The Padres, along with the Braves, have thus far born the brunt of the burden in stoking the hot stove fire, but San Diego doesn’t anticipate being players at the top of the free agent market, per The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee. Given the enormity of the task ahead of them – dethroning the Dodgers from their perch atop the NL West – it was natural to assume GM A.J. Preller might go for the hat trick and score another big ticket free agent. Plus, hometown kid and confirmed playoff ace Stephen Strasburg is taking meetings, and the Padres could use a slide-stopping ace to stabilize their young rotation. But alas, the Padres don’t plan on meeting Scott Boras about either Gerrit Cole or Strasburg.
Two nine-figure free agents and the promotions of top prospects like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack could not stop the string of losing season for the Padres in 2019. They stretched their streak to nine while reaching 90 losses for the fourth consecutive year. The good news for Padres fans is that even though they don’t plan on attracting another top tier free agent – help is on the way. Per Acee’s sources, Preller doesn’t feel compelled to sign a top free agent ace is because he is confident in their ability to grow them from the ground up. Both MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino have the potential to join Paddack atop the rotation in the next couple years.
Gore, 21 by Opening Day, made five starts in Double-A after blistering High-A with a 1.02 ERA in 79 1/3 innings. That’s not a typo. The young southpaw gave up just 36 hits, 20 walks, and 9 earned runs while playing for the Lake Elsinore Storm. He struck out 110 batters, good for 12.5 K/9. He is baseball’s 4th best prospect per Baseball America and MLB.com, #5 by Fangraphs.
Patino ranks as the 30th best prospect in the sport by MLB.com, 26th by Fangraphs, 29th by Baseball America. Though eight months younger than Gore, they’re on the same development track as of now. Patino registered a 2.69 ERA in High-A while little more than four years younger than league average.
Needless to say, the future is bright in San Diego, but there are pressing concerns for the present still on the docket. Preller is on the lookout for at least one reliever, potentially a starting catcher, while adding another rotation arm remains in the mix. Financially, it’s tight. They may look to shed some salary in the coming days. The payroll has already climbed north of $140MM. Per Cot’s Contracts, they ran a $97MM payroll on Opening Day last year and only once have they opened a season with a payroll over $100MM (2015).