14. Make Austin Hedges the Starter or Trade him
It is time for Austin Hedges to sink or swim. Hedges is too talented defensively to be a long term backup at catcher for the Padres. The Padres either need to give him a chance to start full time, either by moving Derek Norris to a different position or trading him, or they need to trade him to a team that has that need at the catcher position. The Padres cannot continue to have two young, possibly franchise, catchers vying for playing time. One or the other is going to have to win the job next season or be given the job this offseason.
15. Kick the Tires on Melvin Upton
After a surprising bounce back season in 2015, one in which he outperformed several of the Padres other more high profile acquisitions, Melvin Upton Jr. may once again be a viable trade option. The Padres could keep Upton for some outfield depth but the amount of money left on his contract is enough to lessen those thoughts. The main obstacle to trading Upton is that contract but his improved play last season could be enough of a reason for another team to take a chance on him. AJ Preller should at least try to talk to some teams about a possible trade of Upton.
16. Bolster the Bullpen
The Padres bullpen in 2015 vastly underperformed preseason expectations. The bullpen has always been an area of strength for the Padres but this year was just a completely different story. The Padres have a good core to build around in Kimbrel, Maurer and Joaquin Benoit if they decide to bring all three back but the surrounding pieces are in need of some upgrading. Kevin Quackenbush, Marcus Mateo, Dale Thayer, and others all struggled, and no one else really stood out as strong and reliable options. The Padres are going to need to find some depth from outside the organization, including the possibility of getting a better lefty specialist, in order to bring the bullpen back to usual standards.
17. Figure out the Back End of the Rotation
If the Padres do end up bringing back James Shields, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner as the top three men in the rotation, there will still be large question marks in the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Options include Odrisamer Despaigne, resigning Ian Kennedy, Colin Rea, Casey Kelly, bringing back Brandon Morrow, Robbie Erlin or the possibility of some outside acquisition. The Padres current options don’t really instill much hope and promise, so it is likely the Padres will scour the free agent market for some decent, low-cost options to fill that void or provide insurance for any of the guys above.
18. Sign a Big Free Agent (Again)
This may sound a little questionable, given the Padres failures in big acquisitions and free agent signings just last offseason, but the Padres need to not only improve the product on the field but also increase interest in the team in preparation for next year’s All Star Game. The best way to do this is signing a big time star to market on the national level as well as to improve the team on the field. Options include Jason Heyward, Chris Davis, or any other big time free agent that could have these desired effects. If the Padres hope to compete in 2016 they have to continue to push the foot on the gas, and this would be a good start.
If the Padres do not sign any outfielders in free agency, and Wil Myers or Matt Kemp ends up at first base next season, the team needs to allow Hunter Renfroe and Travis Jankwoski the chance to prove themselves as viable big leaguers. Both had monster seasons in the minor leagues in 2016 and should both be ready for a full time role on the big league roster. The Padres need to see what the future holds and what better way to do that then by letting the youngsters have the chance to play.
20. Replace Ian Kennedy/Send Odrisamer Despaigne Down the River
While he likely would not sign the contract anyway, the Padres cannot risk attempting to give Ian Kennedy a qualifying offer this offseason. They are much better off letting him walk and finding a cheaper replacement for his spot in the rotation. Beyond that the Padres may need to cut ties with Odrisamer Despaigne. After a good start to the 2015 season, Despaigne’s performance only went downhill as the season progressed. He ended up in the bullpen by the end of the season and struggled to get anyone out in that capacity. The Padres may need to send him back down to the minors to get his confidence back or perhaps send him to some other team.
If the Padres wish to have any hope of putting a possible winning team on the field for 2016, the year in which they host the All Star Game, they will have to make some effort at fixing some of the problems of 2016 that are listed above. If AJ Preller can make some decent progress on these points, the Padres have a chance at being somewhat respectable next season. If not the Padres could be in for another atrocious season in 2016.