It’s July 1st and the Padres are potentially buyers as we move towards the July 31st trade deadline. It’s a minor surprise, at least, and once again, after failing to do so in the offseason, the Padres are looking to upgrade their pitching staff. Lead owner Ron Fowler said so himself, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin.
Why does Fowler keep talking before acting when he so famously said the ownership group would “under promise and over deliver”? Why is he giving interviews to the LA Times in the first place? Shouldn’t he take a cue from Tom Garfinkel and stop talking for awhile? I’m not going to pick apart the Shaikin article. I’m much more interested in potential trade deadline moves the Padres could make in the next 30 days.
The Padres are 40-42 and have just passed the halfway point of the season. That’s not great, but it’s good enough for 3rd in the NL West, just 2.5 games behind the division leading Diamondbacks. The whole division is decidedly mediocre but tightly packed, and even the Dodgers have crept into the picture, still in last place but just 4 games back of the division lead.
With the division this wide open, the Padres have a real chance to win the division and make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Getting healthy on offense will be hugely important. Everth Cabrera last played on June 16th, and the Padres are 5-8 in his absence. That he hit the DL while Yonder Alonso and Jedd Gyorko were already there doesn’t help either. Getting any or all of those guys back soon will help the team greatly.
Still, the starting pitching has been less than spectacular all year, and the relief pitching hasn’t been all that great either. If the Padres want to contend, they need upgrades. But what should they be looking for and how much should they spend to get it? These are the questions. I have some opinions.
Don’t Overpay For a Rental
The Padres have been linked to Matt Garza and Ricky Nolasco, who will both be free agents after the season. The Padres have a deep farm system, and they can use that depth to add players, but they shouldn’t be spending a top prospect or prospects on a 2-3 month rental, especially now that there’s no free agent compensation for rentals.
For a player like Garza, the Padres should be looking to build around prospects former GM Jed Hoyer has experience with. Reymond Fuentes has been mentioned, as he’s raised his value quite a bit in AA over the first half of the year. If he’s the best prospect in the deal, do it. If he’s the 2nd best prospect in the deal, then it gets dicey. If I’m looking at the Padres Prospects preseason top 25 prospects list, the only players in the top 10 I’d be willing to make the centerpiece of a deal for Garza are Keyvious Sampson or Cory Spangenberg. For Nolasco, I’d spend less.
A deal for Garza that makes sense to me, considering what’s likely to be a seller’s market: Spangenberg, Fuentes, and Dean Anna. For me, that’s two prospects that are currently, in my opinion, in the 10-20 range, and one that’s not in the top 30.
It’s OK Not to Get a Potential Ace
Another Cubs starter that will likely be available is Scott Feldman. In fact, he’s already drawing interest from our NL West competition. He doesn’t have the Garza pedigree, but he’d be an upgrade to the pitching staff and wouldn’t cost as much. There are a bunch of guys out there like this, just like there were a lot of these guys available in free agency in the offseason. Some of them are rentals, some of them aren’t. Pick one and pull the trigger.
Feel Free to Sell Too
The Padres are positioning themselves as buyers, but that doesn’t preclude them from selling off some of their less useful parts. It’s been said that there’s been interest from the Orioles in Edinson Volquez. Have they seen him pitch? I’m not so sure. While the Padres likely wouldn’t get much in return for him, getting his volatility out of the rotation would be just about enough to make a deal worth while. If they can acquire a decent bullpen arm in return, even better.
At this point, Huston Street has been so bad this season that it might be hard to find any takers for him this season. If they can, they should do it. Move Luke Gregerson to closer and consider using the minor league depth to shore up the rest of the bullpen. Burch Smith has starter potential, but right now he’s likely best served in the pen, where he can pump up his fastball and not have to worry about stamina issues.
Don’t Do Nothing
Some teams in the hunt will look to ride things out with what they’ve got, hoping what got them to the position they’re in will be enough to get them into the playoffs and beyond. The Indians, for one, made a ton of moves in the offseason, and might consider letting those moves play themselves out rather than dealing at the deadline. This is the complete wrong idea for the Padres.
The Padres already blew a chance to upgrade their pitching in the offseason after publicly identifying the need. Now that they’ve recognized the need remains, sitting on their hands again would be the worst message they could send to the fan base. If they have the chance to make the playoffs and don’t do anything to make it more likely, they’re telling the fans that making the playoffs isn’t that important to them. They may have reasons, but those don’t fly with the fans.
Of course, all this could be moot by the All-Star Break. If they play poorly the next two weeks, they could potentially go from buyers to sellers. If they’re going to buy, maybe they shouldn’t wait that long to make their moves.