The Padres’ search for a shortstop is nearing the finish line, general manager A.J. Preller confirmed to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We’ve gotten to a spot where we’ve looked at a lot of options,” Preller told Lin. “Things could come to a head in the next few days to a week.” While Preller didn’t specify any names, sources tell Lin that free agents Alexei Ramirez and Ian Desmond can be considered the favorites to fill San Diego’s shortstop vacancy.
The Padres have been connected to both free agents quite a bit of late, though the two would represent very different types of options. The 30-year-old Desmond figures to command a lengthier multi-year deal, whereas Ramirez could potentially be looked at as more of a stopgap to top prospect Javier Guerra, who was acquired from the Red Sox alongside three other minor leaguers in exchange for Craig Kimbrel. Because Desmond turned down a qualifying offer, he’d cost the Padres their top unprotected draft pick, while the veteran Ramirez could be had for only money.
Lin reported last week why the 30-year-old Desmond is appealing to Preller for reasons beyond just his strong track record from 2012-14 (his 2015 season, of course, was a difficult one). The GM also explained to Lin at that time why the presence of Guerra wouldn’t stop him from adding a shortstop on a multi-year deal, noting that a team can’t have too much up-the-middle talent. It’s also worth noting, of course, that there’s been speculation about Desmond changing positions this offseason. If and when Guerra emerges as a potential everyday option (which probably won’t happen until at least 2017), Desmond could conceivably more to another spot on the diamond.
A dismal first half in 2015 left Desmond with an unsightly .223/.290/.384 batting line last year, but the powerful infielder still hit 19 homers and chipped in 13 stolen bases. Additionally, he looked more like himself after the All-Star break, hitting .262/.331/.446 with a dozen homers and eight stolen bases in the season’s second half. And, while Desmond’s defensive lapses drew a lot of headlines early on when he made eight errors in the first 12 games of the season, he settled down and played considerably better defense for the remainder of the year. Of course, Desmond’s rapidly escalating strikeout rate (29 percent in 2015) is a cause for concern, and even his solid second half was buoyed to some extent by a BABIP spike, as he continued to whiff at a prolific rate (30.3 percent in the second half).
Ramirez has his own positive and negative attributes, of course. While he’s been a largely durable asset for the White Sox over the life of his big league career, showing both power and speed at times, he, too, fell victim to a woeful first half in 2015 when he batted just .224/.249/.292. Given the fact that he’s 34 years of age, the Padres probably have to be more wary of a potential decline for Ramirez. However, he batted a much more characteristic .277/.325/.432 with eight homers and seven steals following the All-Star break, and as previously noted, will presumably come at a cheaper cost not only in terms of overall dollars, but also in length of commitment and by the virtue of being unencumbered by draft pick compensation.
Whichever route the Padres go, it figures to be an upgrade over a 2015 campaign that saw Clint Barmes, Alexi Amarista, Will Middlebrooks and Jedd Gyorko combine to log a .228/.279/.365 while providing, on the whole, sub-par defense.