The San Diego Padres 2015 season was disappointing to say the least. After an off-season overhaul, all executed by first time general manager A.J. Preller, the Padres were poised for playoff contention. The Padres got off to a hot start over the first two or three weeks of the season but the wheels came off after that. After struggling through much of May and early June, the Padres canned manager Bud Black. Under new manager Pat Murphy, things didn’t go much better. Over the last month of the season the Padres fell apart completely, losing well more games than they won.
With the season now in the past, A.J. Preller and company have a large amount of work to do to turn around one of the most miserably failed front office experiments in recent memory. While money and talent are not on the Padres side, it seems like anything is possible with A.J. Preller at the helm. What follows will be a Padres offseason To-Do List. If the Padres can achieve all the things on the list they may be able to go from one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history to one of the biggest turnarounds in baseball history.
Note: The points listed below are not in order of importance or any other significant order.
1. Find a Manager
Of the utmost priority for the Padres this offseason is finding a new manager to replace interim manager Pat Murphy, who was let go by the team following the final game of the season on Sunday. After the firing of Bud Black, and with the way the Padres team was playing all year long, it was clear that Murphy really was dead on arrival as the Padres manager.
Looking forward the Padres will have a lot of options to fill their manager vacancy. With this decision they can go one of two different ways. The first option is hiring a manager with either some or a lot of tangible managing experience. The names included on this list are the likes of Dusty Baker, Ron Gardenhire, Ron Washington or even Ozzie Guillen. Of these names, Washington is the most likely, given Preller’s connections to the Rangers, although Gardenhire appears to be another great choice.
The second option for the Padres is hiring a manager with little to no professional managing experience. In this list, names include current bench coach Dave Roberts, Phil Nevin, Andy Green, Sandy Alomar Jr. or even Jason Varitek. Of these names Nevin/Green seem to be the ones of most interest, although Varitek could be a good candidate as well. Whichever decision A.J. Preller chooses to make, it must be the first thing done this off-season.
2. Replace Justin Upton (He’s Not Coming Back)
Following his acquisition in December of last year, it was expected by many that Justin Upton would be merely a one year rental and would be gone from the Padres roster before the start of the 2016 season. Despite seemingly enjoying playing in San Diego alongside his brother Melvin, Justin Upton is likely to leave after such a disappointing season. Beside that, even if the Padres and Upton mutually wanted him to stay in San Diego, it is hard to say the Padres having the money to be able to keep him around give the payroll increases that are already coming for next year. It seems the Padres would be better off saving that money in order to further upgrade other positions on the diamond.
With the possibility of Justin Upton leaving a fairly likely scenario at this point, the Padres will have to find someone to replace his production in left field. Given their current roster makeup, it seems the Padres have three options in this regard. These options include shifting Wil Myers to left field full-time, if he does not move to first base instead, put Hunter Renfroe in left field full-time if he is ready, or sign some free agent if the first two options do not work out. The most likely options would be one or two, but I lean towards option one being the best solution, at least in the short-term.
3. Clear Up Some Payroll/Increase Payroll Further
Another important decision for the Padres front office this offseason, is deciding in which direction the team is going to go. The Padres can either clear up some payroll and relegate themselves to another losing season, or pony up more money and try to make the team better and place them in a position to compete as early as next year.
Based on the mindset around the organization, it seems the Padres are going to push forward and continue to increase payroll to attempt to put a winning team on the field for next year. This involves a lot of logistical challenges, given the general lack of talent on the roster and payroll that is already in the 120 million range for next year, but added financial leverage would allow Preller to be more creative in both trade scenarios and in free agency.
4. Find A Goddamn Shortstop
In terms of positional needs, shortstop is the most glaring. In all his offseason moves, Preller inexplicably avoided making any upgrades at the shortstop position, only signing veteran Clint Barmes to a contract. As was expected prior to the season, the shortstop position has been a disaster for the Padres, perhaps being the worst position on the diamond. With this failure still fresh on everyone’s mind, A.J. Preller needs to set it right prior to next season.
Towards the second half of the season, Pat Murphy started to play usual second baseman, and former third baseman, Jedd Gyorko at shortstop for a majority of the last two months of the season. This was sort of a curious move, given his average defense and slow speed, but he actually did rather well at shortstop, all things considered. With that being said, it doesn’t seem likely that Gyorko continues playing shortstop in either the short-term or long-term.
This leaves the Padres once again with a multitude of options. If Gyorko is unlikely to continue playing shortstop, and the Padres have truly given up on both Barmes and Alexi Amarista as full-time shortstops, this leaves them with only two other options. With no shortstop prospects being near major league ready, the Padres could choose to move Cory Spangenberg to shortstop, who would be a better fit given his speed and range. This seems like more of a backup plan if the Padres don’t work something out in free agency or via a trade. The more likely option is the Padres sign someone like Ian Desmond or trade for someone like Jose Reyes. Not great options but desperation makes you settle sometimes.
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