After another season as also-rans in the NL West – their fourth-straight year with a sub-.500 mark – the Padres have installed a new GM in hopes of turning things around in short order.
- Jedd Gyorko, 2B: $35MM through 2019
- Cameron Maybin, OF: $16MM through 2016
- Seth Smith, OF: $13MM through 2016
- Joaquin Benoit, RP: $9.5MM through 2015
- Carlos Quentin, OF: $8MM through 2015
- Cory Luebke, SP: $7MM through 2015
- Will Venable, OF: $4.25MM through 2015
Arbitration Eligible Players (Service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)
- Ian Kennedy (5.124): $10.3MM
- Blaine Boyer (5.069) : $1.0MM
- Everth Cabrera (4.144): $2.9MM
- Andrew Cashner (4.126): $4.3MM
- Eric Stults (4.075): $4.6MM
- Tyson Ross (3.126): $5.7MM
- Yonder Alonso (3.116): $1.6MM
- Rene Rivera (3.082): $1.3MM
- Dale Thayer (3.071): $1.3MM
- Alexi Amarista (3.053): $1.5MM
- Joe Wieland (2.161): league minimum
- Non-tender candidates: Stults, Alonso
- Josh Johnson, SP: $4MM club option
Back in June, the Padres relieved Josh Byrnes of his duties amidst reports that his relationship with ownership had deteriorated. There were candidates aplenty at the outset but Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller emerged from a final four that included Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler, and league executive Kim Ng. The 37-year-old has his work cut out for him in a division that includes the Giants and the big-budget Dodgers, but ownership might be willing to make things easier by loosening the purse strings.
The quickest fix for the Padres’ offense might be spending big on hotly pursued Cuban talent Yasmany Tomas. The soon-to-be 24-year-old is said to boast tremendous power and is surprisingly agile for his size, as Tim Dierkes recently noted. Still, there are questions about Tomas. Over the summer, Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote that Tomas appeared to regress in Cuba and even lost playing time in the latter part of the year. And, of course, we know very little about Tomas when compared to the rest of this year’s free agent class, but then again, fellow countrymen Yasiel Puig, Jose Abreu, and Yoenis Cespedes rose from relative obscurity to make colossal impacts at the major league level. Will the usually cost-conscious Padres splurge to land Tomas? Based on what we know today, the answer is a definitive maybe.
“We have definitely expanded our international focus under A.J.,” Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler said in an email to Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego last week. “That said, we will continue to be balanced in looking at all opportunities.”
At this stage, it appears the Padres will have to vie with the Rangers, Giants, Phillies, Mariners, and, for some reason, the Dodgers, who already have plenty of outfielders. Despite the competition and an expected price tag that could exceed Rusney Castillo’s $72.5MM deal with the Red Sox, the Padres have scouted Tomas three times in three weeks, so they’re obviously serious about the young slugger. Where they might tap out in the bidding process remains to be seen, however.
Tomas would look great in the outfield but how the club approaches him will be largely dependent on what they do with the guys that are already in-house. Preller might want to move Carlos Quentin, but he’d have to eat most of his $8MM salary to find a home for him thanks to his .177/.284/.315 batting line in 2014 and unfortunate injury history. Quentin also has a no-trade clause, a condition he demanded upon signing a (then) team-friendly extension, but he was reportedly open to waiving it over the summer. With two years to go and $16MM guaranteed on his deal, the once-promising Cameron Maybin will also be a tough sell. Will Venable, who regressed in 2014 and is owed $4.25MM in ’15 doesn’t hold a ton of trade value either. In a perfect world, the Padres might find two new outfield mates to go along with Seth Smith, but that’s easier said than done. If the Padres can trot out an outfield of Smith, the defensively-solid Maybin, and another corner outfielder with pop, they’ll probably be high-fiving at Petco.
The Padres would like to shake things up in the infield as well and that could be an easier task. First baseman Yonder Alonso is due a bump from $980K to an estimated $1.6MM in arbitration. He may not be worth it when considering his iffy production and health woes, though his capable defending, youth, and former promise would make that a difficult choice. Ditto for Everth Cabrera (.232/.272/.300 in 90 games last season) who has a history of off-the-field troubles on top of his poor hitting and hamstring injury, though a non-tender seems less likely for him. Veteran first baseman Michael Cuddyer had his own health issues in 2014, but he could be an upgrade at first if he fits in the budget. Notable shortstops on the open market include Asdrubal Cabrera, Jung-ho Kang, and Jed Lowrie, but teams like the Cubs and Diamondbacks could have shortstops to spare. The D’Backs are a particularly interesting match if the divisional rivals can get on the same page as they need pitching, something the Padres have in spades. Alternatively, the Padres could roll with Alexi Amarista as their starter if they have enough confidence in him.
This season, the Padres finished dead last in runs scored with 535, a full 38 behind the next-to-last Braves, and slashed .226/.292/.342 as a team. But, as usual, their pitching was solid as they finished top five in both runs allowed and team ERA. Predictably, the consensus is that Preller will have to deal some of his arms to get the offense up to speed. After all, we can’t expect that great of a payroll bump when considering that last year’s $90MM invoice was a franchise watermark.
First-time All-Star Tyson Ross was one of a few bright spots for the Padres in 2014 but he could be in play as a trade candidate if the Friars want to land a big bat. The 27-year-old posted a 2.81 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 and is under club control through 2017, so there would be no shortage of interested clubs, but San Diego would demand a substantial haul in return. Andrew Cashner, 28, battled injuries but still managed to have a strong showing in ~123 innings and has two years of club control remaining. Though, by the same token, trading Cashner this winter could be selling low given his recent health troubles. Ian Kennedy, who pitched to a 3.63 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9, is projected to earn $10.3MM in his final trip through arbitration, so the cost-conscious Padres may be willing to move him, even if his return wouldn’t be quite as heavy as that of Ross or Cashner.
San Diego also has an interesting trade chip in reliever Joaquin Benoit. Benoit was dominant in 2014 but he’s 37 and will earn $8MM in 2015. That’s a big salary for a team like the Padres, but that wouldn’t be hard to swallow for team with a larger payroll. On top of that, his $8MM team option for 2016 makes him more than just a one-year rental. Teams that don’t want to give David Robertson a potentially record-setting deal or gamble on the next tier of available closers will want to take a good look at Benoit. In the event of a Benoit deal, the Padres can also be expected to look into late-inning options, though they could have a solid closer already in Kevin Quackenbush.
The Padres could package in prospects from their highly-regarded farm system, but teams will be hard pressed to pry away talents like right-hander Matt Wisler, outfielder Hunter Renfroe, or catcher Austin Hedges.
Even though the Padres sound inclined to give Preller a bit more in allowance than Byrnes had, much of San Diego’s offseason shopping is likely to happen on the trade market.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.