The 2020 season produced a playoff appearance for the San Diego Padres, but there is still work to do for the team this winter.
Certainly, general manager A.J. Preller is not content with the current state of the San Diego Padres.
The team enjoyed a successful season, but making the playoffs was not the goal of the franchise. They have greater ambitions. Hoisting a World Series title for the city of San Diego is their lone goal. Something that they intend on accomplishing one day. The city of San Diego deserves its first major sports championship. This current Padres team may be the squad to do it, but the team needs a little tweaking to finish their goal.
Injuries limited the Padres in 2020. The arm troubles of Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger are well-documented as each “ace” pitcher could not answer the bell during the postseason. The Padres attempted to tread through the playoffs without them, but the task proved too arduous, especially against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who would go on to win the World Series. The depth was just not there for the Padres to advance.
The starting pitching and their health was not the only department that needs fine-tuning. Pending free-agents and lost production could dictate several more moves this winter.
Here is a look at some areas of concern heading into the winter.
Solidify starting pitching
Clevinger and Lamet suffered injuries at the end of the year, but each pitcher should return at full strength in 2021. If the duo can regain arm strength and sustain that through the season, then the Padres will have an excellent duo at the top of the rotation. Neither pitcher, however, is known for having a rubber arm. Both have a history of arm issues, and that is a major concern for the Padres.
Zach Davies and Chris Paddack are still in the works. Davies will likely return as a mid-rotation starter. His stuff is a great complement to the hard-throwing Lamet and Clevinger. Paddack is an enigma. There is a lot of hope for his future, but his 2020 season did not go well. Paddack needs better command of his fastball and needs to rectify his issues with his curveball to reach his potential. At the age of 24, it is way too early to give up on the right-handed pitcher.
The youth movement is here. Adrian Morejon looked awesome late in the year. There are concerns to his longevity, however, as he still has not thrown more than 30-4o pitches in a major-league game. The Padres remain cautious with the pitcher who occasionally complains about arm troubles. Ryan Weathers made his debut in the 2020 postseason and looked great despite never having pitched above Single-A baseball. Luis Patino also made his debut in 2020 and showed why he is considered a top prospect. Speaking of which, the Padres possess the most highly-regarded left-handed pitcher in all of minor league baseball. MacKenzie Gore made several appearances at Petco Park, throwing in front of front office personnel. These “workouts” never resulted in service time. 2021 will be his year as the pitcher seems poised to debut for the Padres very soon. Michel Baez also may factor in some degree, though he likely will remain in the bullpen.
So what will the Padres do with this group? There is depth but a lot of unproven arms. The prospects are talented, and you must figure that one or two of them will go on to have viable major league careers. But they need opportunities to grow, and a competitive Padres team may not be the best place for that. A.J. Preller and his staff will explore all options. The team may bring in a free agent or two this winter to add to this talented group. Trevor Bauer and the Padres will flirt with each other in free agency this winter, and that also may be an interesting story in the coming months.
Shore up the relief corps
This unit has depth, but the Padres will explore bringing back two arms. Trevor Rosenthal and Kirby Yates are both free agents. There is no doubt that Rosenthal enjoyed his time in San Diego. The right-hander will want a hefty contract, though. Can the Padres afford to retain the closer? It seems likely that the two sides will come to an agreement, but nothing is set in stone.
Yates is another question mark as his 2020 season ended with an arm injury. This was horrible timing for the pitcher, as his value took a major hit just before he was likely to be paid a handsome sum in free agency. The Padres may choose to bring back Yates on a team-friendly, one-year deal. There will be interest on both sides. It may come down to whether or not another team is willing to give Yates multiple years on a contract.
There will be veteran pitchers signed this winter. The spring training roster will be full of new arms, as Preller excels in finding under-valued pitchers. From this group, the team may find a diamond in the rough. The Padres already have an excellent group of relievers, but Preller and his staff understand you cannot have enough depth. Especially to survive a 162-game season.
Add veteran outfielders to complement the group
The starting outfield seems to be set with Tommy Pham and Wil Myers in the corners and Trent Grisham in centerfield. However, the team lacks depth behind them. Especially in terms of left-handed bats to complement Pham and Myers. Jurickson Profar fit that need in 2020, but he is a pending free-agent. The Padres may retain the switch-hitter, but he will be looking for a hefty payday.
Jorge Ona and Jorge Mateo provide youth for the team, but both are right-handed. In theory, Jake Cronenworth could move to a corner outfield spot when needed, but it is not clear if the team wants to subject the young player to a new position. The Padres could go shopping in the next few months. Joc Pederson, Nick Markakis, Michael Brantley, and Josh Reddick are all free agents this winter and fit the mold for the Padres.
The Padres will not be shy in exploring outfield options for 2021. The team could add a veteran, middle of the order-type player to solidify this group. The Padres will also explore the idea of finding a right-handed-hitting option for Grisham in centerfield. Not to lose playing time but as a backup plan. At this point, the Padres’ only option in centerfield behind Grisham is Wil Myers or Jorge Mateo. The Myers experiment did not go well, and Mateo is a second baseman learning to play outfield. He may have the speed for the position, but you cannot teach natural reactions.
DH or not
Will the NL remain a league utilizing the DH position? That is still to be answered, though the likelihood is that pitchers will hit in 2021.
The Padres hold a $3 million option on Mitch Moreland for the 2021 season. If the DH returns, it is a no-brainer to retain his services. However, a $500,000 buyout may be in the future for the veteran as the Padres may elect to spend that extra $2.5 million elsewhere. All this will be cleared in the coming weeks as teams restructure their rosters for the 2021 season.