Hot Stove season arrived after the final out of the 2020 World Series, and every team instinctively set their sights on a restart.
As explored in the First San Diego Padres Off-Season Plan, the Padres could do very well by basically keeping the band together, so to speak. Fellow Padres fans, there are other ways to proceed potentially in improving the Padres roster this off-season. Frankly, I couldn’t care less how it happens; I want the team to win it all. Every. Single. Season. I dream of days with championship parades meandering the streets of San Diego. I’d rather be “wrong” about how it happened and happy than “right” about how and miserable. But, until the Padres claim their very first franchise title, in short, there is work to be done, and therefore, scouring ways to improve is not a wasteful act.
Preller and Company are rightly lauded for the great work they’ve done in acquiring hot talent lava from literally all over the world. Their success cannot be disputed. But, let’s consider some Padres trivia that may have been overlooked in the midst of the hype the Padres’ farm system has received in recent years.
This may be painful, my Faithful friends. Can you name the last time a Padres-drafted player was developed into a Major League All-Star for San Diego? Out of a possible 26, can you name the number of Padres draft picks listed on AJ Cassavell’s recent 2021 26-man San Diego Padres Roster Prediction? Can you name the number of Padres drafted players who’ve gone on to become All-Stars in any uniform since Y2K? Before making a point that applies to this philosophy, the second Padres off-season plan, here are the answers, and fellow Padres’ loyalists, they stunned me.
There are only two drafted and developed Padres to become All-Stars in San Diego in the 21st century, and one doesn’t really count because he was developed nearly 20 years earlier. Tony Gwynn (2001), the San Diego icon from the ’80s and ’90s, and Jake Peavy (2007) are the only Padres farmhands to be developed into All-Stars in 20 years. Cassavell’s list reveals that, technically, zero Padres projected to make the 26-man roster as of early November 2020 are Padres’ draftees. Zero. Unless Luis Campusano beats his alleged issues with the law… Unless we ignore Dinelson Lamet’s dance with the Phillies… Unless we count the international signings of Jorge Ona, Adrian Morejon, and Luis Patino, none of whom have achieved full-time Major League player status to this point in their careers… As for former Padre draft pick All-Stars in other uniforms, you’ve got Jason Kipnis. That’s it. No one else. In 20 years.
Is it possible that the repetitively top of the game rated farm system San Diego has enjoyed over the past half dozen seasons is actually not really that productive? Yes, there’s Trea Turner, and there’s Max Fried. These are excellent talents bordering on achieving great player status. But, they have had significant injury issues with no All-Star seasons between them. How about first-round picks Travis Jankowski, Eric Lauer, Austin Hedges, and Cory Spangenberg? There is nothing gained by exploring first-round names like Walker Weichel, Hudson Sanchez, or Jaff Decker. As society continues to relearn how to look at facts and make judgments instead of responding to feeds driving impulsive feelings to make judgments, it’s actually quite concerning.
MacKenzie Gore was drafted in 2017; it’s been three years already. Was Luis Patino, a Futures Game darling a few years ago, ready in 2020? Both the Braves and Dodgers had uber-young pitchers making their mark in the 2020 playoffs. In fact, the Dodgers don’t win the World Series without names like Urias, May, and Gonsolin throwing zeros in each series. San Diego needed their young arms with the top 40% of the starting rotation on the shelf. A cadre of formerly highly touted draft picks were just shuttled at the trade deadline, including Cal Quantrill, Ty France, and Hudson Potts, and that came after last off-season dumped prospects like Logan Driscoll, Buddy Reed, Luis Urias, and Austin Allen. Each carried the label of future star potential during their time in the Padres organization.
Why discuss this? Because as we develop a second philosophy for the 2021 San Diego Padres Off-Season Plan, maybe it’s time to consider this: “prospects are cool, but parades are cooler.” In this second edition, the plan is to bolster the roster with more controllable players that Preller has proven to be exceptional at acquiring. It’s not James Shields for Fernando Tatis Jr. — though that was amazing — and Preller has proven exceptional with that type of trade as well. Instead, it’s young talent going out to bring back established players. It’s Taylor Trammell for Austin Nola. It’s Eric Lauer for Zach Davies. It’s Josh Naylor and Cal Quantrill for Mike Clevinger. Almost every single Padre who has made a difference in a San Diego uniform started somewhere else for the two decades.
Ideally, AJ Preller works his magic and heists more pre-arb talent that can immediately impact a major league championship roster with next to no cost. But, without access to scouting reports, intimate details of team plans and available finances, or a full understanding of minor league player values according to a given team, let’s work with free agents as a first possibility. However, in this version of the off-season plan, we’ll add undefined trades that send Padres’ farmhands out for Major League talent. And, we’ll keep a static payroll target of $160 million.
With these parameters in mind, an understanding of what personnel returns are needed. The spreadsheet view of the Padres’ 2021 roster below is a blowup of information published by AJ Cassavell and linked above, and it gives us a way to analyze the roster’s current strengths and weaknesses. Reading from top to bottom by position, one can hypothesize depth per position:
This allows rating by position in three general ways: 2020 Production, Cost, and 2021 Ceiling. A simplistic, generic continuum of (high to low) elite, above average, average, below average, and concerning allow for basic analysis of team needs. Likewise, a similar continuum of (high to low) cheap, average, and expensive allow for a basic analysis of team cost.
According to the positional grid, the Padres did a remarkable job keeping the 2020 starting lineup intact heading into 2021. A quick review of value per position versus cost shows the Padres basically need four additional players. By position, the Padres could use additions in left field (losing Profar), the rotation in case of injury, and for big games, the bullpen (losing Rosenthal/Yates), and bench (losing Moreland). They may need five players if Luis Campusano’s potential legal trouble puts the catching position in flux. Though there are current players who could handle a returning designated hitter position, they may choose to add six, potentially, if the DH is retained. The Padres would benefit from lengthening the bench with a true hitter there. It’s worth repeating: Preller and company have done a tremendous job of amassing high performance/low-cost talent across the lineup and in the rotation and pen.
The Padres have farmhands with exceptional ceiling and value, but none are off the table with this philosophy. In fact, top-rated pitchers, Gore and Patino, are even in the mix if the return is worthy. Preller, White, and company have proven the ability to replenish the system quickly, too, so if the return is worthwhile, this philosophy isn’t about sacrificing the future. Rather, it’s about maximizing the present.
For each position, let’s select several players worth investigating to add to the current roster without deleting any returnees as currently constructed. Two tools offer a reasonable guess at current market values: MLB Trade Rumors Top 50 Free Agent Predictions List and FanGraphs Roster Resource Free Agent Trade Tracker. Then, options from the free-agent market are used to make a final choice with a total projected current 2021 payroll of $133 million, which leaves $27 million with which to operate. Five free agent players for $27 million; without altering the current roster, that’s the task in getting the band back together.
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