Well, they did it. Hooray.
The Padres broke the 76 win curse, winning more games this season than they did in any of the previous three seasons. Unfortunately, they only beat the previous two seasons by one win, finishing with a 77-85 record. Unfortunately-er, had they stuck to the 76 win streak, they would have had a protected first round pick in next year’s draft, as tying with the 76-86 Reds for the 10th worst record in baseball would have given the Padres the 11th and last protected pick in the draft.
Had they done that, they could have signed a free agent this off season who received a qualifying offer from their current team, and they wouldn’t have had to give up their first round pick to do so, surrendering their 2nd rounder instead. As the Padres also have a pick in between the first and second rounds in the 2015 draft due to the competitive balance lottery, losing a 2nd rounder wouldn’t have cost them much, as they’d still have two picks in the top 50.
Those who thought I was being a bad fan because I was rooting for the team to finish in the Bottom 10, how does that one extra win feel? Was it worth it? As it stands, the Padres will now own the 13th pick in next year’s draft (for the third year in a row), too high to consider giving up for a free agent, especially considering the talent available in free agency this off season.
That’s one option for improving the team off the table. Should we give up on the Padres getting better? Should we stop caring what the Padres do because they give us so few reasons to hope? I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a Padres fan through thick and thin, and anyone who has stuck with them this long can say that with 100% certainty because there have been so many more thin years than thick in all of our lives, no matter how old we are.
What that means is that we can’t let the Padres off the hook with apathy. They still have the chance to make this team into a contender in 2015 and beyond, it’s just going to be harder and take creativity. Hopefully under new GM AJ Preller, what we’ll see from the Padres is a change of culture, a new-found willingness to spend on long-term contracts, and a renewed creativity.
Bottom line: the Padres need to evaluate where they are, what’s available or might be available for the right price, how to get where they need to be, and then execute a plan that should realistically get them into the playoffs in 2015. They hired one of the top talent evaluators and hardest workers in baseball to lead them, and now they need to allow him to take this franchise to the next level.
That said, there are a lot of questions. Where will payroll stand in 2015? Will it increase, decrease, or stay the same? I haven’t heard much on that front in awhile. I don’t see why, from a fiscal perspective, it should go down. Attendance was slightly up and media money is the same or better. At $90 million, the team is spending about $20 million less than what I think they should be spending based on payroll to revenue ratio, but if it does stand pat at that number or close to it next season, it should be enough to field a winning team.
The Padres have three good starting pitchers in Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy, and Andrew Cashner, but they have a combined 6 years of team control between them. What are they going to do with their big 3? Kennedy is entering his last season of arbitration, and with over 200 innings and 200 strikeouts, he’s going to command around $9 million next year. Cashner has two years of arbitration left and Ross has three (he was a super 2 this year), and they will likely make between $4 million and $5 million each next year. Will the Padres trade any of them? Extend any of them? I’d suggest looking to extend Ross, and possibly trading one of the other two for offense.
What about the offense? It was historically abysmal for the first half of the year, and while it got better in the 2nd half, there are still many positions looking for major league regulars to fill them. The biggest holes are at 1st base, 3rd base, shortstop, left field, and right field, but there were also under-performers with long-term contracts at 2nd base and center field. How many of these holes can be filled from within the organization, and how many of them will have to be acquired from outside? I’d suggest, if the goal is to improve the team, think mostly outside the Padres.
The Padres are not without redundancy. They’ve likely got 4 starters they could pencil into the rotation right now if they wanted to, in the previously mentioned 3 plus standout rookie Jesse Hahn. Then they have 5-6 guys who could battle for the 5th spot, with top prospects Matt Wisler and Joe Ross possessing middle of the rotation potential. Or they could use that depth to trade from. They also have several utility players who may not have the talent to be starters in Yangervis Solarte, Alexi Amarista, Jace Peterson, and Corey Spangenberg. They don’t need all of them, and some of them could have value in a trade package. There’s also a few first basemen on the roster who fit that same category, and who they keep and let go there may depend on who they choose to make the starter.
Then there’s catcher, arguably the most productive position on the team this season. Rene Rivera had a breakout year and should be a starting catcher somewhere next year, but he’s also 31 years old. Yasmani Grandal had a strong 2nd half and is seemingly fully healed from ACL surgery, but was pushed to 1st base to keep both his and Rivera’s bats in the lineup. Both want to catch, and I’m guessing both will catch somewhere.
On the farm, Austin Hedges continued to show elite defense in AA, but a sub .600 OPS over a full season at the level leaves a lot of question marks as to whether he’s still an elite prospect, and how long it will take, if ever, for his bat to develop. I’m not giving up on Hedges, but I think Padres have a bird in the hand with Grandal, who is just 25 years old, and he’s more likely to make sense as the catcher for the next 5-10 years than Hedges. If I’m the Padres, I would try to extend Grandal this off season and trade both Rivera and Hedges. I know a GM in Chicago who might want to have his draft pick back.
I’ll be here all off season, speculating, analyzing, and holding the Padres accountable. A fancy new scoreboard isn’t going to put butts in seats, but winning games will, and we need to make sure the team knows we’re paying attention and have high expectations. I don’t just want to see modest improvements and general upgrades. I’m looking for wholesale changes, maybe a couple big splashes, and a playoff run in 2015.
The Vocal Minority is a blog that posts blog posts here on this website, mostly on Mondays. Follow me on Twitter. Come to Ohio and hang with me. Don’t leave me hanging.