The Padres continue their search for an established outfielder, writes Dennis Lin of the Athletic. Free agent Tommy Pham remains a possibility, Lin indicates. San Diego’s regular season opener is just three weeks away.
Lin first reported the Padres had given some consideration to Pham at the beginning of the month. While San Diego has since added Jurickson Profar on a $1MM pact, that’s not a huge impediment to bringing in another outfielder. San Diego still has only three outfielders on the 40-man roster: Fernando Tatis Jr., José Azócar and Profar.
Regardless of whether they add anyone else, they’re sorting through a few non-roster players battling in camp. None is more exciting than 20-year-old Jackson Merrill. San Diego is working out the top shortstop prospect in the outfield this spring. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote this afternoon that Merrill seems increasingly likely to secure a spot on the Opening Day roster.
The Padres wouldn’t call Merrill up if they weren’t going to give him everyday run. He’d be making the jump past Triple-A. The former first-round pick split last year between High-A and Double-A. Merrill put up a .273/.338/.444 line in 211 plate appearances with Double-A San Antonio. That’s solid work in the pitcher-friendly Texas League, although it doesn’t guarantee he’ll find success against big league pitching right away.
Depending on potential acquisitions, the Padres could offer Merrill regular run in either left or center field. Pham would be limited to left field. Landing him would kick Profar to the bench and provide an upgrade to the lineup. Pham is coming off a .256/.328/.446 slash with 16 homers and 22 steals through 481 plate appearances between the Mets and Diamondbacks. He’s a known quantity for the front office after playing in San Diego from 2020-21.
Adding a corner outfielder would leave Merrill competing with Azócar and perhaps Jakob Marsee for the center field job. Azócar is a good runner and defensive specialist who has hit .249/.292/.341 in 153 big league games. Marsee, 22, only has 16 games above High-A. He posted excellent numbers at High-A Fort Wayne a year ago, running a .273/.413/.425 line with 41 steals and more walks than strikeouts. Prospect evaluators generally rank him as a solid but not elite minor league talent. He’s widely projected as a fourth outfielder based on strong strike zone awareness with limited power.
Each of Oscar Mercado, Bryce Johnson, Cal Mitchell and Tim Locastro are in camp on minor league deals. None of them is likely to step into an everyday role, but there should be room for at least one to secure a bench spot. Michael A. Taylor is the only potential regular center fielder left on the free agent market. Pham, Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario are the top corner options. There’s still some activity on the trade front, as this week’s deal sending Manuel Margot to Minnesota demonstrates. While the Padres have been loosely connected to Jarren Duran and Sal Frelick in trade rumors, there’s no indication they made any headway in those discussions.