Locked in a tight NL West race, the Padres are known to be looking for starting pitching and lineup help at the deadline. This leaves a wide range of possibilities open for an aggressive general manager like A.J. Preller, and Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune hears that Preller’s front office has “has talked with other teams about scenarios ranging from the seemingly obvious to the implausible.”
That gamut might be reflected in two hitters Acee links to the Padres, as he reiterates that the club continues to be interested in Joey Gallo, long mentioned as a target for San Diego. Beyond Gallo, however, Acee also notes that the Padres were one of the NL teams who had an interest in Nelson Cruz, before Minnesota sent the veteran slugger to the Rays in a trade earlier tonight. It would’ve been bold to put Cruz (a DH-only player for the last three seasons) back in line for regular outfield duty, which might be why the Twins ultimately found the most interested suitor in an AL team that could deploy Cruz in his normal DH spot.
On the pitching front, the Padres are looking for multiple arms to aid a rotation that had been hit with injuries. Acee writes that the targets are “both a potential innings eater and a starter who could be a viable option to start early in a playoff series.” The Padres’ talks with the Rangers and Twins also involved such names as Kyle Gibson, Jordan Lyles, and Kenta Maeda. San Diego has also had interest in Rockies right-hander Jon Gray and Royals left-hander Danny Duffy, though it is unclear if Duffy is still a consideration after he was placed on the 10-day injured list earlier this week.
Gray, Duffy, and Lyles are all pure rentals, as free agents after the season. Duffy and Gray have pretty comparable overall metrics, and while Duffy’s 2.51 ERA is significantly better than Gray’s 3.68 ERA, Gray has 93 innings pitched to Duffy’s 61, as Duffy is in the midst of his second IL stint of the season. Duffy also has full no-trade protection but the California native might be open to agreeing to be dealt back to his home state. Gray has no such trade protection, though the Rockies’ willingness to move a notable player to a division rival could be a potential obstacle.
The biggest issue with acquiring Lyles is likely that the 30-year-old simply hasn’t pitched well over his two years in Texas, posting a 5.84 ERA in 165 innings since the start of the 2020 season. A change of scenery could help Lyles regain the effectiveness he displayed in 2018-19, and Lyles is a familiar face for Preller, as the righty pitched for San Diego during the 2017 and 2018 campaigns.
A trade could also help Maeda escape the doldrums of a tough 2021 season, though the right-hander far from struggled in his first year in Minnesota, finishing second in 2020 AL Cy Young Award voting. Maeda missed a little over three weeks with a groin injury this year, and has pitched better over his last three starts, with a 1.69 ERA over his last 16 innings.
Maeda is no stranger to the NL West after spending his first four MLB seasons with the Dodgers, and he also has the most contractual control of any of the five pitchers known to be on San Diego’s radar. Maeda is owed only $3MM in guaranteed money in each of the 2022 and 2023 season, but several millions more are available in incentives based on innings pitched and games started. The overall price tag is still quite reasonable, and as much as Maeda hasn’t been a front-of-the-rotation type in 2021, his contract and his past track record make him a good trade chip. Of course, this assumes that Minnesota would be open to a trade for anything more than a very generous offer, as the Twins are reportedly not very interested in dealing anything beyond rental players.
Gibson is also controlled beyond 2021, as he still has a full year remaining (worth $7MM) on the three-year, $28MM free agent deal he inked with the Rangers in the 2019-20 offseason. With a 2.86 ERA over his first 107 innings, Gibson is on pace for a career year, and he already was named an All-Star for the first time in his nine MLB seasons. Gibson doesn’t miss many bats, however, and both his Statcast profile and overall career numbers don’t much help the argument that he can keep up this borderline ace production over the course of a full season, or into 2022.
What the Padres would be willing to give up for any of these players (or any deadline target) is still up in the air. The club is close to the $210MM luxury tax threshold already but they reportedly have the ability to cross that threshold, so money might not be the most pressing issue for deadline acquisitions. In regards to moving prospects, Acee hears that the Padres aren’t willing to move any of their top four minor leaguers — presumably MacKenzie Gore, CJ Abrams, Luis Campusano, or Robert Hassell — and might even look to add some more young talent in deals, though obviously the Padres wouldn’t be “deadline sellers” by any stretch of the imagination.
Speculatively, San Diego could look into some type of complex multi-player deal that would see them acquire a package that includes at least one notable MLB player that can help them win now, as well as a minor leaguer or two. The inclusion of prospects could perhaps make it easier for the Padres to move one of their better minor leaguers as part of a trade.