With this year’s trade deadline just a few days away, the long-suffering Padres are in the rare position of entering the proceedings as one of the National League’s top contenders. At 18-13, the Padres own the NL’s No. 1 wild-card spot by a game and a half, giving them a legitimate shot to break a 13-year playoff drought this season.
General manager A.J. Preller is cognizant of the opportunity the Padres have, though in regards to the deadline, he said Tuesday (via Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune): “The focus has been mostly internal. We like our group and our team.” At the same time, the team’s “open to any possibility,” according to Preller.
Padres chairman Ron Fowler also used the word “open” when discussing their deadline strategy with Dennis Lin of The Athletic (subscription link). But Fowler suggested the team’s financial concerns – which he detailed in July are still very real, as he added that “we know next year is going to be tough because we expect restricted seating (at home games) and full (player) compensation, so you have to go in with your eyes open.”
Economic challenges won’t stop the Padres from trying to better themselves at the deadline, but it seems they’re more focused on adding players who will be able to help for multiple years than bolstering their roster with rentals. The rotation, bullpen, catcher and the outfield are all spots the Padres could look to upgrade, Lin reports.
For the most part, the Padres’ starting staff has been a strength in 2020. Dinelson Lamet, Zach Davies and Garrett Richards have done more than enough to justify their spots; on the other hand,, Chris Paddack has struggled after an excellent rookie season and no one else has stood out, either. But if the Padres don’t acquire outside help, they’ll have the option of calling up Joey Lucchesi or highly touted prospect MacKenzie Gore from their 60-man player pool. The 21-year-old Gore’s “viewed strictly as a starter,” Lin writes, so the Padres won’t promote him unless it’s to boost their rotation.
Meanwhile, although the Padres’ bullpen has fared better of late, the unit still possesses the majors’ fourth-worst ERA and its seventh-highest FIP. The Padres lost their best reliever, left-hander Drew Pomeranz, to a shoulder injury last Friday, though Lin notes that he should return soon. That’s great news for the Padres, as Pomeranz has been among the elite relievers in baseball this year. Even if he’s healthy, however, upgrading the bullpen should be a priority for San Diego. After all, aside from Pomeranz, nobody in their relief group has managed to combine strong bottom-line production and high-end peripherals this season. Furthermore, the Padres are missing a handful of relievers – Kirby Yates, Jose Castillo, Andres Munoz and Trey Wingenter – because of various injuries.
Unlike the Padres’ bullpen, their offense has been one of the game’s most potent so far. They currently rank fifth in the league in wRC+ (117), but that success has come in spite of awful production from their catchers. Austin Hedges, Francisco Mejia and Luis Torrens have combined to bat .129/.206/.29o in 108 plate appearances, so it makes sense that the Padres are seeking aid at the position. They’ve been much better off in the outfield, thanks to a reborn Wil Myers and a terrific showing from Trent Grisham. Those two aside, though, Padres outfielders haven’t done much to help the club’s cause. Tommy Pham fell flat before landing on the IL with a broken hamate bone Aug. 17, while Jurickson Profar, Edward Olivares, Jorge Mateo and Abraham Almonte have logged weak numbers in their own right.
While this San Diego team does have some flaws, its odds of a playoff return look great at the moment, as FanGraphs pegs its postseason chances at 94.1 percent. One poor stretch could sink just about any club during a 60-game campaign, though. With that in mind, Preller’s surely not resting on on his laurels leading up to the deadline.