As the Padres front office evaluates the current state of affairs with less than a month until the July 31st trade deadline, A.J. Preller and company must identify soon whether or not the 2019 Padres have what it takes for a postseason run.
Enacting the posture of ‘buyers’ at the July 31st trade deadline would not only mark the first time a Padres front office would attempt such a feat since the likes of Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada were acquired at the deadline in 2010, but would also signal fulfillment of the promise made by A.J. Preller when he gave the proverbial bird to the concept of ‘service time’ by calling up Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack on opening day.
This bold move, along with a galvanizing pre-season pep talk by the normally mild-mannered Preller has brought intensity, swagger, and most importantly, a winning mentality to the Padres clubhouse for the first time in recent memory.
Although this Padres team has an exciting, high-voltage offense, the clear weakness for the Padres has been their pitching staff.
The Padres rotation is too young. While the likes of Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer have been the team’s most consistent innings eaters, the other three spots in the Padres rotation still leaves a lot to be desired.
Although Paddack has amassed impressive numbers while bringing refreshing, Jake Peavy-like intensity to the mound, the way in which the Padres will continue to place strict pitch counts on ‘The Sheriff’ for the remainder of the season.
Also, with Matt Strahm’s recent demotion to the bullpen, the Padres are placing immense pressure on unproven arms such as Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill, each of which have shown flashes of brilliance, but remain inconsistent the major league level.
Dinelson Lamet’s return from Tommy John surgery provides some much-needed firepower to a struggling rotation. However, history shows that pitchers returning from Tommy John sometimes need an entire season in order to make proper adjustments and get back up to major league speed.
Sure, acquiring the likes of Madison Bumgarner, Jacob DeGrom, or Trevor Bauer would add a bonafide ace who eats innings to a rotation who desperately needs one. However, any of these pitchers would come at a hefty price, where prospects such as MacKenzie Gore and Luis Urias may be dealt in exchange.
While the Padres could go all-in and add an ace, the Padres main need is for starting pitching who can go deep into games. The Padres are currently 17th in MLB in innings pitched by starters, and with a bullpen that has proved to be unreliable beyond Kirby Yates, the Padres would benefit greatly from adding one or established, innings-eating starting pitchers.
One potential option would be short-term rental Zack Wheeler. Wheeler will be a free agent this offseason, and on a Mets team which appears to be out of the playoff picture, Wheeler is the type of piece the Mets may be willing to part with.
With an average fastball velocity that ranks 5th in all of baseball at 96.8mph and a 5-pitch-mix, Wheeler possesses top-of-the-rotation-like stuff. With an unimpressive 4.42 ERA on the season, the Mets might be willing to sell low on Wheeler, as the Padres may have to part with a combination of mid-level prospects such as Anderson Espinosa, Ty France, or Buddy Reed to get a deal done. What’s more, is that the Padres could cash in on an arm that’s in a good run of form. In Wheeler’s last three starts, he’s posted a 1.86 ERA and a .182 opponents batting average.
Another rotation option could be Marcus Stroman. It’s been well documented that the Blue Jays most reliable starter would be an ideal match for San Diego. Of course, Stroman, his 3.18 ERA, and one year of control beyond this season would come at a higher price than Wheeler. Maybe the Padres could send Canadian natives Cal Quantrill and Josh Naylor along with a higher-level prospect such as Michael Baez, to get Stroman to San Diego.
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