Having radically overhauled their rotation and infield mix this week with the acquisitions of Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Ha-Seong Kim, the Padres are now shifting their focus to the bullpen and to outfield depth, per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Their current pursuits include a pair of potential reunions: closer Kirby Yates and infielder/outfielder Jurickson Profar.
Yates, according to Acee, is “likely looking at” an incentive-laden deal with a guarantee upwards of $5MM. Profar’s target price isn’t fully clear, though Acee suggests the Padres’ interest has been in a deal around the $5MM range as well. There’s no indication that either Yates of Profar is close to a deal that would bring them back to San Diego, but the interest and potential price ranges are nevertheless of note.
The continued interest in Profar, in particular, was far from a given after this week’s dealings. San Diego’s four-year deal with Kim added another option to an already crowded infield mix — so much so that there have been varying reports on the possibility of toying with either Kim or 2020 Rookie of the Year runner-up Jake Cronenworth in left field. Profar would only further add another second base/left field option to the pile.
Presently, the Padres’ starting outfield is likely to consist of Wil Myers, Trent Grisham and Tommy Pham. The team does lack an experienced reserve option, though. Neither Kim nor Cronenworth has any outfield experience of note. Other options include Greg Allen, former top prospect Jorge Mateo and young Jorge Ona. San Diego also has 28-year-old Brian O’Grady on the 40-man roster at the moment, but his MLB experience is limited to 53 plate appearances. Both Allen and Mateo are out of minor league options, which would work in their favor if they made it to the end of Spring Training still on the 40-man roster, but neither impressed in 2020.
Turning to the bullpen, the Padres have a rather deep slate of options even if a reunion with Yates or a new contract with a similar veteran can’t be worked out. Both Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan have considerable late-inning experience. Matt Strahm has emerged as a quality ’pen option in recent years, and righty Pierce Johnson was excellent in his return from Japan this past season. San Diego also picked up Dan Altavilla and strikeout machine Austin Adams from the Mariners in the Austin Nola/Taylor Trammell swap, and veteran Craig Stammen is still under contract for another season. None of that even gets into the bevy of young arms in the upper levels of the Padres’ system.
Still, the appeal of Yates is obvious. Though bone spurs in his elbow limited the 34-year-old to just 4 1/3 innings in 2020, Yates starred as one of baseball’s premier relievers with the Padres from 2018-19, pitching to a combined 1.67 ERA with 13.9 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 and racking up 53 saves along the way. Few relievers on the market can match his upside, making him a particularly appealing gamble for a club with plenty of alternate depth.
This week’s flurry of activity will likely push the Padres’ 2021 payroll north of $160MM, which would position them as the rare MLB team to actually match last year’s payroll totals. Further additions, even smaller-scale pickups such as Yates or Profar, would almost certainly push San Diego’s payroll even higher than last year’s franchise-record mark.