The 2000s decade saw some successful San Diego Padres teams. Division championships book-ended by fire sales. But, how were these playoff teams built?
The San Diego Padres won the National League West division two years in a row in 2005 and 2006. These teams were made and built long before those seasons began. Some of the groundwork even started in the early 1990s.
After the Friars won the National League pennant and appeared in the World Series in 1998, they pitched tents and rolled out closets to their driveway and had a massive yard sale on key pieces that got them there, only to build again for the future.
The story of the 2000s Padres begins way back in 1993. The Friars have Gary Sheffield to thank for being part of a trade that sent a shortstop-turned-pitcher Trevor Hoffman from the Marlins to San Diego. It cannot be overstated what Hoffman means to the Padres organization. He earned his first save as a Friar on August 6, 1993, and his last in a Padres uniform on September 27, 2008, becoming a Hall of Famer and one of five former Padres to have their number retired and was a part of four playoff appearances.
During the offseason before the 1998 season, the Padres made a few deals to rebuild and work towards those playoff appearances in the middle of the next decade.
The big trade that the Friars swung to build a playoff team of the future was when they dealt utility infielder Andy Sheets to the Anaheim Angels in exchange for a minor league catcher named Phil Nevin.
Although Nevin did not see the rebuild all the way through, departing midway through the 2005 season, he became one of the most prolific sluggers in team history and was even useful to the playoff teams on his way out. From 1999 to 2001, Nevin averaged 32 home runs with a .929 OPS. After the Padres moved to Petco Park before the 2004 season, Nevin saw his numbers drop and vocalized his frustration with the new ballpark’s dimensions. This aided in his swift departure in the middle of the 2005 playoff run.
However, the deal that sent Nevin to the Rangers merited Chan Ho Park back to the Friars. Park was inserted into the rotation for the remainder of the 2005 season and the entire 2006 season, both playoff seasons in San Diego. Although his numbers left something to be desired (5.08 ERA, 79 ERA+ in 34 games), Park provided a veteran presence and pitched two scoreless innings in the 2006 Division Series against the Cardinals.
The big piece of the rebuild that occurred in 1999 came via the draft. In the 15th round, the Friars selected a right-handed pitcher from St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Alabama, Jake Peavy.
Peavy worked his way through the minor leagues quickly and made his debut in 2002. In 2004, Peavy announced himself to the league by winning the ERA title with a 2.27 mark and a Padres record-tying 171 ERA+. Peavy was the clear ace of the staff for over five seasons, including both postseason appearances. In 2007, a year where San Diego won 89 games and came just one game short of a third straight playoff berth, Peavy won the Triple Crown of Pitching with 19 wins, 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts, winning the Cy Young Award.
Between 2004 and 2007, he amassed 17.7 WAR, a huge reason why the Padres averaged almost 87 wins over that span, becoming one of the best pitchers in Padres history.
After the 1999 season that saw the Friars go from N.L. champions to losing 88 games, the Padres made a host of other moves. They traded standout starting pitcher Andy Ashby to the Phillies for Adam Eaton, Carlton Loewer, and Steve Montgomery. Eaton became a useful back-end starter for the six seasons he was in San Diego. In 2005, he pitched in 24 games with a 4.27 ERA over 128 2/3 innings. He posted 5.3 WAR over those six years.
The blockbuster for San Diego in 2000 was trading away first baseman Wally Joyner, Quilvio Veras and Reggie Sanders to the Braves in exchange for Jason Shiell, Bret Boone and Ryan Klesko. Boone played just one season for the Friars and hit 19 home runs, but the gem of the trade was Klesko.
The former Brave became a lethal combo with Nevin in the middle of the Padres lineup for years, hitting 30 home runs with a .923 OPS in 2001. In 2005, he led the Padres in home runs with 18 and had two hits and a run scored in the 2005 Division Series.
He was injured for almost all of 2006, but “Bad to the Bone” rang out at Petco Park one last time as he came back into time to play in the playoffs and went 2-for-3 with a double in that series.
Klekso finished his Padres career with 133 home runs and a 134 OPS+.
The 2000 Padres went 76-86.
In the 2001 draft, the Padres selected Josh Barfield in the fourth round. The Venezuelan-born second baseman was an everyday player for that 2006 division title team. As a rookie that season, he hit .280 with 13 home runs and 21 stolen bases, posting a 3.1 WAR.
That season’s team went 79-83 with Nevin and Klesko leading the way, combining for 71 home runs.
The 2002 Padres took a big step back, losing 96 games. In the draft, the Padres picked up another vital piece of their future run in the first round, selecting shortstop Khalil Greene with the 13th overall pick.
Greene was not long for the minor leagues, debuting that next season in 2003. Greene hit his stride in 2004 as the everyday shortstop for San Diego. The Florida native played a crucial role in the four consecutive winning seasons between 2004 and 2007, endearing himself to the Friar faithful with spectacular plays on defense and critical big hits at the plate. He hit .400 in the 2005 Division Series against the Cardinals with a 1.017 OPS in the three games.
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