The Padres, owners of one 90-win season in the last two decades, remain mired in the latest iteration of what has amounted, over the club’s 50-year history, to something approximating a near-interminable rebuild. This time, though, the club hasn’t taken half-measures, having carefully assembled a lot of prospects to rival any in the game’s history: indeed, by FanGraphs’ latest count, San Diego has a staggering 46 players who project to be major league contributors of some sort, including eight of the game’s top 75 prospects.
The major league team, though, has yet to reap the benefits. Highly touted outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot have graduated and quickly sputtered in their first exposures, and the club’s recent mound graduates, with the possible exception of the “churve”-hurling Joey Lucchesi, seem more of the back-end variety. The richly-paid duo of Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer has also failed to impress, with the latter riding his grounder-heavy ways to a near-replacement-level season for the fourth time in seven years, and the former posting a combined 2.3 fWAR since signing a huge extension prior to the 2017 season.
Holes abound elsewhere on the diamond: Myers, at midseason, tried his hand at third, to mostly disastrous results, and the club received meager-at-best production up the middle (though blue-chip prospects Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias are knocking loudly at the door). Franmil Reyes did open eyes in limited ’18 action, but he hardly seems suited for a corner-outfield spot, and his minor league numbers, in six seasons before last season’s AAA breakout, leave little by which to be encouraged (ditto Franchy Cordero). Catcher remains an issue, though Austin Hedges did show signs in the season’s second half.
On the mound, the club can hang its hat only on its always-stellar bullpen, with Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen, Jose Castillo, and Matt Strahm (who seems ticketed for a rotation audition in the Spring) all posting brilliant seasons in 2018. The rotation, apart from Robbie Erlin and his microscopic walk rate, was generally awful last season. Lucchesi led the charge with just 1.1 fWAR, while the rest of his rotation mates combined for a sickly 3.0 fWAR altogether. In short, it’s a team that could use an upgrade at very nearly every position on the diamond.
Still, the bleakness of the near-future outlook apparently hasn’t dissuaded the Front Office from scouring the trade market for major, short-term upgrades – in the last two months alone, the club has reportedly targeted Corey Kluber (link), Noah Syndergaard (link), J.T. Realmuto (link), and Marcus Stroman (link), among surely others. Two of the four have exactly three years of control remaining (with Realmuto and Stroman having just two), but the Padres would be seem to be paying an unnecessary premium on the stars to contribute in 2019 and 2020, years in which the club has seemingly little chance to compete.
Does this strategy make sense? Could the big-league ready prospects couple with the bonafide stars to form a legitimate contender in the next two seasons? Or would the club be best-served to wait, see how their current crop progresses in the upcoming season, and re-evaluate in a year from now? Pick your answer in the poll below.