Since 2009, Daniel Shoptaw of Cardinals Conclave has done a season preview of each Major League team by asking questions of fellow bloggers. This year is the ninth edition of Playing Pepper and Left Coast Bias and I were asked to talk about the upcoming Padres season, along with Richard Dorsha of East Village Times.
As you’ll see, we tried to answer honestly.
Playing Pepper 2017: San Diego Padres
Over at FanGraphs last week, Craig Edwards wrote about teams with the most “dead money”—that is, money paid to players who aren’t playing for the team that’s paying them. The Padres, somewhat surprisingly, are second on the list, with $35 million—over half their entire 2017 payroll—in contracts being paid out to old friends playing elsewhere, in 2017 alone.
It’s surprising because the dead money leaderboards are usually populated by large market clubs, almost exclusively. In fact, all of the teams surrounding the Padres—the Dodgers, Yankees, Angels, and Red Sox—qualify as such. Those teams are able to pay players to go away, in a sense, whereas small market clubs are less likely to part with millions of dollars without the chance of a tangible, on-the-field return. In other words, small market teams are, in general, less likely to get too cozy with the concept of sunk costs.
On the surface, it looks bad. It’s another area where the baseball commentariat can point out lowly San Diego and get a chuckle or two. In an ideal situation, you don’t want to be on this list, and a number of the players the Padres are still paying—Matt Kemp and James Shields to name two—conger up bad memories of bad decisions.
Think of it another way, though: the Padres are actually paying money, lots of money, to make their future outlook brighter. Let’s go through some of the players individually.
Faster than a roadrunner? (yes)
Faster than a coyote? (no)
Faster than a Billy Hamilton? (not yet)
Manuel Margot hit a triple in a spring training game last week, an event that was digitally recorded, uploaded onto the internet, and then embedded here:
The triple was encouraging because it came off big-league pitcher Tyler Chatwood, and also because it showed off some of Margot’s occasionally absent power. It also displayed his speed. By my hand-timed estimate*, Margot got from home to third in about 10.90 seconds, which is . . . fast. How fast, though?
It’s Prospect Week here at Padres Public, so I’ve decided to pop my head out of my apocalypse bunker, at great risk to my own personal safety, to discuss a matter of great import: whether or not Hunter Renfroe is actually going to be good. This message may self-destruct at any moment, so please read quickly but carefully.
Last week, ESPN Baseball Senior Writer, prospect analyst, and Top Chef enthusiast Keith Law released his top 100 prospects for 2017 ($). There was a bit of controversy surrounding Law’s list, as he ranked newly acquired White Sox uber-prospect Yoan Moncada, seen by many/most as a top 5 prospect, #17 on his list, noting Moncada’s ridiculous upside but worrying about his low contact rate. Responding to a reader question about Moncada’s strikeout rate, Law noted that “it’s not just the number, but how a player ends up there,” a suggestion that Moncada’s strikeouts are rooted in a deeper, more troubling problem, such as pitch recognition and/or plate discipline, or problems with his swing mechanics.
Over the weekend, MLB.com released their own top 100 prospect ranking for 2017, and on that list Moncada was 2nd only to his former organization’s top prospect, Andrew Benintendi, with no mention of any problems with his contact rate, and actually noting his increased patience in the 2nd half of the season as one of his many positives.
What makes this relevant to you, Padres fans, is that a very similar difference of opinion seems to have been a major reason in the range of rankings in Padres OF prospect Hunter Renfroe this off-season. Renfroe ranked 42nd on MLB.com’s list while, for the 2nd year in a row, he did not rank on Law’s top 100 list.
Listen to A.J. Preller talk enough, and you start to realize that he’s not necessarily all there in the moment. I don’t mean that negatively—I just mean that he’s probably thinking about something baseball-related as he finishes each sentence. His mouth is saying one thing, but deep inside his baseball-obsessed mind, synapses are firing at will about Dominican prospects and such.
The Padres had a press conference for Wil Myers earlier this week. Here, I’ve tried to figure out what Preller might have actually been thinking when he said various things.
What he said: Obviously, uh, here today to announce the—you know—to announce the signing of Wil Myers to a six-year contract extension.
What he was thinking: I wonder if there are any flights to Venezuela available tonight.
It’s old news now, but both Wil Myers and Yangervis Solarte were signed to contract extensions recently. By Section 2, Clause 4b of the internet’s manual on baseball writing, we’re still allowed to write about it.
Myers inked the bigger deal: six years and $83 million with an option for a seventh year, a contract which buys out three—and potentially four—of his would-be free agent years.
It’s a good deal in a basic, big picture sense. Myers is fun and young and the Padres have money to spend. The payroll over the next couple of years is going to sink to near-embarrassing levels, and even though this deal won’t technically do much to raise it (for now), it’s still a good way for Padres brass to show that they’ll continue to shell out money when necessary.
Tom Verducci, respected baseball writer and talking head, wrote an article earlier this week about why he won’t vote for any known steroid users for the Hall of Fame. That’s a fine premise, really, and even though I clearly disagree, I can’t rail against the mind-set too vigorously. It’s fair, I guess.
What I can rail against are the specifics of Verducci’s article because, you know, I have both the time and awareness for nuance. Without going full FJM-style, here are a few things to chew on:
At one point, Verducci compares Fred McGriff to Barry Bonds, wondering what would have happened if McGriff went to BALCO and Bonds did not, going so far as to jerry-rig a virtual final stat line for each player. Okay, fine. The kicker is that Bonds would have still out-homered the Crime Dog, 599 to 564, and that’s without mentioning the obvious: that Bonds was a world-class outfielder and base runner and that McGriff, despite his full endorsement of Tom Emanski’s fielding videos, was a sub-par defensive first baseman with 72 career stolen bases.
The Padres don’t need to sign any more free agents. The goal, clearly, isn’t to win in 2017, and the team, as currently constructed, will probably be lucky to sniff 70 wins. Still, undervalued free agents can come in handy for a couple of reasons: 1) the Padres have to finish a 162-game season, and they may need more cavalry just to get there (especially on the pitching side), and 2) free agent rehabilitation projects can turn into valuable trade chips by late July.
It’s hard to oversell just how important the Drew Pomeranz acquisition was. Though not actually a free agent pick-up, Pomeranz was nabbed for close to nothing (Yonder Alonso) and, just a few months later, exchanged for one of the Padres most intriguing prospects, right-handed pitcher Anderson Espinoza. Fernando Rodney, an actual free agent signing, was turned into Chris Paddack last June, another interesting (if now injured) pitcher. Are there any free agents left who could be Pomeranz-ed or Rodney-ed into something useful by mid-summer?
First, let’s run down MLB Trade Rumors top remaining FAs, published on Christmas day:
Believe it or not, I don’t have an actual Hall of Fame vote. But if I did, here’s what mine would look like.
On the Ballot
Barry Bonds—In 2004, Bonds’ worst month was May, where he hit .250/.532/.542. He had 29 walks and four strikeouts in 77 plate appearances . . . in his worst month of the season. At one point in 2002, Bonds—the game’s preeminent power hitter—went 20 straight games without striking out, racking up nine home runs, 24 walks, and a 1.622 OPS over the stretch. Warts and all, you can’t have a respectable Hall of Fame without Bonds.
Bonus points for:
- Posting a .480 on-base percentage in his final season, at age 42.
- Going 30-for-33 on steal attempts over the last six years of his career.
Roger Clemens—Clemens won at least one Cy Young award on four different teams (he won seven total), spanning three decades. And he should have won more. In 1990, he lost out to Bob Welch, despite racking up over seven bWAR more than Welch (Welch went 27-6 vs. Clemens’ 21-6); that’s like a full Max Scherzer of separation. He also could have/should have won in 1988 (finished 6th), 1992 (3rd), 1996 (no votes), and 2005 (3rd). Sure, there’s a big ol’ elephant in the room here, but like with Bonds, Clemens was too good to keep out.