There is no doubt A.J. Preller is not done renovating the roster of the San Diego Padres.
The additions of Xander Bogaerts, Matt Carpenter, and Seth Lugo are only the beginning. There is one goal in San Diego, and that is hoisting a World Championship trophy. The Padres possess the roster to do it, but luck has a lot to do with winning it all.
Currently, the Padres need a little help offensively and arguably need another starting pitcher to complete their roster. The bench also requires help, but you get a feeling that will be addressed once spring training approaches. The Padres will likely bring in veterans to compete for playing time.
Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove make up the first three spots in the rotation. That trio is quite formidable and something the Padres can be proud of heading into the season. Beyond those three, Nick Martinez, Seth Lugo, and Adrian Morejon are in line for potential starts. The problem is- Lugo has never had success as a starter and is a risk. Morejon is young and probably not capable of eating innings for the Padres in 2023. Then there is Martinez, who is the best option but holds a lot of value pitching out of the bullpen.
Adding another veteran pitcher to eat innings seems to be the most prominent need.
As far as the offense is concerned, the Padres could open the season with their current roster. Ha-Seong Kim would play second base, Jake Cronenworth would start at first base, and Matt Carpenter would DH. The Padres could stick Jose Azocar or David Dahl in left or right field until Fernando Tatis Jr. comes off the suspension list in late April. This wouldn’t be ideal, but it would be an upgrade over last year’s unit. At least on paper.
You get a sense the Padres and their young G.M. are not content with this offensive unit. Moves will be made.
Adding both offensive players and pitching in one trade may be difficult to do. Most teams have an excess of one, but not both. The Minnesota Twins are an interesting trade option for the Padres as they could be persuaded to move starting pitching and offensive players.
Preller and the Padres have been loosely connected to Minnesota via trade.
Here is an idea of what both teams are looking at and if a deal can be worked out.
Padres Potential Trade Targets
At 33 and in the prime of his career, Gray has some value. The right-handed veteran battled through leg and abdominal issues in 2022 to record an 8-5 record in 119.2 innings pitched. Gray struck out 117 in that time and recorded a 3.08 ERA and a 1.128 WHIP. He was productive when on the mound for the Twins. Health is a concern, but heading into free agency, Sonny Gray should be motivated to have an excellent year.
Gray is due to make $12.7 million in 2023, and that is a decent rate considering his potential. The 10-year veteran is scheduled for free agency after the season, and his addition would give the Padres three potential free-agent starting pitchers (Snell and Darvish) in the winter of 2023-24. Bob Melvin is quite familiar with Gray as the pitcher has his best seasons in Oakland under the manager. There is familiarity between the two sides.
The reigning A.L. batting champion is reportedly someone who is drawing trade interest around MLB. That is not a surprise, as Arraez is a special talent. The left-handed contact hitter provides little power but does consistently put the ball in play. The native of Venezuela will be 26 next baseball season, and you get a sense we have only seen the beginning of this young hitter. He could be a special player with a little more seasoning.
The fact Minnesota would shop him with three more years of control is a bit of a head-scratcher. Arraez should provide excellent value at a fraction of the cost, and that is something the Twins value. Their intentions may be to maximize the value on Arraez now and see if a team will overpay for his services. As a table setter, Arraez brings value to a team, but his lack of power and exit velocity is a bit concerning. The Padres may be intrigued, but the asking price may be too steep for San Diego.
Kepler is a left-handed hitter with power and great defensive skill. He is essentially Trent Grisham, with more years under his belt and better contact skills. Kepler would help the Padres, but moving Trent Grisham for him would be a bit of a sideways move for Preller. The power-hitting potential for Kepler is intriguing as he slugged 36 homers in 2019 for the Twins. That power was all but gone last year as Kepler managed nine homers in 115 games for Minnesota. That is a bit troubling, as his real value comes from his ability to hit the ball over the fence.
In February, Kelper will be 30 years old, and there is tread left on the tires. The left-handed thrower is capable of playing all three outfield positions and provides plus defense. At Petco Park, his ability would be beneficial for San Diego. In 2023, Kepler is due to make $8.5 million, and there is a team option for $10 million for the 2024 season. If the Padres were willing to break through the current franchise tax penalties, then Kelper is a decent option. The team would want a right-handed option in the outfield for Kepler, who has traditionally struggled against southpaws. He did hit better last year against lefties (.677 OPS) versus righties (.662 OPS), but in the past, that has been an issue for Kepler.
Adding Sonny Gray would be an excellent idea for the Padres, but there are two big issues. Not going over the next threshold in the MLB luxury tax seems to be a goal for the Padres. Sonny Gray and his $12.3 million salary would be tough to consume unless the Padres could persuade the Twins to take on Drew Pomeranz and the $10 million he is set to make in 2023. Then there is a question of cost and if San Diego can pay the asking price. Gray will be a popular trade piece come mid-season trade season, and the Twins may be wiser to just wait until then to unload the veteran.
If Minnesota values some of the mid-level prospects in the Padres system, then a deal may be able to be worked out. Eguy Rosario, Taylor Kohlwey, and others may not factor in San Diego’s plans, but the Twins may see some value in these young players. Ryan Weathers could also interest the Twins and push them to consummate a deal with the Padres. I wouldn’t expect the Padres to be able to land Arraez or Kepler necessarily, but a deal for Sonny Gray could happen in time for San Diego.