The San Diego Padres off-season was highlighted by the Blake Snell and Yu Darvish trades, but these three moves are flying under the radar.
Entering the off-season, the Padres were one of the most exciting teams in Major League Baseball. Ending a 14-year postseason drought, highlighted by 21-year-old perennial MVP candidate Fernando Tatis Jr., the Friars figure to be a contender in the National League West division for the foreseeable future.
However, their division rival-Los Angeles Dodgers, won their first World Series title since 1988 and vying for a repeat in 2021. Padres general manager A.J. Preller made sure no stone went unturned this offseason, acquiring Blake Snell and Yu Darvish from the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs, respectively.
Both players significantly strengthen the rotation’s front-end when it’s sorely needed, with Mike Clevinger set to miss all of the upcoming season. The Padres also signed Ha-Seong Kim to a four-year deal, giving San Diego another weapon offensively.
Of course, the aforementioned moves were the notable transactions Preller made this off-season. But what about the ones that flew under the radar?
1. Acquiring Victor Caratini as part of the Yu Darvish deal
The catcher was the most overhauled position at the trade deadline last season. The Padres said goodbye to Austin Hedges and Luis Torrens in separate deals and welcomed in Austin Nola and Jason Castro. The latter returned to the Houston Astros, and with Francisco Mejia showing his youth last year, the Padres needed to acquire a capable backup catcher.
With the Chicago Cubs trending towards another rebuild, the Padres acquired Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini for Zach Davies and four prospects. The former Cubs’ backstop is a versatile player, backing up Willson Contreras while possessing the ability to play first base.
Victor Caratini, 27, is under team control through the 2023 season and was Darvish’s exclusive catcher last season. If you recall, Yu Darvish finished second in Cy Young voting while holding batters to a .211 average. The battery’s success carried over from the 2019 season, where Darvish held batters to a .210 average and a 3.29 ERA with Caratini behind home plate.
Aside from calling a good game, Caratini can also handle the bat well. While not eye-popping, Caratini is exactly what the Padres need in a backup catcher, posting a .266/.348/.447 slash line with 11 home runs and 34 RBI’s in 95 games.
2. Acquiring Joe Musgrove to bolster the back end of the rotation
Out of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, Joe Musgrove‘s numbers should improve significantly with the Padres. The 28-year-old has consistently posted good-not great numbers, at first glance, during his tenure with the Pirates. For example, Musgrove posted a 3.86 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 39.2 innings last season.
But a closer look at his advanced statistics reveals that the former 46th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft should have registered better numbers. The Pirates defense finished with 47 errors in 60 games, second-most in the league in 2020. Musgrove finished with a 3.42 FIP and 3.19 xFIP.
He’s exactly what you look for in a fourth starting pitcher and then some.
3. Re-signing Jurickson Profar to improve Padres’ versatility
While the years could be tricky and regular playing time is unknown, re-signing Jurickson Profar was a sneaky-good move for the Padres’ front office this off-season. The former Rangers’ top prospect got off to a bit of a difficult start in the shortened 2020 season, hitting 3-for-31 before finally turning the corner.
When Tommy Pham missed a significant amount of time, Profar stepped in and played outstanding defense in left field. Pham’s injury coincided when Profar started a hot streak at the plate. Over the month of September, the 27-year-old posted a .351 average and .500 OPS with a pair of home runs and 11 RBI’s in 22 games.
Profar also had an infectious smile and certain swagger that gelled with Tatis and Manny Machado in the clubhouse. He’ll turn 28 in the next couple of weeks, and to some extent, is still entering his prime. Profar is one of those players that molds the chemistry on winning ballclubs.