Jedd Gyorko has made a decent run at playing shortstop for the San Diego Padres, but he is by no means an everyday, long-term option there. The Padres are surely going to address the hole at shortstop eventually, but who can the team acquire via trade or free agency for the 2016 season?
Alexi Amarista started the season as the everyday shortstop for the most part. He has performed in spurts, but lacks the consistency to be designated an everyday option at a vital position. Defensively Amarista has the ability, but his inadequacies with the bat are just too glaring to ignore at this point. A lifetime on base percentage under .280 is abysmal for a Major Leaguer. He simply lacks the ability to consistently get on base.
Amarista’s future in the Major Leagues will be as a utility position player. He has the ability to play shortstop, second base, third base and all three outfield spots. That is very valuable and the Padres seem to have come to the realization that is Amarista’s forte. He still has value, but to stick him out there as a starter is not fair to him.
Clint Barmes has also played shortstop for the Padres, and in fact he was in the opening day line-up against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. Barmes has performed well, but at the age of 36, he is no longer an everyday option at shortstop. He instead provides a veteran in the locker room and a coach on the field. Barmes might be retained for next season provided the team can find an everyday option.
So what kind of options do the Padres have? The team was reportedly very active recently in search of a shortstop, but nothing ever came to fruition. The position is traditionally weak and this season is no different. There are very few quality shortstops available via trade unless you want to take on a bunch of salary. Elvis Andrus, Starlin Castro and Jose Reyes are all reportedly available but each is owed a huge sum long-term.
Andrus is owed a whopping $103 million until the 2022 season. That is a lot of money for a shortstop with a reported attitude problem and one who quite frankly has never developed into what he is capable of. Jose Reyes was dealt by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Colorado Rockies for Troy Tulowitzki. Reyes salary jumped up to $22 million this season, and that is exactly what he owed for the next three seasons. That is a $70 million dollar (with $4 million dollar buyout) guaranteed contract through 2018 for a shortstop with past injury issues.
Starlin Castro remains the most likely of the trio to come to San Diego. The Chicago Cubs and Padres have been in discussions for a shortstop and Castro’s name had to have come up at some point. Castro is owed $41.5 million until the 2019 season and he is also the youngest of the before mentioned trio. Castro comes with some baggage and he has shown a terrible glove this season. His forte was never defense, but his age dictates he can improve. It all depends on his attitude and willingness to get better. A Castro deal could happen, but the Padres surely want to do their homework regarding his personality and off field issues.
Another interesting name to keep an eye on is Jean Segura from the Milwaukee Brewers. Segura has an excellent glove and has shown some consistencies at the plate that could translate into a very solid Major League shortstop. The 25-year-old is arbitration eligible until the 2019 season, meaning he is a very inexpensive producer at a weak position. The Brewers have Luis Sardinas and Orlando Arcia already capable of taking over if Segura is dealt. The Brewers are one of very few teams that has shortstop options. The team will likely look for a big trade to improve on what was a disappointing season for Brewers fans. Could the Padres wrestle away Segura at a decent price? A.J. Preller will surely be making some calls to Milwaukee in order to gauge the possibility of a deal.
The previous named possibilities have all been Major League experienced shortstops, but the team might also look at acquiring a young shortstop who is just on the verge of making it into the next level. Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs leads this list. The Padres have been linked to this slugging shortstop, but he has some concerns. The free swinging Baez has unreal power, but has a high propensity to strike out. His defense at the shortstop position is questionable. Some scouts say he doesn’t have the ability to play short, while other say he is capable. He is no sure thin either with the bat or with the glove. His upside is tremendous though.
Another shortstop the Padres have been linked to is New York Yankees farm hand Jorge Mateo. The speedster was linked to the Padres in late July when the clubs had discussions about Craig Kimbrel, Tyson Ross and James Shields. At first the Yankees reportedly balked at including Mateo in any deals, but they changed their minds right before the July 31st deadline. The two teams never came to an agreement, but still their could be a deal in the near future. Mateo is hitting .280 this season in A Ball with 81 stolen bases. He is not Major League ready though, and ultimately I believe that is what scared the Padres off at the moment.
A third possibility is Ketel Marte of the Seattle Mariners. The 21-year old is presently in Seattle with the Major League team. The switch hitting shortstop has hit over .300 at every Minor League level, including this year in Triple-A Tacoma where he hit .314 with three homers and 29 RBI’s in 261 at bats. His defensive range and glove are decent but he has trouble with his arm. With his young age, that could easily be addressed and corrected. Marte would not be cheap, as he is one of the Mariners top prospects. The two teams have come to agreements on deals the past two seasons. Both Chris Denorfia and Seth Smith were dealt to Seattle within the last season and a half. The two teams have a good working relationship, so a deal could very well happen.
The other option for the Padres is to explore a free agent next season. The big name shortstop that will be available is Ian Desmond. The Washington Nationals shortstop had rejected a $100 million dollar extension from the Nationals in 2012. He will not com anywhere close to that on the open market at the present time. His glove has suffered this season as he is second in most errors committed at the position. He has also struggled to hit with any balance this whole 2015 season.
Two other potential free agents next season are Jimmy Rollins and Asdrubal Cabrera. Rollins has clearly lost a step and he is in the last year of his Phillies signed contract. The Dodgers have rookie phenom Corey Seager just about ready to play, so Rollins will likely play somewhere else next season. He would be an upgrade for the Padres, but hardly a piece to build a team around. Asdrubal Cabrera has caught fire in the second half of the season and has made himself a possibility for an everyday roll next season. The former Indians shortstop was a decent everyday player but had struggled his last few seasons in Cleveland. Now with the Rays, Cabrera seems comfortable at short and has produced in recent months for the team. Both veterans would be useful, but they both would be like putting a band-aid over a gun shot wound.
The Padres need at shortstop is huge. The team can no longer choose to ignore that fact. The Padres have a bright future, but they must address issues like this immediately or they risk losing the limited amount of time this team has to win a championship. Not only do they need a shortstop next year, but they need someone who can lead and produce for at least the net three seasons.
Who will be the starting shortstop next year? Will it be someone on the current roster? That seems almost impossible at this point. Padres management will have to either take on a lot of salary or pay an expensive price. The wheels are in motion and eventually we will have an answer to that question. The philosophy of the team has changed and Padres fans applaud the fact the team hasn’t gone out and made any rash moves to fill the hole. Eventually the question will be answered and odds are A.J. Preller will once again shock Padres fans and all of Major League Baseball.