened for the Padres, as A.J. Preller’s master recipe finally took hold on a baseball-starved city. It took time for it to all fall into place, but there is no doubt now that the San Diego Padres possess one of the brightest futures in the league. The team is the talk of Major League Baseball and should easily build on that momentum in 2021.

It is difficult to change gears and look into the next season. Especially after a difficult loss. But the Padres have a goal of bringing a championship to San Diego, and Preller is focused on that task. If not for some crippling injuries to the pitching staff, the team could have shocked the world in the 2020 playoffs.

Taking a look at the future for this franchise, let’s first focus on the players who are due for free agency.

Pending  free-agents

Garrett Richards

The writing is on the wall for this veteran pitcher. The Padres, desperate for starting pitching, failed to consider using the right-hander in either crucial playoff series. He came out of the bullpen and did not pitch well as the career starting pitcher was clearly uncomfortable in the task. The Padres gambled on Richards two years ago, and he simply did not work out. You could argue the veteran leadership he brought to the team was key, but in the end, aspects like that have no tangible worth. He will not be back with the team in 2021.

Jurickson Profar

After a slow start (3-for-24 producing a .125 average), Profar was arguably one of the more consistent run producers for the Padres down the stretch. The switch-hitter put up a .351/.380/.500 slash line in the last month of the season, showing that the former top prospect could be in store for a decent payday. Profar is an intriguing option for the Padres in 2021. The team would probably love to retain the versatile player, but he will likely get better financial offers elsewhere. The Padres will explore bringing back Profar, but this is not a certainty.

Trevor Rosenthal

There is no doubt that the right-handed closer fell in love with the city of San Diego. It is safe to say he enjoyed his time with the Padres. The veteran pitcher throws gas and is the perfect fit for a Padres’ team that may need a reliever or two for the 2021 season. In the past winter, Rosenthal signed a one-year deal with the Royals for $ 1 million. There are going to be plenty of suitors for Rosenthal this winter. The Padres may have a leg up on the competition, but they will need to pay at or near fair market value for the 30-year-old pitcher. This should be a top priority for the Padres.

Kirby Yates

The right-hander is very important to the team. His cardboard cutout made the trip to Texas during the playoff season and was even seen in the game’s bullpen area. The pitchers on the staff look up to the veteran, but will the Padres retain his services? An arm injury is a serious thing, but Yates could be brought back in the right circumstances. The right-hander missed out on a huge payday, so he could sign a one-year deal with the hopes of building his value. This will be an interesting subject as the winter season arrives and the Padres start to build their squad.

Jason Castro

There will be no reason to bring back the veteran catcher as the Padres have Austin Nola, Luis Campusano, and Francisco Mejia all on the major league roster. The left-handed-hitting Castro should have no issues finding a job with a team for the coming season. The Padres will likely explore a veteran catcher for the Triple-A level, but Castro is clearly not an option in that regard.

Team option

Mitch Moreland

Moreland is due $3 million for the 2021 season on a team option. The first baseman is an interesting case. There is a $500,000 buyout to allow the left-handed hitter to walk this winter, but you could argue that his salary is an excellent deal for the Padres. Moreland is insurance for Eric Hosmer at first base and provides plenty of veteran playoff experiences for a young team. The Padres could explore bringing back “Mitchy Two-Bags” and team him with a right-handed hitter to man the DH position in 2021.

2021 lineup

The lineup is arguably complete minus an everyday DH-type player. The Padres could explore many options in this regard, and the sky is the limit as far as who they might go after to fill this gap. The Padres still have a top-three farm system in all of baseball and could easily trade a few prospects to upgrade in the area.

CF- Trent Grisham

SS- Fernando Tatis Jr.

3B- Manny Machado

1B- Eric Hosmer

RF- Wil Myers

2B- Jake Cronenworth

LF- Tommy Pham

C- Austin Nola

DH- ?

2021 starting pitching staff

There are several questions in regards to this group. The health of Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger will be key for the Padres to reproduce an exciting season like they just enjoyed. Both right-handed pitchers appear to have survived any major injury and should regain full strength by the spring. Behind them, Zach Davies has all but assured himself a spot in the rotation for the 2021 season. Chris Paddack is a significant question mark, as he had an unproductive season in 2020. The Padres could give him every opportunity to earn a rotation spot in the spring, but nothing is a guarantee.

Factor in the next generation of pitchers like MacKenzie Gore, Adrian Morejon, Luis Patino, and Ryan Weathers. It is not clear if any or all will pitch in the rotation next season, but they are all progressing. The Padres sit with many options in the rotation presently, and this youth movement could further complicate the situation. The team could also get flirtatious with Trevor Bauer, a pending free agent this winter. That would be a huge addition for the Padres. A.J. Preller might do some fine-tuning with this group, so stay tuned. Anything can happen.

Mike Clevinger

Dinelson Lamet

Zach Davies

Chris Paddack

Adrian Morejon

Luis Patino

MacKenzie Gore

Ryan Weathers

Michel Baez

Joey Lucchesi

2021 bullpen

This was a unit of strength for the team at the end of the season. Despite a slow start and an injury to Kirby Yates, the Padres were able to produce quality relief appearances in 2020. The acquisition of Trevor Rosenthal, Austin Adams, and Dan Altavilla helped in that regard. The team could explore some moves here and will likely bring in several veteran pitchers to compete for jobs this spring. Preller has shown a propensity for finding undervalued talent, and the team will due their diligence to find arms this winter. You can almost surely count on the Padres adding two or three quality arms to the system that other teams disregarded.

Drew Pomeranz

Emilio Pagan

Jose Castillo

Matt Strahm

Austin Adams

Craig Stammen

Tim Hill

Pierce Johnson

Dan Altavilla

David Bednar

Luis Perdomo

Trey Wingenter

Javy Guerra

Taylor Williams

2021 bench

The team has plenty of youth in this area and could explore signing some veteran talent. The Padres could find players who complement the team — players who might play a platoon role moving forward and have playoff experience. As the Padres start to become a better team, this part of the squad will improve vastly. In time, you could see the Padres with several former all-stars on their bench. Championship teams have depth, and that is the goal for the San Diego Padres. Competition on a team also brings the best out of players, and the Padres are not afraid to stir the pot.

C/OF- Francisco Mejia

C- Luis Campusano

INF- Greg Garcia

OF- Greg Allen

OF- Jorge Ona

INF/OF- Jorge Mateo


The San Diego Padres are a good team. There is a bright future. In time, this team has the ability to become special. This winter will be an active one despite the recent success of this team. A.J. Preller is hell-bent on improving, and that is exactly what they will do. Expect the team to flirt with key free agents and potentially make huge trades to upgrade. The winter will be exciting for the fans as the expectations of 2021 keep building.

7 thoughts on “An outlook towards the 2021 San Diego Padres

  1. 2021 San Diego Padres

    Here’s the to-do list. It may shock you.

    1) Trade Zach Davies
    The theme of this thread is “beat the Dodgers”, but not in a “his Dad’s tougher than my Dad” vibe. In a traditional 5 team playoff set up, unless we take the division or the Dodgers don’t have the best record in the league, we’ll have to play them to get to the Series. Consider that. So, not out of envy or preoccupation but reality, we have to be Dodger-proof in 95 out of 100 scenarios in the next few years if they’re healthy. Davies is a favorite of mine. Dude pitches. But, LA showed us they aren’t chasers, AND they have the Nationals-of-’19 ability to battle and get the tough hit up and down the lineup. In other words, they win at-bats. Zach’s season was tremendous. But, he proved in the playoffs unable to get enough swings/misses. He has value to us if Lamet and Clevinger aren’t able to pitch from the start next season. Otherwise, he may have more value in the return to address needs or the future.

    2) Re-sign Kirby Yates and Trevor Rosenthal
    In case I didn’t say it clearly enough above, “all” Padres pitchers need swing and miss stuff within the zone. Within the zone. You can’t beat the Dodgers (and maybe the Braves, etc.) without it. They’ll take double-digit walks and send Mookie to the plate 4 times in the first 5 innings. Optimistically, Clevinger and Lamet may have given us 5 or 6 innings in their starts, but playoff baseball tends to strip away long outings from starters. That’s a bullpen need of 4 innings per ace outing without blinking. These two give us two of them. A “rich” one year deal for a healthy Yates, letting him thrive in his preferred location and building value, would be a win-win for each side. Rosenthal has always let things get sticky (in each count, in each inning) but he has the skin to get it done. Always has when healthy. I don’t know what it will cost (3 and $45M?), but the arms acquired down the stretch make good tools for the middle innings, not the 7/8/9. A Yates to Pomeranz to Rosenthal back end is a recipe for success in ‘21.

    3) Ownership Makes a Payroll Decision
    Money doesn’t win Series. Smart money wins Series. Baseball has proven it’s not how much you spend but how you spend it. It has also proven that staying too loyal to past performance closes windows. The Phillies overpaid their 2000s roster at their peaks and rode the suck for half a dozen years. Again, it’s not money; it’s smart money. Padres ownership needs to decide what that looks like. I think the first two moves above are non-negotiable. The aftermath is an ownership choice. Do they carry Moreland, Pham, Hosmer, Myers, etc.? Or, do they need to move some salary? This part is unknown to me. It’s a lot easier and potentially safer to just ride the additional closer money sans Davies, who made $5.25M last year and will probably be around $8/9M. If they choose to spend a little more in 2021, then this step is over.

    But, there are issues that simply spending that money can’t solve. Moreland needs to upgrade his defense if he’s to see a lot of field time over 162. Hoz wasn’t on the field and playing at peak performance consistently enough; is that to continue? Pham has become an almost liability in the field and though his value transcends numbers, he is one guy who didn’t hit this year. Myers has ascended but could crater. Profar is more valuable than ever before. Decisions need to be made if payroll is to stay around $160M as I’m guessing. A theme of the many deadline moves was cost controllability. I won’t labor to spell out each salary debit and credit, but I don’t expect all 5 of these players will be retained even if they don’t extend Yates and Rosenthal (also unexpected). I love Profar, and I think he’s found himself. He’s huge in the clubhouse with his smile and attitude and clutch performance, and that’s why he’s gone. We can’t afford him as much as others will, and that’s at least in part why they didn’t start him a couple games down the stretch I’m guessing. Moreland is simply too valuable at $3M for the year to let go. Unless the NL DH was a one-year move, he’s a keeper. Myers is almost as valuable in almost every way as Tatis, Jr. and Machado when you look across the spectrum of performance. Even if he takes a step back (which I don’t believe will happen), he’s a keeper. Remember, he’s capable of playing All-Star caliber first base. Pham, with a single year left on his contract, probably has more value to us than in trade. That leaves Hoz. I love the dude. I lambasted people saying we should have traded him last offseason. He’s been clutch when healthy this year and brings something bigger than himself to the club on and off. But, he’s a big number ($42M in the next 2 seasons/$81M overall) at a position that could field a Cronenworth or Moreland or Myers without a lot of difference in performance. He had a good year but added almost nothing in the playoffs this season statistically and, in my opinion, bungled at least 2 entirely makeable plays that led to game ending implosions v. the Dodgers. I really think he’s valuable in trade to say a Miami or Kansas City again, too. That trade affords Yates and Rosenthal next year by itself if that context sells it.

    Again, this is an ownership call. It could work either way.

    4) Extend Fernando Tatis, Jr.
    Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert signed 6 year/upper $40s million dollar deals prior to playing and impacting the MLB club’s success. I’m not attuned to the financials. I’m absolutely guessing, so don’t kill me here. Are we talking 8/$12.5M for $100M? That doubles his Padres life for now. Regardless, it’s a wise move to extend him now on the front end to keep him. He’ll then still have an age 28/29 contract in the hundreds of millions if he stays healthy and attains MVP status as he’s capable of doing.

    5) Develop the Farmhands on the Fringe
    According to Baseball America, CJ Abrams is developing rapidly which is to say he’ll likely already start next season at Double-A. If he continues to ascend ahead of plan, he could have a Petco locker mid-2021 at second base in a lineup that could need left-handed OBP. Jake may yet still be Rookie of the Year, but there may be some flexibility here where he’d, Dodger-like, see some second and some first as well as spell Fernando at short. This is honestly a low odds call on my part, but it is one instance of many where the kids need to develop quickly in specific ways. What are Jorge Ona and Luis Campusano’s roles to be? If Jorge can take the LF or DH spot at times with consistent hitting/power, we’re a team that doesn’t miss a Profar as much. If Campy can take the lead at the dish, Austin can save his knees and play around the diamond or DH more. What are Mateo and Mejia? Can Allen hit? Who makes a Cronenworth-ish leap in the Spring? The emphasis, now that OBP/plate discipline is post-season capable, needs to be winning ABs. That means hitting tough pitching where the defense isn’t.

    On the pitching end, again assuming our 1 and 2 are healthy from the season’s start, we have a potentially stocked starter cast, but they all have a potentially-fatal flaw as of now. Each needs to emphasize accuracy within each quadrant and wield 3 pitches minimum that can get swing and miss: Paddack, Morejon, Patino, Weathers, Baez, Lucchesi, and Gore are all capable of filling out rotation spots 3-5 (even in the wake of trading a Davies) if they square up their unique, current, developmental deficiencies. Lucchesi is likely a trade option much like Davies. Additionally, there are guys like Kevin Gausman, etc. from this past offseason who, with the right cultivation, can play up into a Yates-like asset for short term, low costs. If in the budget, a single year of Marcus Stroman and/or Trevor Bauer would be nice. But, I don’t think that will happen for either pitcher. Longer term deals may be overbearing for San Diego to some degree and too desirable for both pitchers though Stroman may be attracted to the opportunity to win and rebuild value if winning team/long term offers don’t arrive. Depending on medicals and affordability, I’d rather throw a strong one year offer to a Paxton, Tanaka, Minor, and/or to a lesser degree Anderson, Archer, Chatwood, Smiley, Walker. Too often we’re attracted to the hot name(s) when the up and down of performance shows that foolishness. But low. Sell high.

    We don’t have access to the prospects, so predicting or encouraging trades is ridiculous. The future is very bright if long-term and win now assets are managed effectively. I have confidence this baseball ops group will get it done.

      1. Since you wrote the original, strong, analytical article, I assume your comment was at least in part to me. Do you like it enough to read more of my writing as an employee? I would rather join the Padre FO, but I doubt my resume would be impressive with no official work in “baseball”. :). Email if you are interested.

  2. Nice, thorough article. It was very well laid out and helpful.

    It is crazy how they went from having an outstanding, and perhaps a top 5 starting rotation (at the trade deadline), to their weakest link (due to injuries, the decline of Davies, and the sharp decline of Paddack, and the lost confidence in Richards) in a matter of less than a month.

    Now the biggest conundrum is not ability, but availability. Perhaps the worst case is if Clev and Lamet try to nurse things, but then blow out their elbows in ST. At that point they will essentially lose just about 2 years, and all of Clevinger’s value.

    Also, my ongoing bone to pick … you have Hosmer 4th (albeit in a generalized batting order). In 35 games he played far about the previous 2 years (which were horrible). Still, he is not good, he is not in the top 7 hitters. He should bat near or at the bottom.

    1. Trade hoz and some pieces for Merrifield, put him at 2nd move cro to 1st. Have mitch and Abrams, as well as Greg Garcia backing them up by mid-season 2021. Potentially drop some payroll and add a versatile guy who racks up hits.

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