The next 38 days will be as crucial as any in the Padres history.
It’s time to unload and wheel and deal before the August 1st trade deadline.
It’s clearly evident now that the Padres will not be competing for a playoff spot this year. That was likely the case even before the season started, but on several occasions management said publicly that the team had a chance at competing in 2016.
But, 16 games back of the streaking San Francisco Giants, and 13 games under .500 three-plus weeks into June is a clear indication this team will not be playing meaningful baseball down the stretch.
For the most part, the front office has avoided using words like “rebuild,” despite the Padres trading away players such as Craig Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit, Yonder Alonso, and Jedd Gyorko this past offseason (not to mention Justin Upton leaving via free agency), and the latest trade of James Shields.
Though, recently, amid calls for President/CEO Mike Dee’s firing from local bloggers, and Executive Chairman Ron Fowler’s harsh criticism of the team (and probable realization that this team just isn’t that good), the front office tone has changed.
Just last week, owner Peter Siedler joined Scott and BR and acknowledged that the organization’s method to creating winning baseball in San Diego has changed, and is a few years away from fruition.
“Our approach this current season was different than the previous season as reflected with what we did in the offseason,” Seidler said. “Our goal is to bring consistent winning baseball to San Diego at the major league level.
“To get to the point where we really have a competitive advantage, we’re probably two years away. In that interim period, we’ve got to be really good at finding diamonds in the ruff like a (Christian) Friedrich, and a Drew Pomeranz, and I can list some of the guys that we’ve brought in the past several months that really look like they can at least be core pieces for us for at least the next couple of years.”
The Padres insist that the future success of the club will largely be determined through drafting, signing, and developing players in the minor leagues. It’s a sound objective, albeit an obvious one in Major League baseball, but its also one this organization has failed miserably at throughout its existence.
Only time will tell if this new ownership group, and General Manager A.J. Preller will change this franchise’s rough track record of developing homegrown talent.
However, complimenting homegrown assets with bargain finds appears to be a strength of Preller’s.
There’s no question that Friedrich and Pomeranz have been pleasant surprises for the Padres, but each player’s sample size is small. Whether or not they are a part of the Padres plans in the future (the pitching depth is currently rather thin in the minors) remains to be seen.
The same could be said for a number of players on the current roster. The acquisitions of Jon Jay and Fernando Rodney have turned out to be steals, though both players are likely short-term solutions.
The real issue with the current roster, though, is the corner outfield positions. Both Melvin Upton Jr. and Matt Kemp are having solid years, but both are the most difficult to trade because of their age and current contracts. To make matters more complicated, Triple-A outfielders Alex Dickerson, Hunter Renfroe, and Manny Margot are performing exceptionally well in El Paso, and the Padres will eventually need to see what they can do at the Major League level.
“We’ve got some kids knocking on the door at Triple-A right now,” Seidler said. “Whether it’s this year or next year, they’re going to be here soon.”
How Preller and his staff tackle this particular problem before the August 1st trade deadline is perhaps the team’s most pressing issue. Upton Jr. and Kemp are playing their best baseball in years, but both players aren’t getting any younger.
Their trade value, which isn’t very high anyway, will probably never be higher than it is right now.
Furthermore, since returning from wrist surgery, catcher Austin Hedges has continued showing steady improvement with his bat in El Paso. He can’t stay in the minors forever.
(Fortunately, Derek Norris seems to have regained his stroke over the past month, which should increase his trade value. He’s still just 27.)
Now, it’s not the end of the world if the aforementioned young players remain in the minors for the rest of the year. But, opportunities with the big club need to open up soon, and the only way that’s going to happen is if the Padres are active in the trade market, and are willing to eat more money like they did with the Shields trade to the White Sox.
Seidler reiterated: “You’ll see our strategy really kicking in at the major league level in two years. In the meantime, A.J. and his guys have to really work some magic through trades and free agency…”
Time to see if the Rock Star GM still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
He has 38 days.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)
Podcast: Andrew Burer joined Dan Sileo Thursday morning and explains why no Padres player is untradeable as well as highlights the guys that are playing well.