Brandon Drury is an efficient way for Padres to address offensive holes

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One year ago, Brandon Drury ended the 2021 season with the New York Mets, hitting .274 across 88 plate appearances in a mostly forgettable season that saw him shuttle between AAA and the major league club. At the close of the season, Drury became a free agent as a 28-year-old utility player, a profile that would seemingly have many teams calling for his services.

Instead, Drury accepted a minor league offer from the Cincinnati Reds with an invitation to big league Spring Training. He played well enough to turn that offer into a spot on the Major League roster and was quickly thrust into the starting lineup after a host of injuries ravaged the Reds early in 2022.

Drury capitalized on his newfound role and powered 20 home runs for the Reds in the first half of the season before being traded to San Diego as one of A.J. Preller’s flurry of trade deadline acquisitions. Unlike Juan Soto and Josh Hader, though, Drury’s arrival came with little fanfare or buzz. However, San Diego’s surrendering of shortstop prospect Victor Acosta represented a seemingly high price to pay for a three-month rental.

After putting up the aforementioned 20 home runs and .855 OPS in the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, Drury fell short of expectations with the Padres. In 183 plate appearances with San Diego, he only hit to a .724 OPS, which included a .290 OBP. Still, his 28 combined home runs and 87 combined RBI between the two teams were career highs by a significant amount. Drury also received the most prominent playing time as a regular since his 2016 season with Arizona, where he logged 499 plate appearances. Since then, he had mostly jostled around between three other organizations before breaking out with the Reds.

Heading into 2023, the market for Drury will almost certainly be larger than it was last year. While he may not profile as an everyday regular going forward, he will certainly be valuable as a power-hitting utility player who mainly profiles as a first baseman/designated hitter and hits left-handed pitchers particularly well. With the Padres losing Josh Bell and Wil Myers to free agency as well, a reunion with Drury may prove to be the most cost-effective for the level of production that he is projected to provide.

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With Jurickson Profar recently declining his 2023 player option and electing free agency, the Padres suddenly also lack an imminent replacement in left field. Even with Fernando Tatis Jr.’s impending return in early 2023, the team could opt to use Drury at first base primarily whilst giving him starts at other positions in the infield (and outfield) to spell Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth. Even though there are probably more effective outfield replacements elsewhere, Drury’s positional versatility affords the ability to be placed in numerous positions across the diamond.

It’s also not too difficult to envision the team utilizing Drury similarly to how they did in 2022, making him a primary platoon player at first base while pairing him with a complementary left-handed option. With the Padres lack of infield depth in the upper minor leagues, it appears that any immediate offensive upgrades will need to be acquired via trade or the open market.

Either option will likely cost fairly significant dollars or prospect capital, two forms of currency the Padres may be skeptical to deploy in large amounts. In Drury’s case, it’s likely that he will cost less than similarly-profiled first basemen Anthony Rizzo and Jose Abreu, two players who will certainly command a higher AAV.

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With the Padres needing to add a significant amount of slugging after being largely exposed in that department in 2022, their interest in a reunion with Drury should be reasonably high. While he may have benefited from playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark for much of the 2022 season, his projected salary and length of commitment would be a perfect fit for a Padres team searching for efficient ways to add to a payroll that is at risk of going over the luxury tax threshold for a third consecutive season.

A two-year contract worth around $15-20 million would be a reasonable expectation for a player of Drury’s caliber. After Eric Hosmer’s albatross of a contract for a first baseman (which the Padres will be paying $39 million over the next three years after Hosmer recently opted into the remainder of his contract), they may be more prudent to explore less expensive options at one of the most replaceable positions on the field.

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