For years, the Padres have been searching for the shortstop of the future, a guy who can step in and be truly productive at the position for multiple seasons.
It has been too long since the team has had the luxury of having a player that fits that description, and that’s a fact which is representative of the team’s struggles over the same time period. They’ve seemingly let various veterans play as stopgaps at the position over the recent years, who have been anywhere from mediocre to simply bad at playing shortstop.
During the offseason, the Padres acquired Freddy Galvis, who was supposed to upgrade the position in 2018. Galvis has been solid, and while he hasn’t hit particularly well — he’s at least provided above-average defense in support of the Padres’ pitching staff. Though the bar has been set low, Galvis has been the best Padres shortstop in recent memory.
How should the Padres value him, as he enters free agency this offseason?
This entire debate has been made much more interesting by the injury of Fernando Tatis Jr., which has left him out for the rest of the season. While the team has said that they expect Tatis to compete for a roster spot next spring, they are never realistically going to put him on the Opening Day roster to start the 2019 season. For obvious reasons, they want to keep him down to have another year of control over him in arbitration, but this is also a 19-year-old who hasn’t even played in Triple-A. He will be twenty years old for the entirety of next season, so should we really expect the Padres to rush their top prospect to the big leagues?
Probably not. And this is where the question of re-signing Galvis comes in.
Let’s go through some potential internal options the team may consider as replacements for Galvis if they chose not to try to bring him back. Javier Guerra was acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade, and has been lauded for his exceptional defensive abilities. The issue is that he has hit terribly since his breakout season at Low-A ball in 2015. His .210 average and 36.2% strikeout rate at Triple-A this year are not encouraging signs.
Another option is Luis Urias, who played a fair amount of shortstop at Double-A San Antonio last season, and also team México in the World Baseball Classic. His hitting ability is undisputed, and nearly ready for the big leagues. A second baseman by trade, Urias’ defense at shortstop has been seen as around average — unspectacular, but generally good enough to stick at the position. He could certainly be a player to try at the position above all other options the Padres currently have.
With no real alternative options at shortstop, the Padres are probably thinking about the possibility of bringing Galvis back on a one or two-year deal. There have been no other players on the Padres’ roster who have much experience playing shortstop, and Galvis has played in every game for the team. There’s a reason the team has not let anyone else play the position; because they don’t have anyone else to fill in there. The Padres would be ambitious to go into 2019 without finding a more capable player to step in at the position, at least until Tatis is ready to take the reins.
Bringing back Galvis would be a reasonable idea when one takes into consideration the alternative options the Padres have. He’s been worth 0.5 WAR this season, according to Fangraphs, so clearly he isn’t an elite kind of player contenders would be chasing during the offseason. There are also few teams with a real need at the shortstop position — almost every single team in contention this season already has a strong shortstop entrenched at the position and under control during at least the 2019 season or longer.
There shouldn’t be much competition for Galvis’ services this offseason, especially when considering the fact that this year’s free agent class is so loaded with talent.
The teams spending the most over the winter will likely not be throwing their money at an average shortstop. It seems reasonable enough for the Padres to bring back Galvis on a one year, $6-8 million deal. Galvis should be interested in returning to San Diego, where he’s comfortable and already is familiar with the team. The Padres can also offer him significant playing time at shortstop for at least the beginning of the season, which is something many other teams cannot guarantee.
This entire situation may be different if Fernando Tatis Jr. hadn’t injured his thumb recently. If he had played in Triple-A for a month to end the season, or continued to terrorize Texas League pitching, he’d be seen as much more ready to challenge next spring for the shortstop job in San Diego. Yet the fact that he hasn’t played a game at Triple-A, coupled with his age, likely encourages the Padres to be as cautious with him as possible. Maybe they feel like Luis Urias will be ready to fill in at the position while Tatis refines himself a little more to start next season. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to do so. Though when it comes down to it, the Padres would likely be making the best choice by bringing back Freddy Galvis to solidify the position next year.