Ahh, baseball’s weird. A.J. Preller and the Padres treated the offseason like that trade-happy guy in your fantasy league when everyone expected them to be quiet. Now, with the baseball world anticipating another run of trades, the Padres responded by sending Abraham Almonte to Cleveland for Marc Rzepczynski. They stood pat, basically.
I’ve tried to write about this a few times and I really don’t know what to say. If the Padres really think they are contenders this season, that’s a little scary. Baseball Prospectus has their playoff odds at three percent. They have to make up six or seven games on teams like the Pirates, Giants, and Mets, a proposition made tougher because each of those teams projects to be significantly better than the Padres going forward.
Of course, there’s a chance the Padres really do contend down the stretch. The schedule’s not too bad, a few players should improve, and heck, anything can happen. Baseball’s weird, remember. But fans are supposed to be the ones with unrealistic dreams about miracle pennant runs. At some point, a front office is expected to sit down, evaluate what it has, and move forward in a direction best suited for the franchise’s long-term success.
It’s possible — likely, even — that the Padres did this. They’re smarter than us, for sure, and they have a bit more on the line. There’s little reason to expect that they didn’t try to move some players. Maybe they just didn’t find the right match on a deal, ran out of time, and decided not to pull the trigger on a less-than-desired return package. From all of the rumblings on Twitter, it at least appeared that the Padres were involved in a variety of trade discussions. Justin Upton here. Tyson Ross there. Craig Kimbrel to New York or Arizona or Saskatchewan.
What’s most surprising is that the Padres didn’t trade anybody? Justin Upton will at least net a compensation draft pick when he leaves via free agency in the offseason, but Ian Kennedy likely won’t and Will Venable and Shawn Kelley surely won’t. What about Joaquin Benoit? Sure, he’s got an $8 million club option for 2016, but it’s unclear if the Padres want to give that much to a 38-year-old set-up man with declining peripherals. Then there’s all the other guys, like Andrew Cashner, Ross, James Shields, and Derek Norris.
There’s an argument the Padres should have dealt a few of those players just to open up space to hold auditions for younger players for the second half. Allowing Austin Hedges to get every day reps behind the dish, for example, or opening up a rotation slot for someone like Colin Rea would have simultaneously prepped younger players for 2016 while also adding more talent into the organization.
The Padres can still make trades in August — so long as the player clears waivers — and in the offseason, but they’ve likely lost the chance to cash in on soon-to-be free agents like Upton and Kennedy. And, remember, in the offseason they’ll have to compete against the free agent market (one potentially heavy on starting pitching), where plenty of teams will fill their needs without the added pressure of an impending playoff chase. The Padres can recover from both this season and the missed deadline opportunities, but you can’t help but wonder if inaction set the organization back a few steps today.