There is no doubt that the San Diego Padres must improve in the 2019 season. There are some serious concerns about the club even though the farm system is deep. Let’s explore why this coming season is huge for this franchise.
On MLB Network, Joel Sherman and Dan O’Dowd recently stated the obvious: the Padres must show improvement in the 2019 season. The two also emphasized the need to start using the highly-rated minor league talent either on the field (as in Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias) or in trades to upgrade at positions of need.
“Well, duh”, said any Padres’ fan with a pulse. The Padres haven’t had a winning record since 2010 when the team finished second in the National League West with a 90-72 record and +84 run differential.
The roster that year included players like Yonder Alonso, Rene Rivera, Jedd Gyorko, Chase Headley, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Yasmani Grandal, Yangervis Solarte, Chris Denorfia, Carlos Quentin, Nick Hundley, Jace Peterson, and Joe Wieland. Less than a year after his arrival in August of 2014, A.J. Preller traded every single one of those players and fired manager Bud Black.
Since then, Preller has amassed a deep and highly-rated farm system, and his touted draft picks should start to arrive this year. But the Padres can’t just hoard all the top prospects. The team must be willing to give up value to receive value. Also, lest we forget, the draft has long been known as a crapshoot for good reason. Even first-round players fail at a high rate. And, although Preller definitely has an eye for identifying good young players, his record in adding veterans has been spotty at best.
— James E. Clark (@EVT_JClark) November 29, 2018
For example, in 2015 Preller signed pitcher James Shields to a four-year, $75 million contract, at that time the most lucrative free-agent contract in Padres’ history. Shields’ age alone (he was 33 at the time of the deal) should have caused second thoughts.
Although Shields had a promising 13-7 record his first year, he started the 2016 season at 2-7 before being traded. All was not lost as Preller did net Tatis Jr. in the trade. But, it should also be noted that Preller gave up a first-round pick when he signed Shields.
Other veterans like Matt Kemp and Jered Weaver also bombed. Eric Hosmer may rebound this season, but it appears that the Padres may have given up on another highly-touted acquisition, Wil Myers. Myers has been rumored to be on the trading block. Preller and the Padres cannot afford to blow it when making decisions this winter.
Rumors have been flying around connecting the team to a variety of players, especially starting pitchers and third basemen. The Myers experiment at third has obviously come to an end, and his name comes up frequently in speculation about various trade scenarios. The annual Winter Meetings will convene on December 9, and Preller may not make any moves until rubbing shoulders with his fellow general managers.
Moves must be made to improve the team at the major league level. A worthy goal for this year would be at least reaching .500. Under Preller, the Padres have not reached the break-even point and have records of 74-88 in 2015, 68-94 in 2016, 71-91 in 2017 and 66-96 this year. Judged by run differential, the picture has not been pretty: -81.0, -84.0, -212.0 (highest in MLB) and-150.0.
Of course, run differential only tells part of the story. This year, the Padres ranked dead last or toward the bottom in a number of other key measurements as well, including batting average (.234), OBP (.299), SLG (.393), OPS (.692), fielding percentage (.981) and pitcher strikeouts per nine innings (9.38).
As the hot stove heats up this December, Padres fans will be watching the front office carefully. The players the front office adds through trades or free agency could have a huge impact on the future success of the local team.