Throughout the history of the San Diego Padres the team has failed to keep its talented young players. From Dave Winfield and Kevin McReynolds to Roberto Alomar and Adrian Gonzalez, the team has continually let is young players leave San Diego for one reason or another. Padres fans can name numerous players that were shuttled out of town right as soon as the fan base began to enjoy them. This sad San Diego Padres history has made the fan base absolutely punchy when it comes to potential trades.
The 2015 season brought a sense of joy to the fan base. Though management dealt most of their young talented prospects, fans were provided with an instant boost of credibility with the likes of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, James Shields and Craig Kimbrel added to the squad. Unfortunately the game of baseball is one that requires balance both on the field and in the clubhouse. The team was far too right handed and defense was a second thought. With a recipe like that it was no surprise that the team struggled mightily.
Changes were made this past offseason. Justin Upton was not retained. In fact the club had virtually no communication with him regarding a new deal. The team valued the compensation draft pick for Upton more and he was allowed to leave. Kimbrel and Benoit were dealt for six prospects. Manuel Margot, Logan Allen, Carlos Asuaje, Javier Guerra, Enyel De Los Santos and Nelson Ward represent the future of the team. With a team failing to gain leads, a dominant bullpen was not needed. Moving both relievers was a great idea, and the Padres got a ton of value in return for them. The over haul is not complete, in fact we are very much in the middle of it. James Shields was just the beginning for the Padres this season. I suspect the team will be very active on the trade front as they intend to make room for the young players that are performing at the Triple-A level.
In particular the outfield is in need of a remodeling. Kemp, Upton and Jay represent a third of the teams payroll for the 2016 season. Each player has an adequate young replacement in Triple-A playing really well to boot. Margot, Renfroe and Dickerson are on fire in the hitting-friendly Texas League and each player has clearly shown they are ready to take the next step in their careers. Understandably the Padres are hesitant to bring them up as Jay, Kemp and Upton represent the heart of the teams offensive abilities now. It is truly a complicated situation and problems like this could only happen to our beloved Padres. I am afraid some G.M.’s will take advantage of the Padres being desperate to move and outfielder and the team will get pennies on the dollar for their veterans. Hopefully A.J. will hold strong.
This brings us to who on the Padres roster has the most value and also can also be replaced the easiest within the organization. The first and most obvious trade candidate is Derek Norris. The club has clearly fallen in love with Christian Bethancourt behind the plate. They also have Austin Hedges (now healthy) in Triple-A, so obviously Norris is expendable. I like Derek Norris a lot, but the writing is on the wall. He is really starting to swing the bat well now after a slow start so his value is increasing by the day. Teams like Houston and Texas have been long rumored to be looking for catching help. Something should come to fruition eventually regarding the Padres catching depth.
That brings me to the Padres pitching staff. Fernando Rodney is having an unbelievable season. He has yet to allow a single run to score. A 0.00 ERA is amazing. You could not ask for anything more. He has tremendous value right now as teams try to get their bullpen in order for a second half run. There are many teams that could benefit from the services of Rodney. The closer has a very friendly contract too as he is making $1.6 million this season with a $2 million dollar option or $400 K buyout for the 2017 season. The Padres, if they chose, should get a decent return for their closer.
The most intriguing possibility to be dealt is the Padres most successful starter this season. Drew Pomeranz has pitched well, but there are some legit concerns about him being able to maintain this pace. The left-handed pitcher has never thrown over 101 innings in a single season and he did that his rookie year in 2011. In recent seasons Pomeranz has been used out of the bullpen as well as spot starting here and there. When the Padres acquired him it was viewed as a surprise that the team wanted him to start. That decision turned out to be huge for the Padres as he has simply been the teams best pitcher in the rotation thus far in the 2016 season. He is currently 5-7 with a 2.88 ERA in his first 13 starts. During those 75 innings, Pomeranz has walked 37 and struck out 89 while only allowing 51 hits. He has been roughed up a bit in his last two starts. The Marlins and Braves (of all teams) got to Pomeranz early as he allowed eight earned runs to them in his last two starts. A slight bump in the road for Pomeranz, but he recovered well in both games after a slow start and once again displayed his dominance the rest of the game.
So why would the Padres consider dealing the 27-year-old right when it looks like he has stepped up his game? The innings are a definite concern. The fact he hasn’t thrown many in the past in a season is really just a formality if you think about it. Some people look at this as a positive, as Pomeranz has surely not been over-used by his past organizations. The lefty should be able to approach 200 total innings this year, but you have to wonder if a certain amount of fatigue will take place when he hits the 160-180 innings total. That is just a risk worth taking as Pomeranz has shown quite a lot this season under the tutelage of Darren Balsley. Some pitchers are just late bloomers. Cliff Lee and Jake Arrieta come to mind. Pomeranz could just barely be scratching the surface of his potential.
A key factor when deciding to move Pomeranz is the fact he is under team control until the 2019 season. The Padres would have to be overwhelmed by someone in order to move the blossoming pitcher. His value is the highest it has ever been and when you factor in the Padres acquired him for essentially Yonder Alonso, the Padres are playing with house money. Pomeranz has made the A’s look foolish for moving him and if A.J. Preller wants to cash out the left hander for yet more top-notch prospects, it may happen. Again though, the Padres would have to be completely overwhelmed with the return. There is another way the team could part with Pomeranz. One that could get complicated. One that makes sense but would be a tough pill to swallow.
The team could package him with Matt Kemp in an attempt to get from under Kemp’s contract without having to pay a team (much) to take him. Of course the Padres would get prospects in return from a contending team. A contending team is exactly who would make a deal like this. A team that is going for broke and has money to burn could easily be a taker on Kemp and his salary. If Pomeranz keeps pitching well he could be the icing on a potential Kemp trade. This is a troubling thought. Pomeranz is an excellent pitcher and to have to include him on a deal to take Kemp seems like a horrible idea. But is it?
Let’s face it, Kemp has little to absolutely no trade value. Those of you that think he does, have no clue about the game of baseball and how it has changed into a team sport based on numbers and production. Kemp might put up great offensive numbers of the past once recognized as the ultimate recognition of production. RBI, batting average, and home runs are excellent numbers to gauge talent but they are simply a fraction of what is digested by scouts to determine a true productive player. If you watch Kemp on a daily basis you realize he needs to be in the American League where he can still be serviceable in the middle of a lineup as a DH. Defensively he has lost a step and his recognition of the ball and its flight path is diminishing and it will surely get worse as the slugger gets older.
If you package Drew Pomeranz and Matt Kemp together you may be able to get some very decent prospects in return. Hopefully the potential team would take most, if not all, of Kemp’s salary and for the Padres you simply view Pomeranz as a sell-high candidate. The reality is Pomeranz is no given. He is 27 and not a young player. He is truly an enigma. The one thing you do know for sure is his value will never be higher. If the team decides to hold off on dealing this young man, they could regret it like not dealing Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross when their value was at its pinnacle. Both pitchers value has taken a major hit and quite simply that can happen to another Padres pitcher.
The future of Drew Pomeranz is very much up in the air. The team is constantly evaluating this left-handed pitcher though. His emergence has been fun to watch for Padres fans. This Padres team needed someone to step up with the loss of the Padres former big three (Ross, Shields, Cashner). A productive staff goes a long way to helping the entire team do their job. Without Pomeranz the Padres would have easily lost another 3-5 games this season. Trading him would only benefit the team. I trust A.J. Preller to make the correct decision whatever it may be. This Padres franchise is way too far away from competing to keep veteran players who will peak before the team is ready to compete. Pomeranz is on the cusp of being a major part of the future. He could easily be used as a trade chip or be kept to build the franchise around. All that will come down to what kind of offers the Padres get in the next several weeks. Stay tuned Padres fans, even though the product on the field is suffering, the team will provide some excitement when it comes to determining the future of this franchise.