With the trade of Yonder Alonso on Wednesday morning, the San Diego Padres seem poised to possibly make Wil Myers their everyday first baseman moving forward. Myers has even indicated to local media that he prefers to play the position and would like to do so for the 2016 season and beyond.
With that declaration perhaps the Padres are seriously considering just leaving Myers at the position. Another strong indication is the fact A.J. Preller listed the teams needs as shortstop, pitching and left field. No mention of a first base need even though the team had just dealt their starter at the position from the last few seasons.
So what kind of player could the team pick up at a position that was manned by Justin Upton all last season? The news on Upton has been really quiet but you would have to assume the Padres are not on his radar. He will likely command a contract worth at least $120 million in total. That seems too pricey for the Padres at the moment.
It is no secret that Upton performed well in Petco Park last season but the team is committed financially to both Matt Kemp and James Shields. Those two alone put some restraints on what kind of flexibility the Padres have in the near future with their payroll.
In a perfect world the Padres would be able to retain Upton and move Kemp and/or Shields but that does not seem very plausible. If Kemp or Shields are moved it would be at the cost of a talented player like Tyson Ross and that doesn’t seem like a smart move. However if the team can get a decent prospect package with young major league talent then they might very well consider moving Ross with an over inflated contract.
Another issue for the Padres is Melvin Upton Jr. He is scheduled to make $31.9 over the next two seasons and the team has little to no hope of moving him. He is penciled in to share the center field position with Travis Jankowski. Upton had a productive end of the year for the Padres, but still represents one of the worst contracts in the game of baseball. The team will hope he stays healthy and provides solid defense. Anything else he contributes will be icing on the cake.
There are many valuable corner outfielders in this seasons free agent market. The before mentioned Justin Upton is arguably the best available. Jason Heyward might eclipse Upton in terms of overall value because he is still very young though. Heyward is still 26 years old and is a WAR generating machine. He has averaged a five WAR rating in his first six major league seasons. There are whispers he could eclipse the $200 million dollar mark if teams get into a bidding war for his services. Obviously the Padres have no hopes of signing Heyward.
A similar skilled player who is also available via free agency is Alex Gordon. The World Series champion is 31 years old and is known for excellent defense in left field. He provides a quality left-handed bat and is known for his high on base percentage. Gordon made $12 million dollars last season and would sign a three or four-year deal for around the same annual salary. He makes an intriguing option for the Padres as he falls right on the cusp of what the team can afford.
Yoenis Cespedes is also available but after his run in New York with the Mets, he too might be too pricey for the Padres. Cespedes is a great hitter and excellent defender but is perhaps a bit too flashy for the city of San Diego. Look for him to land a contract with a large market team where they can capitalize on his flair.
Gerardo Parra, Denard Span, Austin Jackson, Shane Victorino, Marlon Byrd, Dexter Fowler and Ichiro Suzuki are all available via free agency. The Padres might have minuscule interest in Ichiro as a backup outfielder, but that remains to be seen. Could the Padres go after a traditional center fielder like Span, Fowler or Austin Jackson to play left field?
It is no secret that Petco Park has very spacious confines so adding a little extra speed couldn’t hurt. Span makes a very interesting option as he is a leadoff hitter. Something the Padres do need to address for the 2016 season. Span could also platoon with Melvin Upton allowing Jankowski a little more time to season in the minor leagues. Fowler is also an interesting option for the team but he will likely command too much for the Padres to commit. Span is coming off an injury marred season and could provide a decent upgrade for a reasonable price.
Rymer Liriano, Alex Dickerson and even Hunter Renfroe have an outside chance of cracking the Padres everyday lineup. These three youngsters would need to have a perfect spring training for that to happen though. Liriano has been one of the team’s top prospects for the last three seasons but has failed to stick at the major league level. Dickerson is described as a AAAA player. He will need to make adjustments if he wishes to have a successful major league career. Renfroe should be the teams left fielder of the future. He has great bat speed and pop, but needs to cultivate his skills some more before he is deemed major league ready.
Going into the MLB Winter Meetings next week the Padres are poised to once again be a very active team. They have many needs and the most obvious is at shortstop. The team will likely solve that issue with its next acquisition. Alexi Amarista remains the only viable option at the position for the 2016 season. Jedd Gyorko played there almost everyday at the end of the season, but he does not seem likely to get many innings there this season.
Who will be the starting left fielder for the 2016 opener against the Los Angles Dodgers? It really could be any one of numerous players. Stay tuned Padres fans because A.J. is on the prowl and anything can happen when it comes to the future of the San Diego Padres.