12:16pm: In a follow-up piece today, Acee writes that the Friars expect to land at a payroll of $130MM to $140MM. Given the team’s existing commitments, that doesn’t leave space to tack on a top-shelf free agent.
Indeed, per Acee, the Friars simply “don’t see a way to fit another mega contract.” With Boras asking for $180MM or more for Strasburg, over a six-year term, the San Diego organization may be tapping out early. Acee does note that Zack Wheeler could still be a consideration, though he seems increasingly likely to top nine figures himself with widespread early interest.
8:16am: We know the Padres are going to do something to get better this winter — or, at least, that’s the strong indication emanating from the club — but it’s still to be seen what, when, and how GM A.J. Preller will strike. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Tribune-Review describes the sense of anticipation in the San Diego organization, explaining that top-level free-agent pursuit and/or major trades involving highly regarded prospects are likely to be pursued vigorously in the coming weeks.
Unsurprisingly, Acee views the trade market as the “most likely way” for the Friars to press the go button. While the team has pounced on major free-agent signings and is expected to explore them again — local product Stephen Strasburg is a particularly enticing possibility — the team already has quite a lot of its payroll committed.
There are still some ways to change that situation. The organization could boost its spending now that it’s ready to win. It could also utilize some of its prospect base to help move unwanted contracts off the books, thus freeing salary space to buy other players. We broke down the many factors and possibilities in our recent preview of the Friars’ offseason.
Regardless, Preller is surely exploring a wide variety of trade scenarios — and doing so with a different mandate than he has previously. Chairman Ron Fowler has already made clear his expectations for the 2020 campaign, and he explained further how the team’s strategy will change as a result.
Fowler explains that the club is now largely finished with assessment of young talent and is ready to view its prospects as “currency.” The Padres, he says, have “a lot of guys we can package and come up with what we need to be a better team that can win a lot more games in 2020, and that’s our objective.”
That statement is laden with possibilities. With loads of talent at all levels of the farm system, as well as younger MLB players that could hold appeal, the Friars have a stock of trade chips that could unlock the doors to an awful lot of quality big leaguers.
But does this mean that rival organizations can expect to command overwhelming early trade packages from the Padres? Preller says the club will stick to its guns. “We have specific value on each one of our players and a value on the guys we have a chance to trade for,” he said at the outset of the GM Meetings. If the numbers don’t match up, Preller says the club will be “patient.”
It’s an interesting mix of public statements from the San Diego brass. Preller’s “rock star” status has waxed and waned over the years; on occasion, he has delivered blockbusters. At other times, heavy rumors of big moves have simply petered out. This winter, there’s an argument for bold early action to get the jump on the market … but also for settling into the kind of plodding staring contest that has characterized the past two hot-stove seasons.
Whatever the process, one thing seems clear: when the season gets underway, Preller’s roster will need to deliver good old fashioned, actual MLB wins. The objective, per Fowler, is to “win a lot more games in 2020.” Otherwise, the San Diego organization could be forced into a much broader overhaul.