The Padres placed infielder Jake Cronenworth on the 10-day injured list this afternoon with a right wrist fracture. Cronenworth told reporters, including Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, that his timetable for return will be more clear in the coming days, though his current hope is that he’ll be able to return this season in the event that the Padres make the playoffs. Infielder Matthew Batten was recalled in the corresponding move.
Cronenworth, 29, has struggled to a career worst wRC+ of 92 alongside a .229/.312/.378 slash line in 522 trips to the plate. That slash line has ticked up in the second half as he’s posted a more palatable .265/.317/.435 slash line in 186 plate appearances since the start of July with a 14% strikeout rate, a far better mark than the 21.1% figure he posted through the end of June. Of course, even his more recent production this season is a considerable step back from the player Cronenworth was prior to this season. From his big league debut as a 26 year old during the shortened 2020 campaign to the end of the 2022 season, he slashed a combined .256/.338/.431 with a 115 wRC+ a strikeout rate of just 16.5% and a strong walk rate of 9.4% all while contributing with strong defense up the middle.
The breakout of fellow infielder Ha-Seong Kim and this past offseason’s acquisition of shortstop Xander Bogaerts pushed Cronenworth to first base, but the Padres nonetheless saw fit to commit to their versatile infielder with a seven-year, $80MM extension that will go into effect starting next season. That investment is beginning to look dubious between the step back Cronenworth has taken with the bat this year combined with his weak performance defensively at first this year (-3 Outs Above Average), particularly given Cronenworth will turn 30 shortly after the new year. Given his current injury, it’s possible Cronenworth won’t have an opportunity to turn things around until next year, once his new contract has already begun.
Replacing Cronenworth on the active roster is Batten, who has been an exactly league average bat (100 wRC+) in a small sample of 25 trips to the plate this season. With deadline acquisition Garrett Cooper seemingly taking over at first base full time for the injured Cronenworth, Batten seems poised to mix and match alongside fellow bench options Jose Azocar, Ben Gamel, and Matt Carpenter as the Padres look to fill out the DH slot in their lineup. In 15 games since joining San Diego, Cooper has slashed an impressive .278/.381/.472 with a wRC+ of 140. The Padres will need that exceptional performance to continue if they are to keep their limited postseason hopes alive, as the club is just 61-68 with 6.5 games between them and the final NL Wild Card spot.