It’s the time of year to dream big, and for Padres (and baseball) fans, that’s about all they can do with the ongoing lockout.
The lockout for Major League Baseball is now at three weeks. It has been a lonely, cold, quiet month of December for baseball fans. For Padres fans, they were found wanting when the lockout came down, desperate for a splash move like unto the ones they had grown accustomed to with A.J. Preller at the helm.
Thus far, it has not come.
The biggest move of the offseason so far among player moves was a subtraction instead of an addition, shipping former All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier to the Mariners. However, one could argue that the most significant move of the offseason for San Diego thus far has been hiring former A’s skipper Bob Melvin, which is seen around the league as a major win.
Either way, things seem a bit dull in Padres land. Let’s brighten things up with a bit of holiday cheer, as Christmas weekend approaches. There are several players out there who may yet become Padres before the 2022 season starts (whenever it does). Which player is the most likely and who is the best fit?
Here’s a Padres fan’s Christmas wish list.
Let me start off by saying, this only happens if the DH is part of the National League moving forward. Everyone still assumes that is the case as the lockout frost continues into the wintertime. Cruz’s days in the outfield are long gone. However, he is beloved in the clubhouse and can still mash, despite being north of 40 years old. Since turning 36 years old during the 2016 season, he has averaged 35 home runs, a .914 OPS, and 147 OPS+. Not bad for an old-timer. The Padres desperately need another power bat. Plus, being Dominican, imagine his gravitational pull in the clubhouse with the other Padres stars, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. It could only help.
Additionally, his contract demands would not be as lucrative as others on this list. A one or two-year deal of around $10 million per year might suffice.
Key stat: Career .955 OPS vs. lefties
Perhaps the shiniest of presents Padres fans seek this holiday season is Castellanos. He is definitely still DH material, though a better outfield option than Cruz. He is just in the sixth percentile for Outs Above Average in the field. Either way, he crushes baseballs at the plate in an exciting way. At 29 years old in 2021, he broke out with 34 home runs, 100 RBI, a .939 OPS, and 136 OPS+, earning his first career All-Star selection and Silver Slugger Award.
He is a right-handed bat that can find the gaps (38 doubles) and drive in runs. Though the Padres are right-handed-heavy, they would be remiss to pass up on a chance to bring in the slugging outfielder. The downside is that his price tag will be hefty, likely in the 100-millions over several years. The Padres already have plenty of gaudy contracts. Do they dare take one more? This seems like a deal that San Diego makes only if they can shed at least one of the shackling contracts of Eric Hosmer or Wil Myers.
Key stat: 3rd in slugging percentage in NL in 2021 (Bryce Harper, Fernando Tatis Jr.)
When sugar plums dance in the heads of little kids on Christmas night, Padres fans’ heads are filled with the thoughts of Kris Bryant swatting dingers at Petco Park dressed in brown pinstripes. The 2016 NL MVP is not short on suitors. According to Jon Heyman, along with the Friars, the Mets, Mariners, Rockies, Angels, and Phillies are also interested in the slugger’s services.
And why not? The four-time All-Star will just be 30 years old when the 2022 season kicks off and has experience all over the field, including at least 20 games played at third base, left field, right field, center field, and first base. The extra twist is that Bryant is a USD alum and knows the area well.
After battling injuries and illness in 2020, he bounced back in 2021 with an All-Star performance, involving 25 home runs, .835 OPS, and 124 OPS+. He is just two seasons removed from a 31-homer, .903-OPS season in 2019. His price tag will likely be as hefty as anyone’s on the market. This seems like another move contingent on dumping at least one of Hosmer and Myers. He would be worth it, given his versatility.
Key stat: His .353 on-base percentage in 2021 would have been second on the Padres (Tatis).
Let’s be clear- acquiring first baseman Josh Bell will require moving Eric Hosmer as well as a trade with the Washington Nationals. Bell is under contract for one more season in Washington, who may be trying to move on from his estimated arbitration salary of $9 million. If the Nationals are interested in swapping Bell for Hosmer, it will require a top-tier prospect from the Friars. Either way, having Bell on the squad would be a breath of fresh air.
First, he is a switch-hitter. The Friars badly need some pop from the left side of the plate. Bell offers that, at least against right-handed pitchers, with a career .839 OPS against righties. He also has a higher walk rate than Hosmer. He has 30-homer pop and can hit from either side of the plate, thus making it tough to put him in a corner with a tough matchup on the mound.
Key stat: He is in the 92nd percentile or better for average exit velocity, max exit velocity, and hard-hit rate.