In our final piece of this four-part series, Jason tells us how he would improve the San Diego Padres for the 2020 season and beyond.
In this fantasy land, I have successfully Jedi Mind Tricked Ron Fowler and Peter Siedler to fire A.J. Preller on the spot while allowing me to step in as General Manager of the San Diego Padres. I’ll have to take a hard look at my current roster to decide who should stay and who should go.
So clearly, there is some work to be done. While I don’t exactly have my work cut out for me, there are still plenty of pieces to work with. Plus, with owner Ron Fowler expecting things to turn around with the new brown jerseys, a few prospects and major league players can be sacrificed to acquire some talent (plus, with my scouting department, they can be replaced through the draft).
With this goal in mind, I will now begin my attempt at navigating the waters of the Padres season with the aim of bringing winning baseball back to San Diego.
As a wise man once said, “This is where the fun begins.”
The Rule 5 draft
It is not as simple as “cut player, replace with a younger player.” With a full 40-man roster, some players will have to get cut loose to protect some younger Padres prospects. Without the benefit of a 60-Day IL due to the offseason, somebody will have to get their pink slips.
There are multiple Padres in need of protecting, but the only player I will protect in this scenario is Michael Gettys. Yes, that means that 18th ranked Esteury Ruiz and 25th ranked Buddy Reed will be left available.
My reasoning behind this is that both Reed and Ruiz have had their struggles in the minors. After lighting up Lake Elsinore in 2018, Reed just hasn’t produced in Double-A Amarillo, evidenced by an OPS of .461 in 2018 and .698 in 2019 while his strikeout rate, while decreasing from last year, was still at a 28.6% in 2019. Ruiz, on the other hand, saw his production slip after a full season at Lake Elsinore as his OPS dropped to .657, and he only played in 98 games due to injury. Both players are also blocked by other players at their respective positions, as Taylor Trammell and Edward Olivares are above Reed on the pecking order while Ruiz is stonewalled by Luis Urias in the majors and players like Owen Miller and Hudson Potts above in Double-A.
As for why Gettys was selected, it is because he packs serious power that is attractive to both the Padres and other teams, Gettys saw his OPS jump up to .822 in Triple-A El Paso. The 31 homers he crushed came alongside a .260 ISO rating, but it came at the trade-off of a 30.5% strikeout rate. His on-base skills are lacking, but he is still an attractive option to other teams. I want to hold onto him as either trade bait or a contender for a spot on next year’s roster.
Ona is similar to Gettys with his power, but season-ending surgery sapped him off much of the 2019 season. He only played in 25 games, but the five home runs he hit with Amarillo were three less than the eight he hit at Lake Elsinore in 2018. His knack for making loud contact and power potential is real, evidenced by a pre-injury .191 ISO, While he won’t be making the major league roster anytime soon, but I’ll play it safe and keep him protected.
As for who gets cut, the first roster spot is an easy decision. The veteran Ian Kinsler will have to pack his bags to the anguish of many San Diegans as he will be sent to the baseball purgatory that is being designated for assignment. I’ll try to find a team that can eat some of his contract, but it wouldn’t pain me to release him.
Now that my roster has been taken care of, it is time to focus on improving the roster. I have the prospect capital to swing a trade and the budget space to sign a few free agents, but I don’t have space to make a significant signing (i.e., Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole). So, it is time to get creative with what I have.
A Gray day
An inter-division trade? Surely I jest?!
No, I do not jest. The Rockies have sent out signals that Gray is on the market, and the right-hander has impressive stats and the potential to break free. His 2019 3.89 ERA was much better than the 5.12 ERA he posted in 2018, while his 4.06 FIP/3.89 xFIP/4.35 SIERA indicate that his ERA wasn’t exactly a fluke. Also, for pitching at the wiffle ball stadium of Coors Field, he has done well to keep the ball out of the air with a 50.7% groundball rate. Also, his 112 ERA+ over the past four seasons are the same as Cole’s from 2014-2017. With the proper coaching from Larry Rothschild, San Diego could swipe a bonafide ace from their inter-division rivals.
So, who is it going to take to pry Gray away? First, someone has to replace him in the rotation. With Eric Lauer getting bombarded every time he plays at Coors and Joey Lucchesi producing similar results, I’ll be sending Cal Quantrill to Colorado to replace Gray in the rotation. While his 5.15 ERA was an ugly number, his 4.28 FIP/4.53 xFIP/4.58 SIERA paint a slightly better picture. He is still 24 and has room to grow, but that will be up to Buddy Black and the Rockies.
It will take more than Quantrill to acquire Gray, so now is the time to dip into an area of depth. Looking at Colorado’s roster, they have a severe weakness at catcher. I don’t want to part with Luis Campusano (at least not in this deal), so I’ll part with one from my major league squad. Not Francisco Mejia, no, but Austin Hedges. I love his defense, I do, but I don’t like his 47 WRC+ and .563 OPS. However, his elite framing and glove skills must be attractive to a pitching staff whose collective 5.56 ERA ranked 29th in the Majors. Combining him with Tony Wolters should relieve the Rockies of any catching problems
So, I have acquired a pitcher, but I’m not done yet. For my next trick.
Taking a halfcourt shot
Now I’m going to roll the dice on something big. I need one more player for my starting rotation, and the Cleveland Indians, who have done business with the Padres before, have been fielding some calls on their young starting pitchers. Young guns like Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale have been getting asked about by teams looking for an upgrade, but I’m not interested in them. Strasburg and Cole are the top arms on the free agent, but thanks to Scott Boras and his stubborn insistence on ludicrously large contracts, I’ll back off on them. But the Indians still have an ace I could acquire.
The 28-year-old had himself a beautiful season despite missing time with injuries, pitching 126 innings, and accruing a 2.71 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. His advanced metrics back this up with a 2.49 FIP/3.09 xFIP/3.31 SIERA while he posted a career-high strikeout rate of 12.07. He is also just reaching his first year of arbitration, so whatever team he suits up for will control him throughout 2023.
Clevinger is not the only Indian I wish to acquire. After suffering a torn ACL in late August, Tyler Naquin has been lost in the shuffle of the Indians’ roster after multiple different Indians have tried (and failed) to capture a spot on the starting nine. Indians beat reporter Mandy Bell reports that the Indians are searching for outfield help even after acquiring Franmil Reyes from the Padres in July. However, I believe I can still acquire the oft-injured-yet-talented Naquin.
The 28-year-old posted a .792 OPS in 89 total games, but he is still bursting with potential should he remain healthy. Plus, while he won’t wow anybody with his power, he has sneaky pop from the left side of the plate while his speed will net him plenty of extra-base hits. Ah yes, the main factor of acquiring Naquin. A left-handed bat that I can put at either the top or bottom of the lineup that can provide balance to my lineup chock-full of righties.
To get both Clevinger and Naquin, I’m going to have to bite a big bullet. Chris Paddack is untouchable, as is MacKenzie Gore. Which means… Luis Patino is drawing the short straw. Patino has excellent stuff, and it will play in the Majors, but I can’t acquire an ace by selling short on prospects. Patino is the third-ranked prospect in the Padres farm system and the 30th overall prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline. Patino carved up High-A with a 2.69 ERA in 87 innings pitched with a 113:34 K: BB ratio. In this scenario, the Indians are losing an ace in Clevinger and will potentially see Corey Kluber walk after 2020. They will need a pitcher to replace him and to pair up with Shane Bieber and, if they can’t have Gore or Paddack, then Patino is a valuable settle for them.
The current state of the Cleveland infield is alright. Jose Ramirez can play second and third base, but the Indians can put him at either position if they can find an upgrade. He is going to stay at third base and like it because I’m sending Luis Urias to Cleveland. Urias had his struggles in 2019 thanks to a longer swing and a leg kick that didn’t work, but a .300/.378/.425 batting line through September and October showed a glimmer of hope for the once top prospect. If the Indians can buy into that hope, they’ll have themselves a brand new second baseman to pair up with Francisco Lindor up the middle of the infield.
The Indians have been looking for outfield help for a while now. We all know how powerful a hitter Reyes is in right field, but his glove is lacking behind his bat. Yasiel Puig has left for free agency, Jordan Luplow is better suited for a platoon role (1.020 career OPS against lefties vs. a .596 OPS against righties), Bradley Zimmer is coming back from injuries, and Oscar Mercado is set as the centerfielder. I believe that one of my outfielders will tie a ribbon on this trade package, Hunter Renfroe. After Reyes was traded, Renfroe seemed to forget how to hit a baseball as he finished up the season with a 98 wRC+ and a .778 OPS, but a .239 BABIP shows that he may have been getting unlucky. What saved his season was his newfound defensive skills (earning him a Gold Glove nomination) and a .273 ISO that indicated that his power was legit. Adding Renfroe would allow Reyes to move to designated hitter full time while the reunification should add the extra competition that Renfroe needs.
The loss of Patino and Urias will be felt amongst my farm system, but it is the price for an ace of Clevinger’s caliber. Naquin won’t be returning until April or June, but I’ll still have Josh Naylor to fill his role in the outfield.
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