There is no doubt that the San Diego Padres will make several more moves in the coming weeks as they prepare for the 2021 season. But what are A.J. Preller and his staff thinking?
The San Diego Padres are a lock to make the playoffs this coming season.
Nothing is a sure thing in the world of Major League Baseball, but the Padres possess a strong roster hungry for playoff victories. Being favored to make the playoffs and actually doing it are two different things, though. The Padres’ front office is well aware of this fact. We all remember the 2015 team that was supposed to re-ignite baseball relevancy in San Diego. They failed miserably, but this team hardly resembles that squad.
The additions of Yu Darvish and Blake Snell rectify a huge issue for the Padres. Last season, the team lost two ace-like pitchers just before the playoff started. The Padres rallied and overcame the Cardinals in round one, but losing Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet proved to be an obstacle too surmountable to overcome as the team fell to Los Angeles.
In 2021, the team should continue to grow, and in a world of expanded playoffs, the Padres will make a back-to-back playoff appearance for only the second time in franchise history (05-06). Currently, the Padres have a productive mix of veterans and young players. There are plenty of superstars on the current team and several players under the age of 23 who could blossom into stars.
Preller did well to structure the team this way. The playoff window is wide open for the next 3-5 years for this squad and could easily extend beyond that timeframe.
The construction for 2021 is not complete, and here are some things to look for in the coming weeks.
This is reportedly a priority for the Padres as they view Tatis as an excellent investment. At the age of 22, it safe to say that he has 10-12 years of highly-productive baseball left in his career. Reports are the two sides are in discussions on a long-term deal that will lock up the young Dominican superstar well into the 2030s. I will not explore the details of what it will take, but it is safe to say that Tatis should earn upwards of a quarter billion dollars or more.
This may not happen until the next off-season, but one figures that it is only a matter of time for the two sides. The Padres are built for the long-term, and ownership is committed to winning. Fernando Tatis Jr. will be the face of the franchise for a long time, which is a great thing for San Diego. Young baseball fans will emulate the likable youngster all over the world for years to come.
Shore up the bullpen
Trevor Rosenthal seems like the likely choice here for the Padres. On Tuesday, Blake Treinen and the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed on a two-year, $17.5 million deal with a club option. This signing sets the current value for relievers, so expect the market to start moving. Rosenthal and Treinen possess similar value, and you can expect Rosenthal to sign somewhere near that mark fairly soon. The Padres will be players when it is all said and done when it comes to Trevor Rosenthal, as he appears to have fallen in love with San Diego.
Beyond the hard-throwing right-hander, there are options on the free-agent market. Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand, Kirby Yates, Archie Bradley, and Roberto Osuna are all available. The Friars have familiarity with Hand and Yates as each closed for the team in recent years. Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagan, Matt Strahm, and company provide a solid core of relievers, but you get a sense the club wants to upgrade in this area. Expect the team to bring in a big-name reliever one way or another. A trade to upgrade in this area is still possible as the Padres possess a strong farm system and could easily trade prospects for viable major league talent.
Bring in bench players with playoff experience
There is a need for a few bench players on the 2021 team. If the DH is in play for the National League, the Padres could get very aggressive in locking up a Nelson Cruz-type DH to insert in the middle of the order. At this point, there is the thought that the team is looking for versatile players that can play several positions. Jurickson Profar makes a ton of sense as he can play virtually every position except for catcher and pitcher. The switch-hitter enjoyed his season with the Padres last year, but he could be looking for an everyday job and a big payday.
The Padres may not be able to afford Profar and give him ample playing time, but there are other options for the team. Kike Hernandez makes sense to some degree as he brings a lot of playoff experience from his time with the Dodgers. The free-agent is an option, but the right-handed hitter may not be exactly what the Padres need. With a heavily right-handed hitting lineup and bench, the Padres are likely looking at left-handed hitters who can play corner outfield. Jorge Mateo, Brian O’Grady, and Jorge Ona are the outfield bench options behind Trent Grisham, Wil Myers, and Tommy Pham. O’Grady is left-handed-hitting but has little experience and does have minor league options. A backup to Grisham in centerfield is also needed as the team has really nobody who could handle the positions beyond him. The Padres will probably be looking for a 4th or 5th outfield type with some playoff experience. They may not find it before the spring, but a trade this coming trade deadline could bring in the perfect player for a potential World Series run. Preller and his team waste no time in looking towards the future.
Dumpster dive for starting pitching
At this point, only Yu Darvish and Blake Snell are locks for the 2021 rotation. Dinelson Lamet looks as though he is healthy, but we will never know until the spring when he starts throwing. The right-hander with a power slider is a huge injury risk, and the Padres will secure other options just in case something happens. Chris Paddack is very close to being a lock to make the rotation in 2021, but he too comes with an amount of risk. Paddack regressed in 2020, and the team failed to lean on him in the playoffs as they clearly were concerned.
At the age of 25, there is no reason to give up on Paddack, who is penciled in as the Padres number four starter. A pair of 22-year-old left-handed pitchers will compete for one of the last spots in the rotation. Adrian Morejon and MacKenzie Gore come with a ton of hype, but neither has the experience to be relied on heavily when push comes to shove. The Padres also have Michel Baez and Ryan Weathers, who can start, but each young hurler will need to show more consistency with their stuff.
There seems to be a clear need for a starting pitcher. A veteran type. Someone who can eat innings while providing a boost to the team’s chemistry. Thankfully for the Padres, there are several options. Cole Hamels, Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton, Jose Quintana, and Jon Lester are all available. Hamels and Lester both come with playoff experience, where each dominated to win a World Series. If the price gets reasonable, there is no reason to think the Padres will not explore these options. Let’s face it; the Padres are a fun team. They are a team that veteran players will want to play for. Recruiting pitchers will not be a hard thing to do for Preller.
Remain flexible/major deal only in the correct situation
The Padres have prospects and young players who can still be dealt for major league talent. They also have money to spend. That is a dangerous combination. We all know that A.J. Preller thinks outside the box. Expect the Padres to explore creative ways to upgrade the team. Superstar players are not out of the realm of imagination as the Padres continue to stack the deck in their favor.
Preller is always on the prowl. You get a sense that he is an addict when it comes to trades. That comes more from the fact that baseball is ever-changing, and there is no way to ever be content with what you have on your team. Baseball mirrors life on so many levels. It is natural always to want what your neighbor has. For the Padres, their neighbor is the Los Angeles Dodgers, and nothing but a World Series title will satisfy the itch that comes along with Padres fever.