#3 Joe Carter (1990)
The Padres had a very nice problem in the late 80’s. They had Benito Santiago as their young catcher and they also had Sandy Alomar Jr. in the minor leagues as the teams best prospect. He was a catcher as well and came with a very high ceiling. The team had a tough decision to make. Should they deal the established Santiago or deal the young, unproven Alomar Jr.?
They chose to move Alomar Jr. as he was packaged in December of 1989 with Carlos Baerga and Chris James and shipped to the Cleveland Indians for slugging outfielder, Joe Carter. The Padres were in the market for a middle of the order type hitter, and Carter came with a great track record for run producing. He was coming off a 1989 season with the Indians where he hit .243 with 35 home runs and 105 RBI. He also stole 11 bases.
Carter played in every game for the Padres in 1990. He was out there despite nagging injuries, and produced for the club in the clutch. He had a batting line of .232/.290/.391 with 24 home runs and 115 RBI. He also stole 22 bases and hit 27 doubles in his 634 at bats. Incredibly, despite those numbers, Carter amassed an amazing -1.8 WAR rating in 1990.
He was well below average according to saber metrics. Looking into his numbers, you will see that Carter was horrible defensively for the Padres that year. That alone plummeted his WAR rating. He was, incredibly, a -3.1 WAR player on defense for the 1990 season. Perhaps Carter did need a day off after all. His defensive WAR ratings were negative almost every year (-16.5 total for his career) but the -3.1 was easily his worst defensive performance in terms of a WAR rating. The Padres even tried moving Carter to first base to limit his defensive problems, but he committed six errors there in 11 games. Ouch.
Clearly, he needed to go back to the American League so he could DH. Carter spent 364 days as a Padres player before being packaged with Roberto Alomar and sent to the Toronto Blue Jays for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. This was one of the biggest trades in team history as far as quality of players. All four players were all-stars in their careers. The Jays landed what they needed to win back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993. Carter and Alomar were both huge for the team. The Padres needed a shortstop very badly and McGriff was a terrific left-handed first baseman. Joe Carter‘s 1990 season as a Padres’ player goes down in history as another example of the production the Padres got in the outfield in one year intervals.
#2 Reggie Sanders (1999)
After the 1998 season, the Padres were disassembling their National League Championship team. Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley, and Kevin Brown were all allowed to leave via free agency, and slugger Greg Vaughn was traded to the Cincinnati Reds with Mark Sweeney for Damian Jackson and Reggie Sanders.
Losing Vaughn was rough, but most Padres fans were already punch drunk at losing the trio of free agents. The Padres did, however, get a nice return in Reggie Sanders and Damian Jackson. Sanders was 31 and coming off a season where he had a batting line of .268/.346/.418 with 14 homers and 49 RBIs in 135 games. The lifelong Red has some very productive years for them.
As a Padres outfielder, Sanders played in 133 games and hit 26 home runs with 72 RBI. He had a batting line of .285/.376/.527 in 478 at bats. He totaled a 4.1 WAR rating for that season as well. It was, indeed, a very successful season for Sanders. He was dealt in the off-season to the Braves with Quilvio Veras and Wally Joyner for Ryan Klesko and Bret Boone. Sanders had some decent years after his season with the Padres. He played for the D’Backs, Giants, Pirates, Cardinals, and Royals before retiring in 2007 after a 17-year career. Until this past season, he had the best production for a Padres’ outfielder in one year as a member of the team.
#1 Justin Upton (2015)
All this brings us to the 2015 season that Justin Upton had for the Padres.The team had very high expectations for the season, but they fell flat on their face. All of the failure was not the doing of Justin Upton, as he had a great season at Petco Park for the Padres. He proved that a slugger can hit at Petco despite all the complaints from previous hitters.
Upton, in fact, had a better season at home than on the road this past year for the Padres. He hit .277 at home with 15 homers and 42 RBI while he hit .225 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI on the road. In total, Upton hit .251 with 26 home runs and 81 RBI while amassing a 4.4 WAR rating. Despite the low batting average and high strikeouts, Upton was the most productive Padres player in terms of WAR value for the 2015 season. The Padres did give up some very nice prospects to attain him though. Max Fried, Mallex Smith, Dustin Peterson, and Jace Peterson were dealt to the Braves for Upton and Aaron Northcraft. The Braves got a decent year out of Jace Peterson as he played second base for them in 2015 on an everyday basis.