The Padres front office has assured fans that the team will become a contender in the not so distant future, with estimates of a timeline for that goal ranging from 2020 to 2022. However, multiple sources indicate that the team has reconnected with free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and has added Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer to its wish list.
Do the Padres’ brass actually think the team can be competitive in 2018? If so, general manager A.J. Preller and company may again be overestimating the overall strength of the team and deviating from their very own process. Before the ink had dried on his contract with the Padres, Preller became known as a “rock star” GM for his flurry of trades at the end of 2014 and into 2015.
Preller traded catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitchers Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin to the Dodgers for aging slugger Matt Kemp, turned top shortstop prospect Trea Turner into Wil Myers, and sent Jesse Hahn and Seth Smith to the A’s for catcher Derek Norris. The Dodgers had been desperate to find a new home for Kemp and free right field for Yasiel Puig, and Preller obliged. The result? The Padres finished the season in fourth place and 18 games behind the division-leading Dodger with a record of 74-88.
Only Myers remains a Padre. Although he attained All-Star status in 2016, he has not proven so far to be the franchise player the Padres expected him to be when the team acquired him or signed him to an $83 million extension. Myers has the talent and is only 26, but he definitely regressed in 2017 on both sides of the ball, making eight errors at first base, hitting only .243 and admitting he didn’t live up to his abilities.
Signing Hosmer would move Myers to left field, where he has played in only seven games in his career. The Padres ranked near the bottom of all teams in baseball last year in fielding and must improve in order to compete. Although left field would not be as challenging as center at Petco Park, Myers’ UZR/150 of -42.5 in almost 300 innings in that position in 2015 serves as a warning.
Eric Hosmer’s gaudy 2017 numbers (.318/.385/.498/.882) would tempt any team. Plus he has a sterling reputation as a clubhouse leader. The Padres may have seen Myers in that role, but that clearly doesn’t suit his personality especially since he needs to concentrate on living up to the lofty expectations the Padres had for him. The team’s interest in Hosmer indicates the Padres have come to doubt those expectations.
In the meantime, the Padres’ 2018 squad, one of the youngest in the league, obviously needs further seasoning. The highly rated farm system should start spitting out players in the next few years but should not be rushed to the big leagues.
Rumor has it that the Padres have offered Hosmer a seven-year deal at $140. However, Dennis Lin of The Athletic disputes that number and says the Padres have offered less. Myers contract, the highest in Padres’ history, would be dwarfed by anything in the vicinity of $140 million.
A trade for the Ray’s 29-year old pitcher Chris Archer would require giving up top prospects. Archer has been linked to other teams including the Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers. His 10-12 record and ERA of 4.07 doesn’t tell the whole story as he has a FIP of 3.60, a 10.8K/9 versus 2.8BB/9, and has been counted on for 200 innings a year.
Archer’s team-friendly $33.75 million contract over the next four years increases his value to the Rays as well as Tampa Bay’s asking price. Although it’s understandable the Padres would welcome a pitcher of Archer’s quality and reasonable salary, pulling the trigger on such a trade flies in the face of the team’s stated goals and timeline.
In February A.J. Preller told AJ Cassavell of MLB.com that building a franchise takes time, adding, “you need a period of time to through Drafts and international signings and trades and give your group a chance to have some stability.” Stability has to be the operative word for a franchise with multiple owners, general managers, managers and philosophies since 2008 when team owners John and Becky Moores filed for divorce.
Just three years ago, Preller’s trades set the Padres back, but, since the team has invested heavily in the international draft and added top-ranked prospects to the system. Local fans have been told to trust the process. The Padres’ front office also needs to trust the process.