Good read on the Padres’ return on Craig Kimbrel. From the Padres’ perspective, here’s how it has worked out: they took on Melvin Upton Jr’s bloated contract and sent Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin (whom the Braves immediately released), and pitching prospect Matt Wisler to Atlanta. Eight months later, they receive prospects Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje, and Logan Allen.

Not bad, Preller. Not bad.

Padres Trade Kimbrel to Boston for Prospects

No details in yet, but this could be really, really big. Read more here.

Update: The deal is official: All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel is going to the Boston Red Sox.

And now, for the Padres’ return:

The Padres raided the Red Sox farm system, acquiring four of their top 30 prospects.

Manuel Margot, 21, is a young center fielder who split last season between A and AA in the Red Sox system. He stole 39 bases and had 42 extra-base hits. Here is how a scouting report summarized his upside:

“Future first-division regular who could contribute in all areas of the game. Potential leadoff hitter who could hit for average and some power, steal bases and provide above average defense at a premium defensive position. Strong instincts, has really taken to professional baseball since he entered the system and adjusted to each challenge given to him seamlessly.”

Javier Guerra, 19, is a left-handed hitting shortstop who hit 15 home runs, and according to scouting reports he has an “Advanced defensive skill set.”

Carlos Asuaje, 23, is a left-handed hitting third baseman. He spent 2015 playing for AA Portland in the Red Sox system. He profiles as a utility player, according to scouting reports.

Logan, Allen, 18, was drafted in the 8th round by the Red Sox earlier this year. In 24.1 innings pitched (Rookie and Low-A), he struck out 26 (against just one walk), and had a 0.78 WHIP.


This deal is just what GM A.J. Preller needed to do: he loosened his team of unneeded luxuries (read: elite relief pitchers Joaquin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel) and salary (nearly $20 million between them for 2016) to fill other more pressing needs: starting pitching, first base, left field, and shortstop.

Between this and yesterday’s trade of Benoit, they have also re-stocked their minor leagues with fresh talent. If past is prologue, Padre fans should expect to hear more exciting news during the Hot Stove League.

An elite closer, Kimbrel is someone the Padres cannot afford to have right now. Furthermore, they have a history of taking previously unknown pitchers (Heath Bell, Luke Gregerson, Dale Thayer, Scott Linebrink, etc.) and getting great mileage out of them.

Best-case scenario: Kimbrel had something of an “off” year: for the first time in his career, his ERA was over 2, and his WHIP over 1. If he continues to decline, and at least two of the prospects (most likely Guerra and Allen) shine, this has the potential to be a huge steal.

Even if Kimbrel doesn’t falter, the Padres have still freed themselves of his hefty contract. As with all deals for prospects, it will take a few years to evaluate how things will shake out. But just imagine: the Padres 2018 starting lineup could include Manuel Margo leading off and playing centerfield, Javier Guerra as the slick-fielding starting shortstop, and left-handed Logan Allen in the starting rotation.

Looks like Preller’s second off-season could be just as exciting as the first!

Update: For once, the Padres make a trade that has the potential to be a huge steal. This is according to ESPN’s Keith Law weighs in: “If you’re a Boston Red Sox fan, this is exactly the trade you feared Dave Dombrowski would make when he joined the front office, trading away the jewels of the majors’ best farm system for veterans who are or may be past their peak values. Craig Kimbrel has been one of the best relievers in baseball history, but this is a big overpay for 60 innings of his services a year when he already seems to be starting to decline.”

My thoughts exactly. This is why I was skeptical when the Padres traded for him in April, and why I am excited now. In baseball, the closer position is far and away the most overrated. So if the Red Sox want to give away four highly touted prospects for a guy who pitches 60 innings a season (usually just one inning at a time), that’s fine by me.

Read the full story here (subscription required).

Padres Interested in Braves’ Andrelton Simmons

This would makes sense, given that shortstop is the Padres’ biggest need, and Simmons has a quality glove. But will it work?

Read more here.

Padres Trade Benoit to Seattle for Two Prospects, Salary Relief

Just one week after picking up Joaquin Benoit’s option, they traded him to the Seattle Mariners. This deal does two things: first, it frees up salary room for other needs. Second, it helps to replentish their depleted farm system.

Read all about it here.

Padres Trade for Utility Infielder

Read all about it here.

Analysts: Padres Are Trending In the Wrong Direction

Read all about it here.

Padres Offseason Outlook, Part 3 (Or, Grading Preller)

One year ago, new Padres general manager A.J. Preller rocked the baseball world: he aggressively remade his team’s outfield, signed a coveted free agent starting pitcher, and then traded for one of the top closers in baseball.

A year ago, I graded Preller’s moves. While it usually takes several years to determine whether or not a trade was successful, one season nonetheless provides a nice vantage point to see how these deals have worked out for the teams involved.

Matt Kemp: This was the first of the big blockbuster trades made by Preller. In acquiring Kemp for catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitcher Joe Wieland, he was making s statement that this was going to be a different San Diego Padres baseball team.

It didn’t exactly work out that way. Kemp suffered from a horrible start, hitting just one home run in the first two months. In May, Kemp left people wondering if Preller had done a sequel of Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi (i.e., one of the worst trades in the history of baseball), when he batted .186 with a .225 On-Base percentage and a horrid .217 slugging percentage.

Meanwhile, Grandal, the centerpiece of the trade for the Dodgers, had a huge first half, swatting 14 home runs with a .927 OPS.

But in the second half, the tables were turned: Kemp went on a roll, hitting .286 in the second half with 22 home runs from June-September, and he reached 100 RBI for the third time in his career, while Grandal floundered after the All-Star break, hitting just .162.

So one year is not conclusive. But given Kemp’s horrid outfield defense, his arthritic hips, and his hefty contract (four years remaining for which San Diego owes him nearly $60) and Grandal’s upside (he’s still only 26, and his strong first half is indicative of things to come), it’s clear that long term, the Dodgers got the better end of this deal.

Grade: C-

Wil Myers: While the trade for Kemp was the most newsworthy, the deal for Myers was the biggest surprise. Just 23 at the time, Myers was still a promising young hitter with the Tampa Bay Rays, and most experts were surprised that they would be willing to trade him.

But given Myers’ immense talent, it cost the Padres plenty: they were forced to part with 2014 first round draft pick Trea Turner, top pitching prospect Joe Ross (brother of Tyson), and others in a complex, three-team deal that included the Washington Nationals.

The immediate results have not been promising. Myers missed over 100 games with a nagging wrist injury. Given that this was the same injury that also hampered his ’14 season in Tampa, the Padres should be concerned about Myers’ future.

Meanwhile, Turner, 22, sped through the National’s AA and AAA teams, and made his major league debut. He could very well be their starting shortstop in 2016, and beyond. This is especially disappointing, given that he is (a) a shortstop, (b) left-handed, and (c) a potentially solid leadoff hitter—all of which the Padres desperately need. It’s no wonder that Preller allegedly tried to re-acquire Turner at the July 31 deadline.

Ross also debuted in Washington, pitching in 16 games (13 starts), striking out 69 in 76.1 innings, while sporting a fine 3.64/1.11/.223 slash.

And like Turner, he’s also just 22.

Still, one year is not conclusive. Ross’ arm could blow out, Turner could turn out to be a bust, and Myers could overcome his wrist problems and realize his potential. But for now, this looks to be a potential bust.

Grade: D-

Justin Upton: As with many other Padre watchers, I was surprised by the Myers trade, and I concluded that this meant they were out of the race to obtain Upton.

But the very next day, Preller did it again, announcing that he had acquired “J-Up” for the following prospects: infielder Jace Peterson, left-handed starter Max Fried (then the Padres #3 prospect), infielder Dustin Peterson, and outfielder Mallex Smith.

Clearly, the goal behind acquiring Upton was to win it all in 2015. Judging upon that criteria alone, the deal was a failure. This is so even while Upton generally played well: yes, his batting average was down (.251), and he actually performed better at Petco Park (.277/.360/.506) than on the road (.225/.312./.402).

Equally surprising as the initial trade for Upton was the fact that Preller did not trade him at the July 31 deadline, when the Padres were clearly out of the pennant race.

Meanwhile, the results for the Braves’ return was mixed: Jace Peterson became the Braves’ everyday second baseman. After playing serviceable baseball for the first half, he faded after the All-Star break to finish with a .239 batting average with a .315 OBP, 12 stolen bases, and 34 extra-base hits.

Max Fried, 21, did not play, as he is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery.

Dustin Peterson, 21, played his first season at High-A ball.

Mallex Smith, 22, batted .306 with 57 stolen bases as he split his season between AA and AAA.

In other words, time will tell whether or not these young talents will work out for the Braves. The one saving grace for the Padres is that they will receive a compensatory draft pick for losing Upton. But that aside, even if none of the young players obtained by Atlanta don’t amount to anything, this looks like one that Preller should have passed on. They would have been far better off keeping Seth Smith, a left-handed bat, in left field.

Grade: D

Will Middlebrooks: Obtained to be the regular third baseman, Middlebrooks was demoted in July, never to be wear a Padre uniform again.

However, this was a low-risk, high-reward deal since it only cost them Ryan Hanigan, a career back-up catcher, to get Middlebrooks. Given the Padres needs at the time, this was a risk worth taking.

Grade: C

Derek Norris: In his 2014-15 revamp, Preller traded away both of his main backstops, Rene Rivera and Yasmani Grandal. But not to worry, as he quickly turned around and sent Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez to Oakland to acquire Derek Norris, a catcher with good offensive upside.

2015 was an interesting year for him. He had the second highest number of starts among NL catchers, and hit 14 homers with 62 RBI. But uncharacteristically for him, his walks (and hence his OBP) were down, with a career-low 35 and .305, respectively. At 26, though, he probably has not yet reached his peak offensively, so the Padres have little reason to be worried.

On the A’s side, Hahn pitched well for the first half of the season, sporting a 3.36 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, before ending his season with elbow inflammation. Meanwhile, Alvarez was a disappointment, sporting a 9.90 ERA in 20 relief outings.

All told, this was the best trade that Preller made in 2014-15.

Grade: B+

Craig Kimbrel: This trade was puzzling, and showed Preller’s overconfidence heading into 2015. However, this was a team that already had Joaquin Benoit, the previous season’s closer, and potential stoppers in Kevin Quackenbush and Brandon Maurer.

An All-Start closer, Kimbrel’s highest ERA in the three previous seasons was 1.61, and his highest WHIP was 0.91. So his 2.58 ERA and 1.04 WHIP makes his first season as a Padre look like a disappointment. Not so. He still converted 39 of his 43 save opportunities. 

The Padres also inherited the overpriced contract of Melvin Upton, Jr., who had been a bust in Atlanta after signing a five-year contract in 2012. But in San Diego, he posted modest numbers in part-time play, batting .259 with a .757 OPS in 87 games.

In return, the Padres sent two of their bad contracts to Atlanta, in Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin. They subsequently dumped Quentin, while Maybin did just what Upton Jr. did: he rebounded in new surroundings, posting respectable (if unspectacular) numbers: .697 OPS with 23 steals and 10 home runs.

The Braves also received a few minor leagues, most notable being 22-year-old pitcher Matt Wissler. He looked slightly overmatched in 20 big league games (19 starts), posting a 4.71/1.46/.280 slash.

So player for player, the deal is a wash. However, the clincher was the salary the Padres took on to complete the deal: $46.35 million for Upton, and $34 for Kimbrel, both over three years. This will surely hamstring Preller’s efforts to improve going forward, unless Kimbrel is traded. Given that many clubs would love to have him, this could happen.

In the meantime, they’re stuck with Upton, who is either a decent everyday center fielder or an over-rated fourth outfielder. Either way, he’s overpaid.

Grade: C+

In sum, the Padres are worse off for the trades that Preller made—and this is assuming that Myers is able to recover his wrist injury. If not, his tenure could very well set the team back 3-4 years.

Padres Exercise Option on Joaquin Benoit

The 2016 Padres roster begins to take shape: Joaquin Benoit will return, but Clint Barmes will not. Read more here.

Padres Offseason Outlook, Part 2

In what follows, I will analyze where the Padres are, position by position, as they head into the offseason.

Catcher: Derek Norris did not quite perform as expected last year. Known for being a good on-base guy (.345 and .361 OBP in the two previous seasons), Norris walked only 35 times and had a .305 OBP as a Padre. He hit 14 home runs with a .250 batting average.

Then again, he remained consistent in that he continued to bash left-handed pitching (.295/.351./459), while struggling against right-handers (.678 OPS). In a lineup that is already top-heavy with right-handed hitters, that is not a good thing.

It is worth noting, however, that Norris’ defensive metrics improved over previous seasons.

The other option is Austin Hedges. While he is ready for the big time defensively, he struggled as a hitter: just .168 with three home runs in 137 at-bats. Still only 23, he has tremendous upside. If he can develop into a .250-.260 hitter, the Padres would be happy.

But given the surplus at this position and their needs elsewhere, one of them will likely be traded.

First Base: For the fourth straight season, Yonder Alonso was the primary first baseman. But while his numbers were up (including a solid, team-leading .361 OPB), Alonso was once again hit by the injury bug; his 103 games were the most since his ’12 rookie season.

He also had a .381 Slugging Percentage—you typically expect more than this from your first baseman. Given that the Padres have power elsewhere, I would be happy with Alonso. But his inability to stay on the field makes me very nervous. It is time for the Padres to look elsewhere.

One option is to play Wil Myers here.

Second Base-Third Base: I am analyzing these two positions together because they were effectively manned by three players in 2015: Corey Spangenburg, Jedd Gyorko, and Yangervis Solarte.

Spangenburg was the primary second baseman after the All-Star break, except for a spell on the disabled list. Initially thought of as a super-utility player, new manager Andy Green might want to think of playing him more regularly: he’s young (25 next March), he bats left-handed on a team with too many righties, he’s fast, and from June on, he batted .295 with a .356 OBP. And based upon his ’15 stats, if he had played every day, Spangenburg likely would have had over 30 doubles, 8-10 tripes and home runs, and 18-20 stolen bases.

In other words, Spangenburg could be the leadoff hitter the Padres so desperately need.

Even if he doesn’t win a starting job, look to see the former first-round draft pick get 300-400 at-bats in 2016.

Gyorko came back from a very slow start (just .213 April-June) to hit 16 home runs—including five in August, and six in September. While he spent most of the second half at shortstop, few people see him as a long-term option there. As with Norris, Gyorko hits much better against lefties (.803 OBP) than righties (.654 OBP).

The West Virginian and his back-loaded contract ($4 million in 2016, $6 million in 2017, $9 million in 2018 and $13 million in 2019) could be traded. Or, if Green goes with Spangenburg at second, Gyorko could move to third base. Unless they go with…

Solarte, who had a solid if unspectacular season. After supplanting Will Middlebrooks, Solarte batted .270 with a .748 OPS. He also showed a little power, hitting 33 doubles and 14 home runs.

His numbers are slightly over replacement level, and he does provide some balance to the lineup as a switch-hitter.

More than likely, one of these three serviceable players will be traded to help fill in gaps elsewhere.

Shortstop: Without a doubt, this was the Padres weakest link in 2015. Primary starter Alexi Amarista batted a pitiful .204 (.544 OPS), and backup Clint Barmes wasn’t much better (.235 and .633). These two were so bad that then-interim manager Pat Murphy went with Gyorko the last few months, even though he clearly is not the long-term answer here.

If the Padres were to hypothetically make just one trade this offseason, it should be for a new shortstop.

Left Field: In what was likely last year’s biggest offseason gamble, general manager A.J. Preller acquired Justin Upton from the Atlanta Braves. For one year of Upton’s services, Preller had to give up top prospect Max Fried, and minor leaguers Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson, and Mallex Smith.

Preller was surely hoping that Upton would be a key piece in getting the Padres to the playoffs. It didn’t happen. Granted, his numbers were respectable (.251/.336/.454, .790 OPS, 26 home runs, 19 stolen bases, 81 RBI, 85 runs scored). But the Padres disappointed, they are out four prospects, and now Upton is gone via free agency.

Who plays left field in 2016? One option is Wil Myers, last year’s miscast starting center fielder. Myers would clearly be more comfortable here, and assuming that he can get past his wrist injury which cost him significant playing time, he could be a budding star here.

Other options include youngsters Alex Dickerson, 25, a left-handed bat who hit .307 with 36 doubles and 12 home runs and a .877 OPS in AAA El Paso. Or, the highly-touted Hunter Renfroe, 23, who hit 21 home runs between AA and AAA. A third home-grown option is Rymer Liriano. 25 next June, Liriano had a .843 OPS, but with just 14 home runs in a hitter-friendly league. He also struck out 132 times.

If one of these options doesn’t pan out, and if the Padres think Myers is a better fit at first base, Preller could try to land a left fielder in a trade.

Center Field: A.J. Preller’s final trade of the 2014-15 offseason, for closer Craig Kimbrel, came at a very steep price: the Atlanta Braves shrewdly insisted that Melvin (formerly B.J.) Upton, Jr. and his overpriced contract be included. So the Padres are now on the hook for his remaining two years and $29 million.

At first, it seemed that Upton would be just an overpriced fourth outfielder. But after missing the first two months due to injury, Upton quietly had a decent year. While he batted just .147 in 34 June at-bats, he recovered in July, hitting .265 the rest of the way, with an .800 OPS and .342 OBP after the All-Star break.

If Upton can continue to play like he did last year, he would still be overpaid, but such numbers would be quite respectable.

In the late months of the season, then-interim manager Pat Murphy platooned Upton with the speedy Travis Jankowski. While the Padres are hoping he will emerge into an everyday leadoff hitter (he hit .335 with a .413 OBP and 32 stolen bases between AA and AAA in ’15), most scouts see him as a fourth outfielder/pinch runner. In 90 big league at-bats, he batted .211 with a .245 OBP.

Right Field: Matt Kemp was the biggest acquisition made by Preller last year. In part, this was because Kemp was once a runner-up in the MVP voting, in 2011. Since then, however, Kemp has been hammered by injuries.

While he can still swing a potent bat, he is no longer the Gold Glove-caliber center fielder he was back then. Instead, he is relegated to right field (and DH when playing in AL parks), and is considered one of, if not the worst, fielding outfielders in professional baseball.

For the second year in a row, he had a mediocre first half (just one home run in April-May, and a .186 batting average and .437 OBP in May), but an outstanding second half (22 home runs from June-September, and a .868 OBP after the All-Star break. He also reached 100 RBI for the third time in his career.

Bottom line: the Padres got Matt Kemp for his offense. They are hoping that his arthritic hips hold up for four more seasons, where the Padres are required to pay him over $60 million.

Regardless of who the starting outfield winds up being, the Padres will already be better defensively than they were last year. Offensively, it depends on who their starting left fielder is; and if it’s Myers, whether or not his fragile wrist holds up.

Starting Pitching: Coming in to 2015, this looked to be a position of strength: their big three from 2014, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy were all returning. Plus, they took a chance on the oft-injured Brandon Morrow to a low-risk, high reward contract. And then, they signed workhorse James Shields to a four-year contract.

But what was seen as a strength was quickly revealed to be a disappointment. Morrow made just five starts, and then he was done for the year. While Cashner and Kennedy were healthy, both disappointed: Cashner went 6-16 with a disappointing 4.34/1.44/.279 slash, while Kennedy went 9-15 with a mediocre 4.28/1.30/.258 slash (although to be fair, his numbers were much better after the All-Star break).

After a so-so April, Ross settled down to have a good season. While not as strong as his 2014 campaign, he still had an above-average 3.26 ERA with 213 strikeouts in 196 innings. The Padres control him through 2017, and if he can cut down on his walks (84 last year), he could move up to become one of the National League’s best.

Shields was a mild disappointment. While he went 13-7 with 216 strikeouts, and reached 200 inning for the ninth consecutive season, he also sported an uncharacteristically high 3.91 ERA, and yielded 33 home runs—both rather high considering this was his first year in the NL, which is much more pitcher-friendly than the AL.

Odrisamer Despaigne was disappointing as a spot starter/reliever. In 34 games (18 starts), he had an unacceptable 5.80 ERA.

In six late season starts, rookie Colin Rea went 2-2 with a respectable 1.26 WHIP. Lefty Robbie Erlin also made three starts, and Tommy John recoverer Casey Kelly (of the Adrian Gonzalez trade) made two as well. Each of them could challenge for a rotation spot in 2016.

Kennedy will be a free agent, but if the Padres make him a qualifying offer, it is unlikely that another team would surrender a top draft pick for him. So his chances of returning are better than 50-50.

Any one of Shields, Cashner, or Ross could be traded, given the team’s needs elsewhere. Given this possibility, they may wish to pursue a free agent pitcher. While the likes of David Price, Jordan Zimmerman and Johnny Cueto could be out of their price range, there are other options. Among them: Doug Fister, Scott Kazmir, and former Padre Chris Young.

Relief Pitching: While still potent, the Padres’ 2015 bullpen was not as strong as it has been in recent years. This was in spite of many acquisitions, including All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, and right-handers Shawn Kelly and Brendan Maurer.

Along with veteran Joaquin Benoit, all had strong seasons (though Kimbrel and Kelly had disappointing starts). Even though this was his “worst” season, Kimbrel still saved 39 of his 43 opportunities, and struck out 87 in 59.1 innings. Benoit was lights out, sporting a 2.34/0.90/.159 slash.

Left-handed Marc Rzepczinski was the only acquisition made by Preller at the July 31 deadline, and he was terrible, with an inflated 7.36 ERA and a .309 BAA.

Kevin Quackenbush, Neil Vincent, Bud Norris, Marcus Mateo, and Jon Edwards also made appearances.

Kimbrel could be traded; an elite closer, he is very sought after by other clubs. In this case, Benoit, Maurer, or Quackenbush could become the new closer.

Padres 2015-16 Offseason Outlook, Part 1

The rebuilding, if you want to call it that, has begun.

Last week, Padres general manager A.J. Preller surprised the baseball world yet again when he hired Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach Andy Green to be their next manager. As per his usual, Preller went against conventional wisdom—many likely assumed that he would go with Ron Gardenhire, the former Minnesota Twins manager who led that team to six division crowns in 11 seasons. He has experience, is well respected, and knows how to win in a small market. 

So, you would think he would be Preller’s choice to manage the Padres, right?

Nope. Instead, Preller took the less safe, unconventional route by hiring Green.

And it’s on this note that the Padres’ 2015-16 offseason begins: on pretty much the same note as it did last year.

Fans will recall that the 2014-15 offseason was anything but safe:

  • they revamped their entire outfield, acquiring Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Matt Kemp;
  • acquired catcher Derek Norris;
  • traded for top closer Craig Kimbrel, and relievers Brendan Maurer and Shawn Kelley;
  • traded for third baseman Will Middlebrooks;
  • signed free agent starting pitcher James Shields, 32, to a four-year contract.

In doing so, they traded the future for the present, sending catcher Yasmani Grandal, outfielder Seth Smith, top prospects Joe Ross and Trea Turner, and other minor league talents like Jace Peterson and Mallex Smith packing.

The result: 74-88, a three-game deficit from 2014, Upton is likely gone, and former manager Bud Black was fired after going 32-33.

The Lesson

What is perhaps the biggest takeaway from the 2015 season? It is this—should Preller choose to learn it: when you are making moves, you must do it strategically.

In other words, there must be a plan to put a winning team together. The Padres needed to improve their offense from 2014. Everybody knew that. But in retrospect, there didn’t seem to be any method to Preller’s moves going in to 2015.

For instance, most teams would love to have Upton, Myers, Kemp, and Norris (Middlebrooks not so much). But all four? Put together, you have a lineup top-heavy with right-handed bats; their starting lineup in April featured only Yonder Alonso and Alexi Amarista from the left side, neither of whom inspires fear in opposing pitchers.

Meanwhile, Seth Smith, the left-handed bat whom Preller traded to Seattle, posted a .801 OPS against righties. Surely they would have loved to have him back.

The big offseason also produced the worst-defensive outfield in baseball, which doubtlessly gave their pitchers the jitters (Andrew Cashner had his worst season, Ian Kennedy was mediocre, and James Shields regressed).

There was one intangible which they probably could not have foreseen: the much-touted Myers, still only 24, missed a lot of playing time due to a bad wrist. His acquisition is potentially Preller’s best off-season move as he is loaded with talent. But if it continues to be a problem, this could be a move the Padres will regret for a very long time.

Where To Go From Here?

Here is the bottom line: if the Padres are going to improve upon their 74 wins in 2015, Preller has to trade much smarter than he did last year. You don’t just acquire a bunch of bats, stick them anywhere in the lineup, and expect to win—I mean, starting Myers in center field, playing next to Kemp, the worst outfielder in baseball? Really?

And, Preller’s going to have to do it with fewer pieces, since Turner, Ross, Matt Wisler, and other top prospects are now playing for other teams.

With that in mind, here are the Padres top needs:

First base. Since his since 2012 rookie season, Alonso failed to do two key things: stay healthy, and provide power. He has played in just 97, 84, and 103 games in the last three years, and he has not come close to the 39 doubles he hit in 2012. He is simply not dependable. One option is to play Myers here.

Shortstop. The Padres now know that Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes are not the answer here. Of course, that’s what most people were saying prior to 2015. Since there are no viable options in the minors, and because no one believes that Jedd Gyorko is the long-term answer, here, the Padres starting shortstop will likely be acquired through a trade. Options include the Cubs’ Starlin Castor or Javier Baez, the Rangers’ Jurickson Profar, or the Brewers’ Jean Segura. While none of these options is all that inspirational, they would nonetheless be an upgrade over Amarista-Barmes-Gyorko.

Left field. There is very little chance the Padres will re-sign Upton, which leaves this vital position open. Should the Padres go with Alonso (or someone else) at first, Myers could play here. Prospect Hunter Renfroe likely will not be ready to start the season here.

Starting pitching. Any of the following could be lost this offseason: Shields, Tyson Ross, Cashner (via trade), or Kennedy (via free agency). While Colin Rea, Robbie Erlin, Casey Kelly, and even reliever Brandon Maurer could challenge, it would be unwise to trust more than one from this group to be in your starting rotation. With that in mind, signing a free agent like Scott Kazmir would make a lot of sense.

Relief pitching. Kimbrel could be traded (see below), Shawn Kelly could leave as a free agent, Kevin Quackenbush regressed, and while Joaquin Benoit continued to impress (0.90 WHIP and .159 BAA in 67 games), he does turn 39 next summer. So there are questions to be answered here.

And, here are the top trading pieces:

Derek Norris or Austin Hedges. Take your pick: either the solid bat (in spite of a sub-par ’15 season) or the young rookie with strong defensive upside will likely be dealt. This is one position where the Padres are very strong.

Craig Kimbrel. Of all the 2014-15 moves Preller made, I liked this one the least. The Padres could have easily gone with Benoit as the closer last year, and this trade added a bundle to their payroll (since there Braves insisted that the overpriced Melvin Upton, Jr., be included). Surely another team will gladly take this All-Star closer; even though he had an off-year, the former Brave converted 39 of 43 save opportunities, and struck out 87 in 59.1 innings.

One of the following:

James Shields. He was the biggest free agent signing last year. At 33, his results were mixed: while he pitched 200-plus innings for the ninth consecutive season, went 13-7, and struck out 216 batters, he gave up a whopping 33 home runs, had a 3.91 ERA, and a 1.33 WHIP, even though he pitched half of his games in pitcher-friendly Petco Park. 

And oh, yeah: he has three more years left on a heavily backloaded contract. So if the Padres trade him, they will have to eat some of his salary.

Tyson Ross. Surely they don’t want to trade him. Even though he regressed a little from 2014, he still went 10-12 with 213 strikeouts in 196 innings, while compiling a 3.26 ERA. Ross has the biggest upside of all the starters, and he is controllable through the 2017 season. So it makes little sense to trade him.

On the other hand, moving him could yield a bountiful crop of talent that would plug the Padres’ needs elsewhere.

Andrew Cashner. The good news: the talent is still there, and Cashner started a career-high 31 games. The bad news: he regressed badly, going 6-16 with a 4.34/1.44/.279 slash. If the Padres trade Cashner, they are probably going to have to sell low.

Looking Ahead

So the Padres do have the pieces to trade to fill most of their holes. But will Preller be wiser than he was last offseason? This is where the hiring of Green over Gardenhire leaves fans feeling restless: he picked a man who has never managed a day in the big leagues over a proven winner, and seemed to be a perfect fit for San Diego.

Granted, Preller may see something in Green that others do not; after all, he did manage in the minors for four seasons, and had winning records. But on the surface, it leaves one wondering whether Preller has learned the right lessons—in this case, that sometimes, the conventional (i.e., safe) choice might be the best one.

Next, in part 2: a position-by-position analysis. In part 3, I will grade Preller’s previous trades, and see how they affected the Padres.


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