Note: This article was published previously but was lost in a site outage.
After this year’s trade deadline, the tank should be dead. I say, good riddance. Padres fans were promised a five-year route to contention, and that would require a turn toward building a credible MLB on-field product after this season, not simply the accumulation of more prospects and thus more years spent sitting around losing while waiting for the draft.
If the Padres actually want to compete in 2020 or 2021 as they say repeatedly, this must be their last fire sale. It will take at least two years for promotion of prospects, young players to mature, credible veteran players to be signed, and the team to achieve some semblance of championship-level chemistry. If five years was the horizon, this is the time to make the turn: 2019. 2018 must be the final fire sale.
Padres fans must remember the goal is winning a World Series Championship—hopefully more than one. It isn’t to have the best farm system in baseball. It isn’t to spend the least money or be the most innovative.
It’s to win a World Series.
To be clear: saying the tank is over is not saying the Padres are ready to compete next season. It’s to say intentionally keeping the team in miserable condition for the purpose of higher draft position and spending minimal money on payroll must end in order to compete in a couple of years. A five-year rebuild is not a five-year tank. A five-year tank is something a franchise would do for a seven-year or eight-year rebuild.
For those feeling like it’s too soon to end the tank, I offer the following:
• A.J. Preller has had three top-ten draft selections and will likely get a fourth in 2019 after this year’s fire sale. On top of that, he has had more top 100 picks per year than any other GM in Padres history—including 3 of the top 25 and 6 of the first 85 picks in 2016, 4 top 85 picks in 2017, and 4 more in 2018. This speeds up the process.
• After this year, A.J. Preller will have had at least three fire sales in which all tradeable quality parts were sold for the hope of more and greater parts in future years.
• Because of the record amount of money spent in the international market two summers ago, the Padres have far more quality prospects than a normal rebuild. Preller essentially bought prospects instead of needing to draft them. Most teams do not dive half as deep as the Padres did that summer. Though these prospects tend to be younger and rawer, the sheer upside and volume speeds up the timeline.
• Other factors have accelerated the Padres rebuilding process. The 2015-6 season’s free agent and trade Mardi Gras that brought Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Matt Kemp, James Shields, Melvin Upton, and others really didn’t set the Padres back as much as the dominant Padres fan narrative suggests. They spent an experimental season, essentially, trying to compete. When they didn’t, they flipped some of those players quickly for quality. In fact, one could argue their acquisitions of real MLB players hastened the rebuild’s completion. The reason is: when you have credible Major Leaguers to trade, you can turn them into credible prospects quickly. When you don’t…well, you find yourself sitting around losing while waiting for the draft (current Padres status). 2015-2016 wasn’t all setback. Some great prospects were acquired because of those signings the Padres couldn’t have acquired by way of the draft. Anytime you enjoy watching Margot, Tatis, Espinoza, Logan Allen, or others, thank those signings. Without them, the Padres had little to trade for.
• The Padres now effectively have too many prospects in the system fitting certain criteria to avoid pilfering through Rule 5 draft. They also possess certain positional imbalances of quantity and quality within the system that can be evened out through the trade market. This is great time to secure veterans that can be with you on those would-be championship teams. If you don’t, you risk losing some worthwhile prospects in the Rule 5 draft.
• The Padres are running out of sellable pieces at the Major League Level and will soon be like a garage sale at noon—thin after all the buyable stuff has been picked over. When all you do is sell, eventually, inventory gets low. One reason teams sign quality free agents is so if they aren’t in contention, they can get quality pieces in return. More recent trades haven’t yielded great fruit because the Padres haven’t had a James Shields, or Craig Kimbrel, to trade. Thus, their trades have taken on that, “I’ll trade you my 1989 Donruss Luis Polonia for your 1990 Fleer Todd Benzinger,” feel. Soon, the Padres will basically have prospects left to trade.
If A.J. Preller does in fact know how to build a franchise (I believe he does), he’s had ample opportunity to plant and water the seeds.
Here are some other considerations:
• The NL West is weak right now. The Padres may not want to wait until the Giants or Dodgers rebuild to make their run.
• Of the current starting nine, only two will start for a Padres contending team (Myers and Hosmer). The pitching staff?
• Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, and others have peak windows they are in now but won’t be forever.
• The longer the franchise dwells in the cellar the longer a losing culture solidifies and more likely the Padres will need to pay a premium above market value to attract free agents—ala Eric Hosmer.
Remember, the goal is to win the World Series, the not the MLB Pipeline award for top farm system. The Padres can and must learn to chew gum and walk at the same time. Keep scouting, drafting, and developing at a high level. But, it is time do something about the MLB product. It’s time to actually aim at contention in Major League Baseball. That’s the goal.
For the Padres and their fans, this is the year to have the final closeout sale. Hand, Yates, Ross, prospects blocked from MLB by someone in front of them (hello…Josh Naylor) elite hot dog vendors, the best ticket-scanners at the left field entrance…whoever. Get a haul. By all means, keep drafting well and investing in development. But, it is time to get the wallets out and get some credible major league ballplayers to go around the talent that will continue to arrive over the next several years. The Padres active payroll has been lower as a mean throughout the rebuild than any of the teams they claim to be imitating ever were during their rebuilds. As of this writing, more than half of the current 25-man payroll is spent on Phil Hughes and Eric Hosmer. Pathetic. There is no example in MLB history of a World Series champion that didn’t spend on All-Star caliber veterans.
Padres, you’ve been cheap, charging fans relatively obscene prices at the ballpark to watch an odoriferous MLB product. We’ve trusted the process. We’ve dealt with the crummy communication and handling of injuries. We’ve kept spending, cheering, talking about you on #padrestwitter and elsewhere. We’ve kept the faith.
Now, it’s time to the keep your promises.