The San Diego Padres need a shift in philosophy. It’s time to re-think trading away all their top prospects for shiny objects and focus on building for the future while the present is in flux.
As the 2023 season winds down, it’s time to think about the future of the San Diego Padres as a franchise. This season was a disaster- no ifs, ands, or buts about it. From top to bottom, the Padres failed their passionate fanbase. That failure includes the front office.
To the president of baseball operations and general manager A.J. Preller’s credit, he went for it. He swung big and got exciting players to come to San Diego like never before in this city’s history. That, of course, came at a large cost to the Padres’ farm system, which was essentially gutted. The pinnacle moment, of course, was the trade for Juan Soto. While Soto has been a great-to-elite hitter in San Diego, if the Padres don’t get a World Series title out of that trade, it’s a disappointment.
They are now dangerously close to that reality.
It’s time to shift towards keeping those top prospects instead of looking for the first opportunity to wheel and deal for a “big fish” on the market.
Miraculously, despite all the trading Preller has done, the Padres once again have a top-10 farm system once again. The Padres currently have five prospects in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 overall rankings. They are nearly back to where they were as an organization before the big fire sale of prospects.
It’s time to do what Padres fans wanted to do during the “tank” years and “prospect-hoard.” The Padres need these players to develop in their system. They need them to come to fruition at the big league level in a Padres uniform.
Enough with the players like Emmanuel Clase, Andres Munoz, Josh Naylor, Ty France, and, most egregiously, Trea Turner becoming legit big leaguers elsewhere when the Padres had them right in the palms of their hands. The Padres have had too many whiffs in trades under Preller, dealing prospects away for underwhelming veterans.
The Padres could have one of the game’s next great catchers in-house in Ethan Salas. He is the No. 5 prospect in all of baseball at just 17 years old. We could be seeing the next generation’s Joe Mauer or J.T. Realmuto, or perhaps better.
They can’t afford to screw that up. He could be the building block for a brand new era of Padres baseball.
Part of this is that the Padres simply cannot afford any more “big fish.” The Friars are committed to Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and Xander Boagerts for the next decade-plus. They already have over $159 million committed for next season. That’s not even taking into account Juan Soto‘s massive arbitration number. They will likely surpass $190 million without even making an acquisition this offseason, which puts them already in the top three among payrolls for 2024. The Padres can’t afford to have another blank-check offseason.
The best franchises seem to find the perfect balance between spending big on key pieces and getting the most out of young, controllable players. The Padres are massively imbalanced in that department.
The Padres’ top homegrown player on the list of bWAR this season for the team is Tom Cosgrove, at 1.1. He is 13th on the team in bWAR and yet the highest among those whom the Padres actually drafted. This is not counting Ha-Seong Kim as “homegrown” since he was an international free agent signing at age 25.
That needs to change. The Padres need more and more homegrown players to contribute at Petco Park for the home team and not return as a visitor to go 4-for-4 with two homers.
Six of the last nine World Series MVPs were homegrown players of that team. There is something to being able to develop your own talent instead of bumming off someone else’s work. The Padres need to pivot in philosophy. That is, hang on to what they currently have and focus on setting them up for success in a Padres uniform down the road.
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.