The “All In” San Diego Padres off-season plan number three.
Hot Stove season arrived after the final out of the 2020 World Series, and every team instinctively set their sights on a restart.
As explored in the First San Diego Padres Off-Season Plan, the Padres could do very well by basically keeping the band together, so to speak. They could also sacrifice the farm to acquire high end, long term additions as explored in the Second San Diego Padres Off-Season Plan.
Fellow Padres fans, there is another way to proceed in potentially improving the Padres roster this off-season. Frankly, I couldn’t care less how it happens; I just want the team to win it all. Every. Single. Season. I dream of days with the Padres leaning over the poker table and raking every championship chip toward them. I’d rather be “wrong” about how and happy than “right” about how and miserable. But, until the Padres claim their very first franchise title, in short, there is work to be done, and therefore, scouring ways to improve is not a wasteful act.
This third way would require the organization to push their chips, all of ‘em, to the center of the table. Padres fans may be uncomfortable with what that means as “good” may need to be sacrificed for the chance at greatness. If one subscribes to this methodology, they’re saying the 2020 Padres were fantastic, but even healthy, they were not close to truly running the table and hoisting a trophy. We have the information. We can read the stats and process the analytics. We can measure performance versus cost. We can act to improve the balance of the cost/performance values of the team. Losing Mike Clevinger for the upcoming season certainly threw a proverbial monkey wrench into the works, too, so there’s even more work to do. If we’re all in, then A.J. Preller and company probably have more to do than expected.
Ideally, Preller works his magic and heists more pre-arb talent that can immediately impact a major league championship roster with next to no cost. But, without access to scouting reports, intimate details of team plans and available finances, or a full understanding of minor league player values according to a given team, let’s work with free agents as a first possibility. However, in this version of the off-season plan, we’ll add not only undefined trades that send Padres’ farmhands out for Major League talent, but we’ll also add undefined trades that send veterans out even if those trades require prospects. And, we’ll up the static payroll target to $180 million. I mean, are we “All In” or not?
With these parameters in mind, an understanding of what personnel returns is needed. The spreadsheet view of the Padres 2021 roster below is a blowup of information published by AJ Cassavell recently. It gives us a way to analyze the roster’s current strengths and weaknesses. Reading from top to bottom by position, one can hypothesize depth per position:
This allows rating by position in three general ways: 2020 Production, Cost, 2021 Ceiling. A simplistic, generic continuum of (high to low) elite, above average, average, below average, and concerning allow for basic analysis of team needs. Likewise, a similar continuum of (high to low) cheap, average, and expensive allow for basic analysis of team cost.
According to the positional grid, the Padres did a remarkable job of keeping the 2020 starting lineup intact heading into 2021. A quick review of value per position versus cost shows the Padres basically need four additional players. By position, the Padres could use additions in left field (losing Profar), the rotation in case of injury, and for big games, the bullpen (losing Rosenthal/Yates), and bench (losing Moreland). They may need to add five if the Clevinger injury can’t be filled from within. They may need six players if Luis Campusano’s potential legal trouble puts the catching position in flux. Though there are current players who could handle a returning designated hitter position, they may choose to add seven, potentially, if the DH is retained. The Padres would benefit from lengthening the bench with a true hitter there. It’s worth repeating: Preller and company have done a tremendous job of amassing high performance/low-cost talent across the lineup and in the rotation and pen.
Let me add that I loved our 2020 Padres. I thank all members of the organization for so many great memories, so any moving of players out of the system in this hypothetical situation would be bittersweet at best. Here are the priorities in this third system that values matching value to cost:
1) Extend Fernando Tatis Jr. He’s among the most valuable players in the game. It would be a complete organizational fail to let him play in another uniform. His value deserves more resources.
2) Three players carry significant costs that either isn’t likely in the future plans for extension or aren’t providing value that matches their cost. These players either need to be developed further, immediately or flipped. Our grid shows Hosmer, Pham, and Davies as potential moves. Fortunately, all three are quality veterans worth gambling on, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find trade partners, even if prospects must be attached. Moving those three frees up a total of $36.45 million in the upcoming season.
Davies has been a godsend, and I love how he actually pitches, but he’s only a Padre for one more season. At nearly $10 million per season, it’s hard to imagine the Padres extending a player who held a 10.29 ERA in seven 2020 postseason innings when the Padres starting rotation was in dire need of production. He holds a 9.00 ERA for his career in the postseason, so it probably wasn’t an aberration. In an “All In” plan that now doesn’t desire playoffs but trophies, this simply won’t do. Any team needing a regular-season innings eater would certainly be interested. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?
Pham’s career speaks for itself. He’s a self-made star, and he helped the Padres with numerous tough at-bats and big hits in 2020. More importantly, Wil Myers credits a portion of his dramatic return to stardom to Pham’s attitude, encouragement, and advice. But, Pham’s health, numbers, and status have become questions. Like Davies, with only one season left in uniform and at his cost, it is conceivable that the Padres can find greater value. Any team needing to toughen up its clubhouse with outfield productivity would certainly kick the Pham tires. St. Louis?
If Pham’s career speaks for itself, Hosmer’s shouts for itself. He’s Alexander the Great: there are no MLB worlds left to conquer, and I personally would hate to see a Padres’ championship without Hosmer in the lineup. He arguably runs the clubhouse. He arguably is a significant reason Manny Machado came to Petco to stay. Hosmer’s clutch-ness came through over and over in 2020 with big hits in needed moments. His value, like that of Pham and Davies, cannot be measured simply by statistics. His value may look much better in two seasons when his remaining AAV will be $13 million, so he’s not an absolute must move. But, if it’s an “All In” method for 2021, the honest truth is there’s greater production for less cost to be had here. Plateaued defense, questionable health, and a contract that for two more seasons seems too costly make him a casualty in this off-season plan. Any team needing a veteran leader with the clutch gene would certainly consider him. Miami?
3) Avoid acquiring bad contracts. This version of an off-season is about value. Adding even a dominant player like Yu Darvish (trade) or Trevor Bauer (free agency) is simply too risky, and one that could hamstring an organization financially.
For each position, let’s select several players worth investigating to add to the current roster without deleting any returnees as currently constructed. Two tools offer a reasonable guess at current market values: MLB Trade Rumors Top 50 Free Agent Predictions List and FanGraphs Roster Resource Free Agent Trade Tracker. Then, options from the free-agent market are used to make a final choice. With a total projected current 2021 payroll of $133 million that drops to $96.6 million after trading the three players above, that leaves nearly $85 million with which to operate. Seven players for $85 million; allowing no further alteration of the current roster, that’s the task in going all in.
Before addressing positions, let’s identify the players who are unicorns we’d consider giving up “everything” for as well as those who should be avoided by San Diego. “Unicorn” here means a true all in belief that whatever it took to get them would be okay. “Avoid” here simply means they are good players who maybe don’t fit a team going for it in 2021 while trying to keep the window open.
Mike Trout: Can you imagine putting Trout in between Tatis and Machado, for example?
Juan Soto: Trout has the biggest name, but Soto is the “biggest” unicorn. In 20 years, we’ll talk about Soto and Tatis, Jr. like 20 years ago. We talked about Ripken and Gwynn.
Christian Yelich: Could the Brewers show remorse here?
Cody Bellinger: No chance. Right?
Jacob deGrom: Not gonna happen.
Each of the outfielders would give the Padres a chess piece that elevates the left-field position either by the player or by them moving a current player from center or right into left. Unicorns? Three MVPs and one destined to be. Cy Young Award winner deGrom would bring stability that is needed. There is almost no chance of bringing Juan Soto to San Diego, though, and the others are contractually challenging. But, the “All In” concept makes them worth a look.
JT Realmuto: Great player who’s “30” at a position of high team performance for low cost already. It’s redundant.
Marcel Ozuna: Great player, but in eight seasons, he’s only hit above .269 three times and hit .241 in 2019 while slipping immensely defensively.
Trevor Bauer: Great pitcher, but he’s only spent two seasons under a 4.19 ERA in 9 seasons. One was a 60-gamer.
Javy Baez: Great player who suddenly struggles at the plate. How bad does he want it?
Kris Bryant: Great player who now struggles to perform at his ceiling. Hard hit rate is a black diamond slope.
Each of these players could fill a Padre need in some way, but their cost for the future would be more for the value of their past. I’d like to think they’ll all have great futures, but better fits exist.
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M. Robert Klemesrud, born and currently residing in the great state of Iowa, is an educator of 25 years. Having studied journalism at the University of Iowa, played baseball in the Missouri Valley, and followed the Padres religiously for over 30 years, he has found the perfect place to align some of his passions at East Village Times.