“Dana, I’m what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man, and I’ve failed much more than I’ve succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, “Where are we going?” And it starts to get better.” – Calvin Traeger, Sports Night
Towards the end of the second and last season of the great, short-lived Aaron Sorkin dramedy Sports Night, fictional sports network CSC is bought out by a holding company named Quo Vadimus, owned by the character quoted above. Quo Vadimus is Latin for “where are we going?”, a question Padres fans should be starting to ask themselves as we wind down the 2013 season and start looking ahead. In a series of posts, I will ask that question and hope to provide some answers. This first installment will focus on who should stay, go, and be added to the Padres outfield.
The Current State Of The Padres Outfield
Apparently, Carlos Quentin’s knees are basically destroyed. Cameron Maybin’s wrist may never be the same. Kyle Blanks’ gigantic body was likely never meant to be playing the outfield more than part-time. Despite his current hot streak, Will Venable is probably best suited to be a 4th outfielder. Same goes for Chris Denorfia. Alexi Amarista and Logan Forsythe are bench infielders. Jesus Guzman and Mark Kotsay should have been DFA’d months ago.
Where Are We Going?
Actually, I think the Padres will keep most of the players listed, and with good reason. They have several role players who can help this team in multiple ways. This is certainly an area where the Padres could and should look to upgrade by acquiring a corner outfielder, but I expect if they do it will be a short-term solution as they hope for a future outfield containing both Hunter Renfroe and Rymer Liriano.
They can’t move Carlos Quentin. First, he likely won’t let them. Second, if the Padres could find someone to take on his contract, he couldn’t pass a physical. The Padres, for better or worse, are stuck with Quentin and will play him whenever he’s healthy enough to run, if that ever happens again.
They shouldn’t give up on Cameron Maybin. Trading for Maybin was great process. Extending Maybin was good process. The results since have not been great. The potential is still there. A nasty, lingering wrist injury derailed his 2013 campaign, but if it can be completely repaired, I expect he will return to his 2011 form, or at least somewhere between 2011 and 2012, which would be good for at least 2.5 fWAR, and the sky is still really the limit.
Next, things get tricky. It’s been reported that the Padres are looking to upgrade at the corner outfielder position. This was reported last offseason as well, and nothing happened, so we’ll see. I think it’s a good idea, as I’d like to see an outfield bench of Chris Denorfia, Will Venable, and Kyle Blanks, with Blanks also sharing the role of backup first baseman.
Venable could be a hot commodity on the trade market this winter, and if the right deal comes along the team should take it, but I envision him in a super-sub role. He and Norf can play all three outfield positions, and they could share the role of first guy off the bench depending on the starting pitcher. As platoon starters, they aren’t exciting. As platoon 4th outfielders, they’re overqualified.
What this franchise needs in the outfield is to avoid giving significant playing time in the outfield to players who have no business being out there. What happens when 3 of your 5 best outfielders are hurt at the same time? You run out lineups that regularly include Jaff Decker, Amarista, Kotsay, and Guzman in starting outfield roles. This is not how you build a successful lineup that scores runs, and it’s not the way to successfully prevent runs either.
This is why the Padres should sign or trade for a starting right fielder. Not because Venable and Denorfia aren’t good enough, but because they are needed for depth. The injuries will keep coming. Being able to sub in average major league talent rather than replacement level talent is the difference between a winning record and a losing record.
Who Should They Sign?
The top outfield potential free agents are Hunter Pence, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, and Ben Zobrist*. All five of those players, should they hit the market, will receive multiple offers, and will sign contracts worth north of $10 million annually. This probably eliminates them. However, all things are possible in this life.
The 2nd tier includes Marlon Byrd, Nate McLouth, Coco Crisp*, Nelson Cruz, David DeJesus, and Rajai Davis. This is a real mixed bag. We’re looking at players who primarily play centerfield and get a lot of their value through defense, or we’re talking about a PED cheat who plays his home games in a bandbox and really only has one full season of well-above average play.
You can see why the Padres would talk about being more interested in pursuing upgrades through trades.
Who Is On The 2014 Roster?
Carlos Quentin $9.5m
Cameron Maybin $5m
Free Agent/Trade Acquisition ???
Will Venable Arb-Eligible ($4-5m)
Chris Denorfia $2.25m
Kyle Blanks Arb-Eligible ($1m)
*denotes team/player option