The San Diego Padres have always had a problem when it comes to embracing their tradition. That comes from a lack commitment from the ownership groups that have held the reins to the franchise. Embracing tradition really comes down to cultivating it. As a major franchise you have to go the extra mile to keep your homegrown players within your system. You cannot allow outside forces to cloud your judgments.
Whether it was Dave Winfield, Gary Sheffield, Adrian Gonzalez or Jake Peavy, the franchise has moved its star players simply because they did not want to pay them their market value. That is absolutely atrocious. To push star players out of town, simply because they are due to make what their peers make is ridiculous.
Thankfully Tony Gwynn was too stubborn to leave, even though the Padres numerous times made no effort to retain the face of the franchise. I can clearly remember the team playing hardball with Gwynn in refusing to give him a hefty contract when free agency was close. It is no secret that the Yankees or Red Sox would have doubled his salary had he played for them. Shame on the Padres for historically doing business in this manner. An issue that is finally being addressed, or at least Padres fans hope it is.
In recent years the team has doubled and tripled its salary for the team. This new Ron Fowler led ownership group promises to pay fair market value for players. They have promised to make an effort to be a viable team in major league baseball. Something that the Padres just have not been for a long time. Paying Matt Kemp, James Shields and Melvin Upton Jr. their high-priced salaries is a start, but there is still room for much improvement. You cannot just freely spend, there needs to be a strategy and it appears that A.J. Preller is formulating one. Nobody outside his office knows what that is, but trust me there is a plan.
Currently the Padres have a developing situation with outfielder Hunter Renfroe. The 24-year-old is starting to figure it out offensively in Triple-A. It is only a matter of time before he is called up. In reality he is probably ready now for his first taste of major league pitching. Renfroe is currently hitting .313 in his first 36 games in El Paso. He has seven homers and 29 RBI’s with an OBP of .344 in 150 at bats. In fact in 57 total games at the Triple-A level he owns a slash line of .321/.349/.604 in 240 at bats. Renfroe struggled a bit last season in Double-A, but after his promotion to El Paso, he hasn’t looked back. His strike out to walk ration in that time (49/11) is still a bit of a concern, but you will easily take that with a slugging percentage above .600 from the big outfielder.
Renfroe possess a rocket arm as well and is the definition of what you want from your right fielder. His time is near, and with that the Padres have some big decisions to make. Matt Kemp is the teams current right fielder and is easily the teams most consistent player with the bat. He is also due the most amount of money of any Padres player. As long as he is healthy and able to play, he will be in the lineup for the Padres. So where does that leave Renfroe?
A.J. Preller is surely at a crossroads with his outfield position. There are many unanswered questions. Jon Jay is due for free agency at the end of the year. Will the team even try to retain him or with the likes of Travis Jankowski and Manuel Margot looming, is his just a one year player for the Friars? Melvin Upton Jr. is probably the teams most well-rounded player right now and his value seems to be peaking. Will Preller attempt to move Upton and keep Kemp, turning the former gold glove center fielder into a left fielder so Renfroe can play right? Kemp would probably be hesitant of such a move so it is not known if that is even feasible.
At this point it is probably just easier trading Upton than trading Kemp. The money owed Kemp and the remaining years are a tough pill to swallow for a potential trade partner. In reality the Padres would only get below market value players in return for Kemp and they would most likely have to eat a lot of his owed money. It’s a very complicated situation. At least Kemp is producing offensively, making this topic debatable. If he didn’t have 10 home runs and 29 RBI early this year, nobody would even be sniffing around the Padres looking for outfield help. Both Upton and Kemp are producing and they might very well have to be moved to make room for Renfroe, Margot, Alex Dickerson, Jabari Blash and company. The emergence of Renfroe is pushing the Padres to make a move. We will see what the second year G.M. and the team do with their crowded outfield situation. Go Padres!