The first of four separate articles in which our writers at EVT take a spin at being the General Manager of the San Diego Padres. Nick Lee is up first with his goals and offseason additions for the Padres as they head into the 2020 season.
It’s time to put on my GM cap and rub my hands together and get to work. The weather has turned cold, and the World Series trophy has been hoisted which means it’s time for the Hot Stove to get a-burning.
The Padres need to address several areas; first and foremost, they need a proven veteran above-average starting pitcher or two. Next, they need to find a way to move Wil Myers’ contract while also acquiring an outfield bat to replace him, preferably a left-handed one. Then they need to bolster the bullpen and figure out the catching position.
Second base is also up for grabs as Luis Urias certainly did not grab hold of the spot last year in the 71 games in which he played, with a .223 average and .655 OPS.
Here are the goals I set for the Padres’ 2020 offseason.
- Payroll below or up to $135 million
- Shed Wil Myers’ contract and replace him with a lefty outfielder
- Add two MLB starting pitchers
- Add to the bullpen
- Explore options for catcher and second base
First, let’s look at the Padres payroll to see what we are up against as far as signing free agents.
Shockingly, the Padres are actually slightly above what the league average payroll for 2020 is at just over $113 million. That certainly will change over time. That also might make the Padres’ brass squirm a bit, especially with the need to add even more if they have any hope of being competitive this coming season.
Shed Wil Myers’ contract and replace him with a lefty outfielder
Let’s find a solution to shedding Myers’ contract or at least most of it. Typically a team will have to “eat” some of the money when moving a player with an albatross contract. It is likely the Padres will need to throw in a prospect or two to make it worthwhile for the team taking Myers on. With a wealth of prospects at their disposal, the Padres should not have an issue enticing a team to bite on Myers’ untapped potential as long as they sweeten the deal with a prospect from the most coveted farm system in baseball.
Once Myers is gone, the Padres will need to add a capable outfielder, so let’s look for a trade that can get rid of Myers’ cumbersome deal and in return bring a major league-caliber outfielder back to San Diego.
The Texas Rangers are looking to sell off pieces and strengthen their farm system. Nomar Mazara is a lefty outfielder that Texas seems keen on moving on from. He has played four full seasons with the Rangers with a .261 average and has averaged 20 home runs, a .754 OPS, and 93 OPS+. While these numbers are certainly less than stellar, his .786 OPS last year would have been fourth-best on the Padres, just a hair behind Manny Machado. He also is only 24 years old with two more years of control and plenty of room to grow.
If the Rangers are going to take on Myers and most of his contract, they will want compensation via prospects. With how deep the Padres are at catcher down on the farm (two other catchers in the organization’s MLB Pipeline Top 30), they can afford to part with Austin Allen, who accumulated 71 plate appearances in the big leagues in 2019. Pitching is always a need, and the Padres should sweeten the deal with a starting pitcher that has some experience like Eric Lauer. Lauer is a guy who can still grow into a solid starter (92 ERA+ in two seasons) but might not be a vital piece of a Padres playoff rotation.
Giving $15 million to the Rangers to take on the remaining three years of his contract will cost us $5 million against the 2020 payroll. With the addition of Mazara’s salary for 2020, at $5.7 million, the payroll will sit at just over $105 million.
Add Starting Pitchers
The addition of Stephen Strasburg or Gerrit Cole will likely cap out the Padres payroll and really restrict them from doing much else, as either one will cost at least $30 million per year. It seems likely that the Padres will not be able to afford these premier starters, but that does not mean they cannot add solid starting pitching.
Former New York Mets starter Zack Wheeler declined New York’s qualifying offer of $17.8 million, so he will likely cost a decent sum as well. At 30 years old with less than 750 innings to his name, he should still have plenty in the tank. He went underappreciated in a Mets’ starting rotation that also had now two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom and former All-Star Noah Syndergaard. Many think Wheeler is trending in the right direction for a strong few seasons in his early 30s as he set a career-high in innings last year (195 1/3) and strikeouts (195) while also posting an ERA under four (3.96).
He has also been mostly reliable in the last two seasons, averaging 30 starts and 189 innings from 2018 to 2019.
Let’s make an offer of four years, at $84 million total, putting his 2020 cost at $21 million, which puts the payroll at $126 million. Now they have a proven big league starter still with some upside to guide their young rotation.
The Friars should not stop there.
The Cleveland Indians indicated that they are willing to trade off some of their key players. A pitcher that should interest San Diego is Shane Bieber, the 2019 All-Star Game MVP. He finished fourth in the Cy Young voting last year after posting a solid 3.28 ERA and 144 ERA+ in 214 innings. At just 24 years old, with a whopping five years of control left on his contract, he could be a rotation cornerstone for a championship team.
Of course, all this means he will come at a hefty price.
The team will have to make Padres fans uncomfortable by parting with a beloved prospect or two, ones in the team’s top 30, according to MLB Pipeline. The Padres will offer the Indians lefty pitcher Adrian Morejon (7th ranked prospect in the organization), second baseman Esteury Ruiz (#18), and outfielder Jorge Oña. Ruiz and Oña are Rule 5 eligible next month, so the urgency to move them somewhere will be higher than others.
To sweeten the deal for the Indians, the Padres will swap another lower-level minor leaguer for one of Cleveland’s, giving the Indians a slight upgrade in that regard. San Diego will throw in Sean Guilbe, a shortstop who hit six home runs with a 111 wRC+ for Short Season Tri-City last year, in exchange for High-A right-hander Kirk McCarty, who had a 2.55 FIP in 13 starts.
That deal may not sit well with some Padres fans, but to acquire a Cy Young-caliber, already-All-Star, not-yet-25 starting pitcher, it’s going to cost. Speaking of cost, Bieber should cost less than $1 million in 2020, putting the payroll at around $127 million.
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