It’s been rumored for months that the Padres would eventually have to make some form of outfield move. The team has more outfield options than playing time available, and that’s only become truer as the season has worn on. Currently, the Padres are “discussing what it would look like” to keep rookie slugger Josh Naylor on the roster even after Franchy Cordero returns from the injured list, per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune. Doing so could potentially mean optioning the struggling Manuel Margot to Triple-A El Paso, where he could receive everyday at-bats and work on his approach at the plate.
Long considered to be among the game’s top prospects, Margot is hitting just .241/.283/.321 on the season, although Naylor hasn’t demonstrated much in the way of on-base skills in his brief audition so far. The former first-round pick has two homers and two doubles in 37 plate appearances but has yet to draw a walk. He’s also punched out a dozen times (32.4 percent) en route to a .243/.243/.459 overall batting line.
Still, it seems the club is at least pondering whether an alignment consisting of Cordero, Naylor, Wil Myers, Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe is worth trying out. Defensively, there’s no true center field option, but any of the bunch could reasonably be expected to be more productive at the plate than Margot. Selling low on Margot surely isn’t something they’d prefer to do, but if the club is comfortable with Cordero or Myers in center, at least on a short-term basis, perhaps they’d more seriously explore the possibility.
As The Athletic’s Dennis Lin recently suggested (subscription required), San Diego would also be wise to explore the market for Renfroe given that his skill set is somewhat similar to that of Reyes, but he’s four years older. Renfroe was a frequently mentioned trade candidate in the winter and is out to a .250/.304/.619 start with 18 homers in 191 plate appearances. Margot is controlled through 2022 — Renfroe through 2023. Neither seems like a viable centerpiece for a premium trade acquisition, but both would hold some appeal to teams in search of controllable outfield depth.
Lin suggests that the Padres will be active both in looking to add long-term pieces — perhaps by condensing some of that outfield surplus and the team’s considerable prospect capital — while also being open-minded to moving current contributors. General manager A.J. Preller acknowledged that with the draft now in the past, trade talk becomes “a lot of the conversation for us,” which is generally true throughout the league.
Beyond Renfroe and Margot, the Padres would surely be open to shedding some of Wil Myers’ remaining contract, but the enormous financial commitment to him makes any trade difficult to piece together. Myers’ six-year, $83MM contract is extremely backloaded, such that he’ll earn $20MM in each of the 2020-22 seasons (plus a $1MM buyout on a 2023 club option). He’s hitting .232/.330/.442 with 11 homers, seven doubles and seven stolen bases through 218 plate appearances, but he’s also striking out in a career-worst 36.2 percent of his trips to the plate. He’s a capable enough corner outfielder but is overmatched in center, and his strikeout trouble will always hinder his on-base skills. It’s tough to imagine a trade involving Myers without the Padres taking back a similarly onerous contract or eating a substantial portion of salary.
It’s possible, then, that if the Friars do make a move, they’ll be sending away someone with significant team control remaining. Beyond the aforementioned Margot and Renfroe, Cordero is controlled through 2023, Reyes through 2024 and Naylor through 2025. The Padres are known to be on the lookout for starting pitchers they can control beyond the 2019 season, and parting with a pre-arbitration outfielder who has upwards of a half-decade of club control remaining would help them in that regard.
If the Friars are to explore possible trades for names like Marcus Stroman, Trevor Bauer or Matthew Boyd (to name a few), including a controllable outfielder as a piece of the puzzle would allow them to free up immediate playing time while also addressing the pitching staff both now and in the future. It’s worth nothing that each of the Blue Jays, Indians and the Tigers in particular have faced questions about their outfield production this season. Elsewhere in the league, the Phillies lost Andrew McCutchen for the remainder of the season due to an ACL tear just days after Odubel Herrera’s future became cloudy, at best, due to assault allegations. There are ample trade opportunities to explore, and more figure to emerge as the deadline draws nearer, but Naylor’s arrival and Cordero’s looming return make San Diego’s outfield feel more crowded than ever.