A.J. Preller and the San Diego Padres swung and missed at last year’s deadline. This season offers a new opportunity.
With the Padres clinging to life last season, Preller worked to add to the big league roster. On the surface, they looked like savvy moves. Adam Frazier was the NL hits leader and an All-Star heading into last year’s deadline out of Pittsburgh. Although the Padres had an All-Star second baseman of their own in Jake Cronenworth, adding someone with that volume of hits and solid batting average should have only helped the offense.
Not a single one of those worked out for the Padres, and they suffered one of the biggest collapses in baseball history.
Frazier went from batting .324 with a 126 OPS+ in Pittsburgh, plummeting to a .267 average and a punch-less 86 OPS+ in 57 games for the Padres. There was never a good fit for him. It was a “square peg and round hole” kind of scenario.
Hudson went from a 2.20 ERA in Washington to a 5.21 mark with San Diego. Marisnick was barely visible in a Padres uniform, batting .188 with one extra-base hit in 34 games.
All this while the Padres parted with Tucupita Marcano, Jack Suwinski, Anderson Espinoza, Mason Thompson, and Jordy Barley to acquire those three players. Four of those five prospects were once Top 30 prospects in the Padres organization.
To add insult to injury, none of Frazier, Marisnick, or Hudson remain on the Padres. Also, who could forget the cruel tease with Max Scherzer?
Let’s face it. Last year’s deadline was a complete failure. This time around, things can be different if the right moves are made. Of course, there are no guarantees. Even a move that looks like a no-brainer can blow up in the Padres’ collective face. That is the risk of any trade for any team in any sport.
However, this season there are a bevy of options. This is a golden opportunity for Preller and company to right last year’s wrong.
Of course, to address the elephant in the room, there is the Juan Soto saga. Just about any situation that has the Padres landing Soto will be a net positive for San Diego, as he is one of the best young hitters in the entire league. If Preller were to acquire Soto somehow and do virtually nothing else this deadline, the majority of Padres fans would be happy. To put how elite Soto is into perspective, among hitters with at least 2,000 career plate appearances, his career .427 on-base percentage is ninth-best all-time, better than the likes of Mickey Mantle, Edgar Martinez, and Mike Trout.
Another way Preller can “win” this deadline is cutting bait with first baseman Eric Hosmer. The former All-Star has become a liability on the field in San Diego. He ranks 33rd out of 36 qualified first basemen in fWAR since 2019. Defensively, he has a -1.7 dWAR, and -5 Defensive Runs Saved the last two seasons. After 2022, Hosmer is owed $39 million over the next three years, all while being a below-average first baseman. Shedding Hosmer’s salary and replacing him with a cheap, average first baseman would be a win for Preller.
If the Padres are unable to acquire Soto in the next week and cannot find a proper suitor for Hosmer’s cumbersome contract, the Friars can still come out of the deadline better than they currently are.
The offense is uninspiring, aside from Manny Machado and occasional but inconsistent contributions from a select few others in the lineup. The trade deadline is August 2 at 6 PM ET. It is imperative that they add at least one viable bat to the lineup over the next week. More specifically, they need to add power. They rank 25th in homers and 26th in slugging percentage. A bat like Adam Frazier will not cut it this year. They need to add some pop. The eventual return of Fernando Tatis Jr. alone cannot save this offense, with how bland they have been. They need more.
Catcher Willson Contreras has 14 homers and a .847 OPS for the Cubs this season. Not to mention, he owns a career .812 OPS in seven big-league seasons. Inserting him at catcher and in the middle of the lineup around Machado would be a boon to the offense.
In the outfield, bats like Ian Happ in Chicago, Bryan Reynolds of the Pirates, and Anthony Santander in Baltimore all offer power that the Padres simply do not have in their current outfield rotation.
As always, there are plenty of options to upgrade the bullpen. The Padres currently rank 15th in bullpen ERA for the season. Since July 1, they have been one of the worst in the league, ranking 27th. Any league average, reliable, cheap reliever would be another win for Preller.
There are plenty of opportunities for Preller and the Padres to atone for last year’s debacle. His job might depend on nailing this deadline and what happens in the months to follow.