The 2022 MLB season officially coming to an end on Saturday night, the time is now for teams to begin improving their rosters and building towards a championship next year.
Every winter is obviously important for clubs across the league, but that sentiment is magnified by a significant amount for the San Diego Padres. The Friars came a few wins away from reaching their first World Series since 1998, and the expectation in America’s Finest City should be championship or bust moving forward.
Expect this to be a busy off-season for the Padres, especially with President of Baseball Operations A.J. Preller and owner Peter Seidler running the show. The organization is eager to bring a championship to the city of San Diego, and they appear ready to push all of their chips in towards doing so.
One position that Preller and company will have to address is first base.
Josh Bell, Brandon Drury, and Wil Myers all saw time there throughout this season, and all three of them are scheduled to hit the free-agent market. The Padres could bring back one of those three at the correct price, but it’s unlikely any of them would be thrust into everyday roles should that happen. Drury and Myers hit left-handed pitching much better than they do righties, and Josh Bell is much better off serving as a full-time designated hitter than he is in the field.
Turning to the free agent class, there is one name that stands out like a sore thumb that makes sense for this Padres team.
Abreu debuted in 2014 with the Chicago White Sox as a 27-year-old rookie from Cuba. He took home ‘Rookie of the Year’ honors that season, has been an all-star three times, captured a trio of Silver Slugger awards, and he was named the American League MVP in the 2020 shortened season, too. Abreu owns a career slash line of .292/.354/.506 with a .860 OPS and 134 OPS+.
A free agent for the first time in his career, Abreu figures to be one of the more prominent right-handed bats in this class, even entering his age-36 season. He’s fresh off a season in which he batted .304 with a .378 OBP and .824 OPS, doing so despite sacrificing power – 16 home runs – for a more contact-oriented approach. Still, he performed at a well above-average rate (133 OPS+) and continues to prove he’s a true middle-of-the-order staple.
Abreu’s ability to drive runs in makes him an even more ideal fit for the Padres. San Diego’s struggles with runners in scoring position this past season were well documented, and adding a bat that’s known for bringing batters in could help alleviate that. The RBI (runs batted in) statistic is heavily weighted by having players on base to drive in, but Abreu has brought 100+ runs home six times in his career, breaching the 115+ mark twice.
Something else that makes Abreu a positive fit for the Padres is his ability to hit both right-handed and left-handed pitching. A right-handed hitter, Abreu owns a career .841 OPS against same-handedness arms while owning a .925 OPS when a southpaw is on the bump. Being able to rotate him between first base and the DH spot to get a platoon-heavy bat into the lineup, in either case, brings added value to San Diego’s roster construction.
In terms of what Abreu will cost, the current estimate, per The Athletic, appears to be a two-year deal with an average annual value of $17 million. Given his past production and relatively safe floor with his contact skills, that appears to be a more than reasonable price and one the Padres could pay. He may be the most expensive option for San Diego but is also likely the best fit for pushing for a championship in 2023.