There is no doubt that the San Diego Padres have a logjam in their current outfield situation. The Padres have several men who could play every day for the team, and there is no clear option. What will the team do to address this issue?
For the last three years, the Padres have been stockpiling minor league talent. Now that this talent is starting to reach the big club, the picture of this team’s future nucleus is getting clearer—especially regarding the middle infield and starting rotation.
Not so much for the outfield.
There are currently six outfielders (seven if you count Francisco Mejia) vying for three starting jobs:
Manuel Margot—A disappointment in his sophomore season, he regressed in just about every offensive category; most importantly for him, he went from .313 to .292 OBP, and from 17 to 11 stolen bases. Since his value is as a potential leadoff hitter, he must do better if he hopes to retain his status as an everyday ballplayer.
Franmil Reyes—After a slow start, the hulking right fielder came on strong, smashing 16 home runs in just 87 games and boasting a solid .280/.340/.498 slash. Not bad for a guy who went untouched in last year’s Rule 5 Draft, and is still only 23.
Hunter Renfroe—Call him Margot in reverse: whereas the speedy center fielder regressed, Renfroe took big steps forward in just about every offensive category: his batting average went from .231 to .248, his OBP from .284 to .302, and his slugging from .467 to .504. While Renfroe, 26, entered 2018 as the odd man out, his improvement made the Padres take another serious look at him.
Wil Myers—Once the face of the franchise, Myers, 27, started the season in right field, missed almost half the season due to injuries, then came back after the All-Star break and became the starting third baseman—that didn’t go well. While still talented, Myers has likely worn out his welcome. The only problem is, he is locked into a contract through 2022 through which he is owed $60 million.
Franchy Cordero—Loaded with raw talent, Cordero, 24, hit some tape measure shots before going down to injury last summer. His walk and strikeout rates both improved from 2017—though the latter is still very high—and he was batting a respectable .261 before ending his season in a 4-for-28 skid, mostly due to injuries.
Travis Jankowski—In 117 games, the 27-year-old batted .259 with a .332 OBP and 24 stolen bases, while playing all three outfield spots very well. Jankowski is seen as a fourth outfielder, albeit a good one who can start for long stretches if needed.
So if you’re in A.J. Preller’s shoes, what do you do? Not only do you have a crowded outfield, but you’re also coming off a 66-96 season, and you’ve got a fan base and ownership group who are tired of losing (the Padres have not had a winning season since 2010).
Here is the way to go about it:
Trade Myers. While this would be Preller’s tacit admission that the December 2014 Trea Turner deal was a flop, it must be done. Myers has been a disappointment, and his complaints about having to do extra drills at third base this past summer (which he clearly needed) did not help. There are lots of teams that need a first baseman, which Myers can handle. And while San Diego will likely have to eat some of his salary, it would clear the Padres’ logjam and help both parties to move on.
Keep the quartet of Margot, Cordero, Renfroe, and Reyes. While Margot was a classic case of the “sophomore jinx,” he still has lots of talent. It would be a shame to trade him and then see him blossom with another team. Fans quickly forget that he only turned 24 this past September, when most guys his age are just going into Triple-A. He should be given every opportunity to play in 2019, in what will be his make-or-break season.
Both Renfroe and Reyes have something San Diego has been lacking for some time: legitimate home run power. Assuming that their 2018 performances prove to be legitimate, I would have no problem if both of them started in the Padres’ outfield for many years to come.
That said, if another team inquired about one of them, then Preller should listen. But he should only be willing to part with Renfroe or Reyes as part of a package deal if the return is substantial (i.e., a frontline starting pitcher and/or a major league-ready third baseman).
Cordero showed definite improvement in harnessing his awesome skills last season. He can and should start fairly regularly, especially since he’s the only left-handed bat in the mix (not including Jankowski).
Using this quartet as a starting rotation in the outfield, all four will easily get 400-plus at-bats. Over the course of the season, manager Andy Green will see which of them take their game to the next level, and which don’t.
Bottom Line: These four men are the best bets the Padres have to produce a solid, All-Star-caliber outfield for years to come. So give them all playing time, and let their performances dictate which of them will eventually be the starting three.
As for Jankowski, the Padres can either keep him as a valuable bench piece, or they can trade him. He has value, and since he is not a long-term starting option, shipping him out could help fill needs elsewhere.
For these reasons, going this route would be the optimal way to go for all involved.
Now, if only they can find a suitor for Myers…