Ron Gant (2002)
The San Diego Padres signed Ron Gant for $500,000 before the start of the 2002 season and the veteran proved to be a decent bargain for the team. Gant was known for his rare combination of power and speed throughout his career. He was 37 when the Padres signed him, so he was definitely just a shadow of his former self.
Gant was still productive for the Padres, despite his age, as he hit 18 homers and drove in 59 runs in 102 games for the team. He had a batting line of .262/.338/.489 and produced a 1.9 WAR rating. The Padres got the most out of Gant in his one season at Qualcomm Stadium. He left the team after the season and signed with the Oakland Athletics. He only played in 17 games in 2003 and then retired from the game. He last hurrah as a major league baseball player was as a Padre.
Jay Payton (2004)
This excellent defender and emerging hitter was signed as a free agent after hitting 28 home runs for the Colorado Rockies during the 2003 season. Payton had a breakout performance in Colorado and the Padres gambled that his numbers would transition at sea level. The Padres gave him a two-year deal at five million dollars to fill an outfield void for the team.
Payton responded by hitting .260 with eight home runs and 55 RBI in 143 games. Not the numbers the Padres envisioned when they signed Payton, but he did play defense really well. Despite his pedestrian numbers, Payton produced a 1.9 WAR rating for the 2004 season. He was traded by the Padres with David Pauley, Ramon Vazquez, and cash to the Boston Red Sox for speedster Dave Roberts. Payton retired in 2010 after 12 years of service time in the major leagues.
Al Martin (2000)
In February of 2000 the Padres sent John Vander Wal, Jim Sak, and Geraldo Padua to the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Al Martin. The Padres were looking for a veteran left-handed bat in their lineup and they found their man in Al Martin. The outfielder was blessed with plenty of tools and was coming off a season where he hit 24 home runs and stole 20 bases. Padres management was excited. I know I was.
Martin went on to have a batting line of .306/.360/.474 in 93 games and 346 at bats. He hit 11 home runs and drove in 27 runs while playing left field for the Padres. The Padres team was once again out of playoff contention and Martin was dealt at the trade deadline to the Seattle Mariners for Tom Davey and John Mabry. Martin didn’t play well in Seattle and only lasted one more season beyond that in the major leagues. He was yet another example of a “one-year wonder” in the history of the Padres’ outfield.
Jon Jay (2016)
The most recent addition to this list only gets an honorable mention. He had a decent season, hitting .291 with two homers and 26 RBI in 90 games and 347 at bats. He amassed a 1.1 WAR in that time and provided the young outfielders with an excellent mentor.
The team flirted with re-signing him, but he signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Cubs for $8 million dollars. That turned out to be a raise over the $6.85 million he made in 2016 as a Padre. That was too much for a Padres’ team that has Manuel Margot and Travis Jankowski, both ready for major league playing time in center. At this point in the Padres rebuilding process, paying Jay that much would have been foolish.
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