Tenet #3: Pay Up But Be Wise
Padres grade = I
San Diego’s ownership has shifted through change and promotion. What’s lesser is heart-on-sleeve mouthpiece, Ron Fowler; what’s greater is a quiet, shrewd Peter Seidler. Padres fans may remember the days of yore, where lineups often placed a few minor “names” with a cast of castoffs. Often this displayed itself with a roster construction material of veterans whose best days lied behind them. A Fred Lynn. A Mike Piazza. A Greg Maddux. It’s not that these players were not good or helpful, but the architecture remained consistent and yielded inconsistently lower end results. The other common construction material? Impressively almost singularly-tooled players. Light tower power…vacuum for a glove…but always lacking in the other tool areas.
Well, these aren’t your father’s Fathers. Ownership turned a deaf ear to the rest of the industry’s pandemic cautions early in the process. This isn’t a one-year ploy. It’s standard operating procedure. Myers…Hosmer…Machado…the foundation has been laid. The key in today’s baseball roster construction remains value. One should be willing to pay top dollar for top performance. One should not want to overpay for mediocrity. If fans look at the current Padres roster, most of the players earn fair compensation. The two names who may not fit at the time of this printing necessarily: Pham and Hosmer. But, if one would take a risk in an overpayment, these two represent the very best risks as they achieve as winners with invaluable intangibles.
Is it necessary to extend Fernando Tatis, Jr. now? Who knows? The intention here already shows forethought and diligence. Some ownership would be scared off, but this group began the process, expecting to close it. But, until he’s locked up to a win-win contract, in a mere handful of years, he and his fun-loving, face-of-the-game nature evaporates into thin air. 2025 will have arrived like the snap of fingers.
The grade here occurs not from failure or mistake but due to the one move left that remains a task. When it is, an “A” will be assured. For now, an incomplete results.
Tenet #4: Minimize Costs for the Supporting Cast
Padres grade = An AP course 3
The Padres exist as almost victims of their own success here. Without the two best starters in the 2020 postseason, an unknown exists as to just how well the team would have performed. Would they have taken their first World Series title? Then, they would most certainly run it back with the crew as the front office prepared to do. Would they have come up short? Then, they may take some risks a la the Rays. It may not appear smart to dump the team’s top two pitchers after coming oh-so-close to winning a World Series, but in today’s MLB, the Rays struck quickly, dumping Charlie Morton and Blake Snell. They picked up bargain bin veteran starters: Archer, Wacha, McHugh, and Hill. Conceivably, this group, when tuned up, could be very nearly as productive and even cheaper than their two injury-possible aces.
Who are the Padres “major” pieces? It’s clear: FTJ and Machado. No team in the game would not want them, and the distinction appears through this thinking. One could argue for a healthy Lamet and Snell, perhaps in some ways, but as great and as young as they may be, they’re not yet major pieces. Resources should be given to major pieces as mentioned above. The League has precious few icons, and a team bears true blessing to have even one. Many teams have zero. Two major pieces at one time exceeds expectations. Supporting cast member labels reside on all other players. Like major motion pictures, Best Actor and Best Actress awards exist. The rest are designated the supporting cast.
What if the Padres flipped, say, Hosmer, Pham, and/or Myers, important pieces but costly ones? To be clear, I spoke vehemently in 2019 that the Padres give Myers a chance in 2020 with an actual lineup around him for the first time, and he delivered, so this isn’t a call for change. Rather, objectively addressing value pays longer-term dividends. These players cost big dollars for supporting cast members. According to Roster Resource, the Cleveland Indians, who are also favored to make the playoffs by many, own a total projected 2021 roster salary of $69 million. Compare: those three Padres will account for just shy of ⅔ of Cleveland’s entire playoff capable roster. Today’s baseball relies on being smarter than a big name/big contract strategy. Teams today search for and create value where others have failed to see it or create it. Teams strive to spend in ways that avoid limiting future seasons. Great teams today avoid throwing everything into a year or two-run like the mid-teens Royals. Great teams must navigate acquisitions to stay on top for many years.
But the Padres current roster makes sense. The current San Diego momentum is unheard of, and keeping the unit together as much as possible has been the right move, even at a cost. The only negative, perhaps, remains the delay in extending FTJ. The objective Padres grade? An AP course 3.
Tenet #5: Maximize Flexibility and Diversity of the Everyday Roster
Padres grade = A
The League has chosen, for now at least, to deny the universal designated hitter, and that move rightly upsets most people, including former “purists” like myself. Management, players, and fans all benefit from a universal DH in ways not realized till 2020. Without going into that at length, rest assured, Petco will host a strong roster with very little weakness. The Padres are most certainly ready for such a move as this is arguably the best bench San Diego will have wielded in its 50+ year history. And, that’s without expecting breakthrough “Cronenworths” from Kim and O’Grady. If those two ball out, San Diego streets will bear November noise.
Rather, the value in today’s baseball doesn’t rest with the DH position alone. The freedom for a staff to address matchups, provide important rest, and navigate injuries requires a bench that stands more as coordinating than subordinating. The Dodgers and Rays take the extremes in this effort, but they also not coincidentally hoisted League championships in 2020. No longer can a team rely on 8 or 9 players to play 150 games and roster a bench filled with pinch hitters or defensive specialists. Many options for organizational philosophy still command effectiveness, but today’s baseball requires a shift in structure and mentality.
The grade for San Diego here earns a stunning A. Baseball has never seen this type of organizational effort and commitment in San Diego, within their means as opposed to some showy display, to create a lineup that can hurt any opponent up and down the lineup.
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