San Diego– The Padres were a team of abnormally high expectations headed into 2015. They had World Series aspirations. Then new GM AJ Preller created a bigger buzz around a San Diego professional sports team than any team has had in our city in recent memory. In a matter of weeks, he turned the team from one with no watchable major league talent, a team that set records for mediocrity in 2014, into a team with potential. Season ticket sales jumped 600% from 2014 to 2015 with fans ecstatic to see players like Justin Upton and Matt Kemp put on a Padres uniform. He continued to make bold moves in acquiring Wil Myers from Tampa Bay, Derek Norris from Oakland, and Will Middlebrooks from Boston. In early February of 2015, Preller would add All Star James Shields. On the eve of Opening Day, he would pull off a blockbuster nobody saw coming shipping the underachieving often injured Cameron Maybin and an aging broken down left fielder in Carlos Quentin and prospects to Atlanta for Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. The buzz around the first home game of the season was nothing short of electric.
Even before the signing of Shields and the trade for Kimbrel, questions were mounting. Would Myers be able to stay healthy and play up to his Rookie of the Year award from 2013 with Tampa Bay? Would Matt Kemp be able to start hot at the plate? Would Kemp be able to play decent defense and would his hips hold up? Can Myers handle center field? Could a predominantly right handed lineup succeed over the long course of the season? The answers to every single one of these questions and more were answered with resounding no’s as the season progressed. As April turned to May, May to June and Bud Black gets fired for Pat Murphy to take over and June to July and on and on and on, all the comments of “It’s early in the season, the team has time to get better. They will get better.” would turn back into “there’s always next year.” Now is the rebuild for next year.
Let’s take a look at the Padres team needs this offseason in order of perceived importance.
- A shortstop.
The Padres have been in desperate need of a shortstop for years. There hasn’t been a guy to play the position for the Padres with consistency and numbers since Khalil Greene from 2004-2008. There aren’t a lot of options on in the free agent market for shortstops this year. At the top of the class has to be Ian Desmond. He’s a guy who can consistently hit you 15-25 home runs and can drive in a couple runs too. He wouldn’t be a terrible option to have at the top of the lineup but there could be better options via trade. To make a trade, Preller might need to deal from a position of perceived strength to help another position. Shields would be difficult to deal given the money he is owed ($65 million over 3 years). Both Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner could be dealt as well along with Craig Kimbrel.
2. A speedy left handed center fielder who can field.
Dexter Fowler and Alex Gordon seem to be the best fits here as both will come much cheaper than bringing Justin Upton back, or signing someone like Jason Heyword or Yoenis Cespedes. Both hit in the mid .260’s while showing some pop in the bat. Both are capable of hitting 10-20 home runs and Fowler can steal some bases as well as field the ball with a .984 career fielding percentage. He committed all of 4 errors last year in 346 chances.
3. A left handed first baseman with power.
The best option here is Chris Davis, especially if some money is freed up by trading either Shields or Kimbrel. The Padres NEED to sign one big name player this offseason to not only improve the team but also prove to its fanbase that ownership is still committed to winning, despite a down year after increasing payroll to record numbers. Even with having played parts of 10 seasons in the majors, Davis is still young at only 29 years old. He hit a modest .262 last year but that’s still above his career mark of .255. His power numbers were also back as he lead the American League with 47 home runs while also knocking in 117 RBI. The downside to Davis is his strikeout rate. He lead the AL in that category striking out 208 times in 160 games in 2015.
4. A TRUE ace of the staff.
James Shields is good. Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner are good. None of them are an ace. Both Shields and Ross are solid number 2’s while Cashner could be a good number 2 but hasn’t been able to quite put together a full season of solid numbers yet. Shields was a great signing and is a guy who can eat up innings. He didn’t do that in 2015 quite as well as he normally does. Still he logged over 200 IP but it seemed like more often than not he would run into trouble in the 7th inning and get pulled from the game. His HR rate also was his worst since 2010 with Tampa Bay when he struggled all season going 13-15 with an ERA north of 5 in 34 starts. In 2010 and 2015 he gave up 34 and 33 home runs.
There are some great arms out there this year in David Price, Jordan Zimmerman, Johnny Cueto, and Zach Grienke. None of which I see the Padres capable of signing unless they can relieve themselves of both Shields and Kimbrel’s contracts. Although they may need to magically unleash Upton Jr.’s $15 million as well to be able to afford to take on a pitcher who will command north of $25 million/year. They might be better suited to hold on to Shields and Kimbrel and go after someone like Stephen Strasburg next year. As a Scott Boras client he is almost guaranteed to test the marked next November.
The one thing ownership can’t do is begin another rebuilding project. San Diego has been out of the playoffs nine consecutive years and after the money they spent last year along with trading away a majority of their top prospects for guys like Kimbrel, Kemp, and Upton, this town needs its team to win, and win soon.
Follow Jake Harman on Twitter for more news surrounding the San Diego Padres, San Diego Chargers, SDSU football and baseball.
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