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:

Mark Trumbo—Pass.

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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.

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It’s everybody’s favorite time of year – Hall of Fame voting season! Every year, we gnash our teeth and argue in circles over mostly stupid things. The most recent trend seems to center on excluding players who played during the “Steroid Era” (but not those who we perceive as being clean, because you can just tell…you know?), which completely avoids context and usually devolves into general shouting at clouds. And then there’s Curt Schilling, who deserves to be in, but is an all-around awful/racist/xenophobic human being…which was probably enough to keep him out (for now), but several writers have finally decided he was bad because he posted a picture a shirt implying journalists should be hanged. Which is awful, but that was the tipping point? Anyway, enough garbage – we’re here to talk about Trevor Hoffman’s candidacy.

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Padres sign LHP Clayton Richard to a one-year, $1.75 million deal (plus incentives).

Richard was on the last good Padres team, way back in 2010, three or four regime changes ago. He was in that year—and in his other “good” seasons—very much a not-quite-league-average innings-eater. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, really. Throw together enough Richards and Jon Garlands and Wade LeBlancs and, somehow, you end up with 90 wins.

Richard left San Diego in 2013, spent 2014 in the minors and/or hurt, and resurfaced in 2015 with the Cubs, this time as a (league-averageish) reliever. After a disastrous start to 2016, the Cubs cut ties with the lefty, and the Padres brought him back. In 13 games in San Diego, primarily as a starter, the 32-year-old defied the odds. He posted a 2.52 ERA while balancing on a tight rope and juggling three mint condition Chris Denorfia bobbleheads. In other words, he struck out 34 and walked 24 in 53 2/3s innings, which isn’t supposed to work out to anything close to a sub-3 ERA.

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Padres sign Jhoulys Chacin to a one-year, $1.75 million deal.

Chacin, once upon a time, pitched to a 120 ERA+ for six years in Colorado, which qualifies as the third-greatest human feat of the decade. That stretch ended in 2014, though, and it ended poorly—Chacin’s final year with the Rockies saw him post a 5.40 ERA in 63 1/3 innings before succumbing to season-ending shoulder rehab. Since then he’s bounced around, to Cleveland, then to Arizona, then to Atlanta, then to Los Angeles. Last year, split between the Braves and Angels, he threw 144 innings with a 4.81 ERA, mostly as a starter. The surface-level numbers don’t look great, but Chacin’s 2.16 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the second-best of his career, and his 3.94 DRA ranked right between Sonny Gray and Vincent Velasquez (and ahead of Jake Arrieta).

Dig deeper, and there’s more good news. Chacin’s fastball averaged 92.95 mph last September, its highest mark since April 2010. In 2014 and 2015, when Chacin was battling the shoulder issues, his fastball velo dropped to 89 and change. So the improved heater works as a positive sign for two reasons: 1) that he’s healthier and 2) that he’s more effective at getting batters out.

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It’s doesn’t make much sense to talk about the 2018-2019 free agent class for a lot of reasons, perhaps most obviously because it’s a long time away. But we’ll do it anyway.

When the Padres went for it a few years back, it was exciting. Even though there were some questionable deals, it was still exciting. Looking back, though, with the knowledge we have now, it was maybe a little less exciting. Matt Kemp was getting older and, in many ways, in severe decline. Justin Upton was only brought on for one year. Wil Myers didn’t have a clear position to play. Derek Norris was just, kind of, a guy. Will Middlebrooks. Never did understand why Will Middlebrooks was always mentioned as one of the big acquisitions of that offseason, but it feels right to mention him here. James Shields was surprisingly available for relatively cheap, and for good reasons. Craig Kimbrel was still good—great, even—but he wasn’t Craig Kimbrel

The Padres were hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, essentially, and instead . . . well, maybe they did catch lighting in a bottle. That doesn’t sound too pleasant, really. Either way, things didn’t work out. Just looking back at that offseason retrospectively—and we kind of knew this in real-time, too—we can say that the Padres tried to half-ass their way into a contending team. Sure, they bumped the payroll up over $100 million and added some legitimate talent, but they also moved prematurely, without a winning cast of players surrounding the high-priced newcomers.

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Luis Perdomo may have had the most lauded 5.71 ERA/71 ERA+ season of all-time in 2016.

While I think there’s a tad bit of hyperbole around Perdomo’s 2016 campaign, given the circumstances, it was, indeed, quite the story of an in-season turnaround. After getting shelled to the tune of a 10.04 ERA and 47 hits in his first 26 innings, primarily as a reliever, the Padres stuck Perdomo in the rotation and watched him . . . turn into a pretty good pitcher. There are still some concerns, sure, but by September, Perdomo was good for six or seven innings a start, double digit ground balls, and a 6-to-1 K:BB ratio. The improvements were obvious.

Right now, he might be the de facto ace for 2017, which says more about the rotation than Perdomo. Still, Perdomo’s last few months give hope that one day he might be able to develop into a real ace or, more likely, a reliable mid-to-back-end starter on a good team. Under control through 2021, at least, it’s possible that Perdomo actually becomes a steady starter on a good Padres team. The Padres goal, in a strict forward-looking “yup, we’re rebuilding” sense, is to do everything they can to make sure Perdomo fulfills those expectations, and that when 2019 or 2020 rolls around, they can comfortably pencil him into a big-league rotation, hopefully around names like Anderson Espinoza, Adrian Morejon, and Cal Quantrill. Here’s my plan, then:

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As we speculated last night, the Padres were active in today’s Rule 5 draft, although they didn’t grab any of the players we suggested (outside of a brief encounter with Justin Haley). A series of trades netted San Diego the top three players selected in the draft, an unprecedented Rule 5 romp. Here are those players:

Miguel Diaz, RHP, Brewers

Diaz is a 22-year-old righty who spent spent four years in rookie ball before jumping to Single-A last season. The results were largely impressive: in 94 2/3 innings, Diaz posted a 3.14 strikeout-to-walk ratio while surrendering just seven home runs. Ultimately, with young players and limited pro experience, scouting reports often provide a better glimpse than the stats. Grant Jones scouted Diaz back in June at Baseball Prospectus, clocking him at 95-96 with the fastball (he touched 98) while handing out positives marks on both the slider and change.

It’s not a surprising pick. As we discussed last night, Preller and the Padres love power arms, and Diaz definitely qualifies. While it makes some sense to slot Diaz right into the starting rotation, if he sticks, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Padres started him off in the bullpen, where they can more easily limit high-stress innings and keep the pressure low.

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Rumor has it the Padres are expected to be busy in baseball’s Rule 5 draft, set to go down tomorrow morning at the Winter Meetings. Last year the Padres took four players in the Rule 5, and two of them ultimately stuck in outfielder Jabari Blash (later acquired via trade) and righty starter Luis Perdomo. So, in the spirit of wild-ass-guessing, who might the Padres grab this year?

Jairo Beras, OF, Texas Rangers

Berras is here for one reason. He was the dude involved in an age-related kerfuffle back when he signed with Texas in 2012, and A.J Preller was heavily involved in both scouting and signing him. He doesn’t necessarily make a ton of sense beyond that, but sometimes familiarity trumps all. Beras has been slow to develop after putting the suspension behind him, having just cracked High-A in 2016 as a 21-year-old. Beras did have his best offensive season last year, hitting .262/.306/.511 with 54 extra-base hits, but that performance came in the offense-friendly context of the California League. Beras has other flaws, too. He’s walked in just 6.3 percent of his professional appearances, there’s plenty of swing-and-miss in his game, and he projects as a so-so corner outfielder at best. Think of a younger version of Jabari Blash, which ultimately means he’s probably superfluous on a team with a lot of young outfielders.

But, still, Preller has history with him.

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