It’s that time of the year again- winter meetings for Major League Baseball.
As has been the custom of an A.J. Preller-led Padres organization since his arrival ahead of the 2014-2015 offseason, San Diego is predicted to be busy.
While there are hot commodities the Padres covet, such as Trevor Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, and D.J. LeMahieu, among many others, realistically, the Padres will make runs at the second tier of free agents and lower. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some value, and there aren’t players that can bring the Friars a few more wins in 2021.
However, let’s look at the other side of the coin at three free agents, the Padres of which should be wary for various reasons.
Paxton has all the tools to be a tantalizing starting pitching option. At 6-foot-4 and nearly 230 pounds, he is an imposing figure from the left side of the mound. Just two years ago, his final year with the Seattle Mariners, Paxton tossed a no-hitter and looked to be one of the more dominant pitchers in the game. His whiff rate and walk rate were both right near the 80th percentile as he struck out 208 batters in 160 innings for Seattle. Once he was traded to the Yankees, he excited fans in the Bronx with flashes of greatness in 2019, with a 117 ERA+ and 3.82 ERA in 29 starts. However, the biggest issue with Paxton came to light again, injuries.
Injuries have plagued the 32-year-old Canadian’s entire career. Since he broke into the big leagues in 2013, he is yet to reach 30 starts or more than 160 innings in a season. And it always hasn’t been a huge injury like Tommy John surgery. In 2014, a strained lat muscle caused him to miss a significant chunk of the season, only starting 13 games. A strained pec muscle in 2017 had him missing nine starts. 2018, his best season, was also not complete, as he hit the injured list with some back issues. In 2020, he made just five starts with a 6.64 ERA after having missed nearly the entire shortened season after having a peridiscal cyst removed.
It hasn’t always been in Paxton’s control, some of it is just sheer bad luck, but there always seems to be something with him. The Padres should look elsewhere for pitching help. They have enough damaged goods as it is.
Workman was a target for the Friars during the trade deadline before he was dealt from Boston to the Phillies for their attempt at making the playoffs. His appeal is his out-of-this-world 2019 campaign when he posted a 1.88 ERA and 256 ERA+ in 73 appearances. Frankly, that looks more like the exception for him than the rule. With the Padres needing bullpen help after losing Trevor Rosenthal and Kirby Yates, Workman would appear as a worthy candidate. However, his 2020 was nothing short of disastrous. The Red Sox unloaded him after a 4.05 ERA in seven games, and it ballooned to 6.92 in 14 games in Philadelphia. He allowed 1.8 home runs per nine innings and allowed the fifth-worst hard contact rate of all relief pitchers in 2020.
The Padres definitely need bullpen help, but Workman is not the answer.
Padres fans should definitely know Pederson by now, as he has roamed the outfield for the hated Los Angeles Dodgers for the better part of seven years. He is a lefty bat with some thump, as he bashed 36 home runs in 2019 and 68 total since 2018. He took more of a reserve role for the 2020 World Series champion Dodgers, with the arrival of outfielder Mookie Betts to the fold, with less than 150 plate appearances in 43 games. The Padres could use another lefty bat, especially in the outfield, to compliment Wil Myers and Tommy Pham coming from the right side. Trent Grisham, fresh off of his first career Gold Glove, is here to stay in center and is a lefty bat. Pederson would also be an option for the DH role if that still is in play for the National League in 2021.
However, a closer look at Pederson’s numbers suggests the Padres should look elsewhere. His lowly .190 average and .285 on-base percentage in 2020 are big red flags. The Padres, to their credit, focused on acquiring players like Pham and Grisham as well as Jake Cronenworth, who excelled at getting on base. Pederson would be several steps backward in that regard. His strikeout rate and whiff rate both increased from 2019 to 2020, and his barrel rate went down. Pederson would be an acquisition for Padres teams that wore blue, from 2011 to 2019, a high-upside power guy who strikes out too much. The 2020s Padres are better than that.