Move 2: Sign left-handed pitcher Yusei Kikuchi to a four-year, $40 million deal
If you want to read a more in-depth look at Kikuchi, check this out. Basically, he has been a top starter in Japan for around six seasons and is only 27 years old. Although he profiles as more of a mid-range starter, he has great stuff, sitting mid-90’s with his fastball, and has a Lucchesi-like curveball.
That’s all we’ll do for the rotation as the rest of the spots will go to a combination of Lucchesi, Lauer, Nix, Paddack, Richard, and whatever prospect or minor league signing has an unexpectedly strong spring.
Now for the left side of the infield. There are plenty of stop-gap third basemen (Asdrubal Cabrera, Logan Forsythe, Josh Harrison) and shortstops (Jose Iglesias, Adeiny Hechavarria, Freddy Galvis) in free agency who should be around deep into the offseason. Heck, if the Padres can find a way to sign either Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson they should, but the long-term implications of one of them signing could handcuff the team for years to come.
We’re going to get a little creative here, avoiding the free agent market and instead looking to the trade market.
Move 3: Trade right-handed pitcher Kirby Yates and right fielder Hunter Renfroe to the Atlanta Braves for infielder Johan Camargo, right-handed pitcher Trey Riley, and right-handed pitcher Jasseel De La Cruz
This is a classic sell-high on two players that may or may not eclipse their 2018 production. Renfroe made positive strides with the bat in 2018, but his offensive game is still pretty one-dimensional. He struggles to get on base and his value lies solely in his power. The emergence of Franmil Reyes has made Renfroe expendable and trading him also allows Wil Myers to move back into the outfield.
Yates had a career year for the Padres in 2018, posting a 2.14 ERA (2.54 FIP) and struck out 36% of the batters he faced. The Padres would be smart to sell high on him if possible as they have the depth to overcome his loss.
As a group, the Padres pen accrued the second-most WAR, sixth best ERA, and fourth most strikeouts per nine in all of Major League Baseball. The Braves, on the other hand, had a middle of the road pen that hurt them in the postseason as they lacked a go-to reliever. Yates could be just that for them.
For the Padres, they are able to plug their hole at either third or short, depending on where the team wants to play Camargo. He has experience at both positions, but really thrived as third baseman last year. Camargo posted a 115 wRC+ across 134 games in 2018 and will be 25 when next season starts. He also posted a .349 OBP and chipped in 19 home runs.
De La Cruz and Riley will play the 2019 season at just 21 years old each. They are both starters who like to play off above-average fastballs. Camargo is the real prize of the deal, so it’s hard to see the Braves giving up a highly-touted prospect such as Kolby Allard or Mike Soroka. That being said, De La Cruz and Riley are real breakout candidates and could flourish in San Diego’s system.
The Padres should avoid a full-roster reshuffling and look to add established talent wherever possible. They should be in on every star-level player available and should be adding pieces that will be around when the talent finally meshes and the team takes off.
San Diego has been home to mediocre past-their-prime players for far too long and must add talent that can take them to the next level or risk wallowing in mediocrity another ten-plus years. Even if they don’t make these specific moves, they need to do something if they really want to contend in two years.