The San Diego Padres still have a gaping hole in the outfield. There are a few under-the-radar options that the Padres could acquire without breaking the bank or shipping out top prospects.
The bigger names of possible left fielders to bring to San Diego are well-documented by now.
Michael Conforto is still available as a quality free agent, though his price may be more than the Padres can handle at this point. Bryan Reynolds of the Pirates and Austin Meadows of the Rays have also been discussed as upper-tier trade targets for Padres general manager A.J. Preller.
Now, it may be time to take a more thrifty approach.
There are two outfielders on teams likely not to contend in 2022 that could be acquired without parting ways with some of the top-shelf talent in San Diego’s farm system. Also, neither of these players are owed more than $4 million, allowing the Friars to stay under the dreaded Competitive Balance Tax threshold. As a result, neither of these two players will shift the balance of the league or put up huge numbers. However, both are at least marginal upgrades over the current situation in left field, which presently is Jurickson Profar and Nomar Mazara as the top two on the depth chart. FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections rank the Padres’ left field group dead last in the league.
Tyler Naquin, Cincinnati Reds
Over the last six years, Naquin has played for both big league teams residing in Ohio. After five years with Cleveland, with a perfectly average 100 OPS+, he manned the outfield for the Reds last year. He set career highs in home runs (19), RBI (70), hits (111), and doubles (24), benefitting from the hitter-friendly conditions of Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. In the outfield, he played at least 21 games at all three spots. His defensive metrics leave something to be desired, but it appears his best spot is in left, where the Padres would need him most.
For comparison, in 2021 Profar had -0.7 fWAR and an 85 wRC+. Naquin offers an upgrade, at 1.4 fWAR and 110 wRC+. The biggest question mark with Naquin is his splits against righties and lefties. Against right-handers, he has a solid .282 career batting average and .804 OPS. When facing lefties, as a left-hander himself, those numbers drop to .219 and .633 respectively. Profar’s splits are less dramatic. Perhaps a platoon with Naquin and Profar could be beneficial.
Chad Pinder, Oakland Athletics
The six-year veteran has spent his entire career to this point roaming the cavernous outfield in Oakland. The Virginia native has never put up prolific numbers with his bat, with a career .729 OPS and 98 OPS+. He played sporadically and struggled for much of the year in 2021, batting .243 with a .712 OPS and six homers in 75 games. Still, those are better numbers than what Profar did last season (.227, .629).
Where Pinder may lack in offensive firepower, he makes up for playing respectable defense. He played five different positions last season and his best spot was in left field. He has a career 14 Defensive Runs Saved in 131 total games in left. His versatility could also come in handy, as he has major league experience at every single defensive position except catcher and pitcher. As a bonus, Pinder has 26 career plate appearances in the postseason, with a stellar .318 average and 1.021 OPS during Oakland’s run through the 2020 playoffs.
Like Naquin, Pinder has platoon-level splits, except from the right side of the plate. Against lefties, he has a career .265 average and .791 OPS. When facing right handers over his career, his numbers drop to .228 and .681.
While neither Naquin nor Pinder will make anyone forget about Greg Vaughn in left field in San Diego, both appear to be upgrades over Profar both with the bat and defensively. Plus, acquiring one of them would put Profar on the bench, thus lengthening the lineup and adding much-needed depth. The perfect situation would be to acquire both of these players, thus creating an ideal platoon situation in left field and adding yet another major league-level bat to the bench.