Among the many decisions the San Diego Padres must make before the 2024 season is what to do with outfielder Trent Grisham.
Since being acquired in 2019, Grisham has experienced the highs of winning two gold gloves in centerfield and turning his offense around for the 2022 postseason, but he also suffered back-to-back seasons with his OPS+ in the 80s.
Outfielders aren’t exactly plentiful for the Padres at the moment, with Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, and Jose Azocar as the other outfielders in San Diego with major league experience. If you want to include Matt Carpenter in that mix, he played corner outfield for the New York Yankees in 2022. The Padres may have no choice but to stick with their 27-year-old outfielder.
Grisham’s bat became a concern in the middle of the 2021 season. Despite being a durable player, he has hit below the Mendoza line his two previous seasons, while extra-base hits have not come at a higher rate. If it felt like he frequently came up and failed to deliver in big spots in 2023, that’s because he did, posting a .477 OPS in “late and close” situations. When the Padres trailed in the game, Grisham’s OPS+ was 59, 40% lower than the league average.
For long periods of time, his at-bats are difficult to watch. In August, the month in which the Padres fell too far out of the National League Wild Card race to come back, Grisham hit .156 with two extra-base hits in 26 games. If he weren’t one of the league’s best defenders, he would not be in the bigs.
With two years of team control left the Padres must make a decision on Grisham going into his second year of arbitration. He’s due for a raise from his $3.18 million made in 2023. Spotrac projects him to make $5 million in 2024, which may not be worth the price when there are reports that the team may need to trim payroll.
There’s no doubt that Grisham brings value defensively and on the bases. But that is it.
How else can he help the Padres?
Grisham stole 15 bases in the first season with new rules that make it easier to run on opposing pitching. With his speed, which somehow dropped from 28.8 feet/second in 2022 to 27.7 last year, he should be able to steal more bases if he can get on base more. His eye remained elite, finishing in the 92nd percentile for walk rate last year. Disciplined at the plate, one can believe with a few tweaks that, he can find an improved swing in 2024. His barrel rate, swings that result in a batted ball of 95+ MPH and at an optimal launch angle, finished well above league average. There is potential.
There will likely be coaching changes made on the staff of the San Diego Padres. If Grisham is still in brown and gold, the new staff needs to get the most out of a player who is not breaking the bank and excels with the glove. You could make the case to trade or non-tender Grisham, given his past two seasons at the plate, but there are tools there that could create one of MLB’s best centerfielders.
Dominic is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Journalism. He also is the producer and co-host of the “Padres EVT Podcast.”