The Padres find themselves at 39-40 after a heartbreaking 13th inning loss to the Phillies. The list of games that the Padres should have won but didn’t in 2013 is getting lengthy. Let’s just say, should the Padres miss the playoffs by one game, we’ll have a tough time pinpointing the one (or two) games that would have made the difference. There are a lot of candidates.
But nevertheless, the Padres are 39-40. Which is good enough to be within 3.5 games of division leading Arizona. This puts the team in an interesting situation. They are likely good enough to compete and potentially win the division. Are they good enough to make any noise in said playoffs? Strangers things have happened but on paper, no, probably not. But could they be?
The Padres are beginning to pop-up in various trade rumors. We won’t spend to much time on whether they are buyers or sellers. It seems clear the team needs to improve, whether that be by addition, subtraction, or both.
But what of 2014? The Padres have put a plan in place that appeared to be aimed at 2014. Theoretically, young pitching arms like Luebke and Wieland will be healthy by then. Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal would have another season under their belt. Casey Kelly would return. That was before the Padres, based both on better than expected play and a weaker than expected NL West became competitors for the division. I’m of the opinion that when the opportunity presents itself, you take a shot at the playoffs. There are no guarantees in baseball. There is no guarantee that because you are good this year that you will be next year. It’s why I had no problem with the Padres hanging onto Adrian Gonzalez to make a run in 2010 despite it costing the Padres some of his value in trade. It’s why I thought the Nationals should have let Strasburg pitch through the playoffs and take a shot at the World Series.
So how much, if any, of the 2014 and beyond plan should the Padres be willing to part with for that shot? I’d say not much. Moves that are limited risk to the Padres, that cost few prospects and return controllable players should be what they are looking at. But that’s a post for another time. Today I thought we should look at who the Padres absolutely, under no circumstances, should part with. Ladies and gentlemen, The Untouchables.
A quick word on untouchables. If you want to extend the metaphor to it’s absurd zenith there is no such thing as an “untouchable.” Every team has a price for every player. But let’s assume for this that there is no Mike Trout and Jered Weaver for Austin Hedges deal on the horizon.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES
These are the guys that the Padres should not part with no matter what (unless the aforementioned Trout/Weaver deal presents itself).
Austin Hedges (Single A – Lake Elsinore Storm)
The jewel of the Padres farm system, non-pitching version, Hedges has been everything as advertised for the Padres so far. It took $3 million to lure him away from his UCLA commitment (where he would currently be enjoying a national championship) and it looks like that’s been money well spent. His defense has been as advertised (by now you have no doubt seen the 5 second clip heard across Padre land showing Hedges arm and quickness) but his bat has come to life in Lake Elsinore. Showing a slash line of .275/.352/.435 to go along with his defense. Hedges is now the #13th ranked prospect in baseball per Baseball Prospectus Mid-Season rankings.
Max Fried (Single A – Ft. Wayne Tin Caps)
Another of the UCLA commits that the Padres were able to lure away, Max Fried was the 1st high schooler taken in the 2012 draft. The Padres made him a 1st round pick and he quickly became one of the most highly touted prospects in the Padres system. In fact, per MLB.com, Max Fried was the number 1 pre-season prospect in the system. He’s striking out hitters at nearly a 1 per inning pace (55 in 59.1 IP). The Padres long-term plans directly include Max Fried at or near the top of their rotation.
Joe Ross (Single A – Ft. Wayne Tin Caps)
Joe Ross, yet another might-have-been-Bruin and younger brother of current Padre Tyson Ross his ceiling seems to be as high as any of the Padres pitching prospects. Which, considering the group, is a pretty high ceiling.
Robbie Erlin (MLB – San Diego Padres)
When one of the two biggest problems you have is starting pitching at the Major League level, it would make zero sense to trade away someone who could help immediately. Erlin has been sharp in his two starts at the MLB level and with Clayton Richard on the shelf for an undetermined amount of time, Erlin may finally be in a position to cement he’s position in the rotation.
Jedd Gyorko (MLB – San Diego Padres)
His name never comes up in trade rumors. But it always comes up in talks about extending him to keep him in San Diego longterm. Let’s keep it that way.
Kevin Quackenbush (Triple A – Tucson Padres)
The closer of the future is one step away from tending to Luke Yoder’s garden in San Diego. And he may be needed sooner rather than later if the Padres remain in the race but keep giving up late inning leads.
Cory Luebke (MLB – San Diego Padres – DL)
The potential for a rotation that includes Luebke, Erlin, Wieland and eventually Fried and Ross is exactly the plan the Padres put in place between trades and a renewed draft strategy. Not that anyone is trading for a pitcher rehabbing from Tommy John, but just as well. He shouldn’t be shopped.
That’s the list. Other teams? Move along when you see these names. Now, to end, a quick list of names (rapid fire style) that, while not untouchable, would take some kind of remarkable package to make trading them seem tolerable.
Under (Almost) No Circumstances
Agree? Disagree? Ready to just blow the whole thing up? Or simply stand pat and wait for 2014? Let me know in the comments. You’ll find more ramblings every Friday right here and ramblings of the 140 character variety on Twitter @LeftCoastBias