The Padres' alleged chase of the former San Francisco Giant, Pablo Sandoval, has come to an end. Supposedly the Padres were one of the final teams being considered and had offered the 3B a contract that was close to what he ended up signing for. If true, the Padres have moved up in the world from being the acquaintance that doesn't get invited to weddings to being the bridesmaid and not the bride. They are still a few more of these away from saying they are "always the bridesmaid and never the bride."
Padres fans aren't used to this kind of disappointment. Typically we feel the lost of players as they reach free agency or get traded. However in this scenario nothing was gained, but nothing was lost. The team is still the team it was before these rumors began. So where do they go from here?
Reports are that the Padres did not have all their eggs in the Pablo Sandoval basket. Even before this disappointment, the Padres reportedly made inquiries on Jason Heyward before he was traded to St. Louis. Similarly there was some kicking of the tires on free agent, and now Chicago White Sox 1B/DH, Adam LaRoche. Of course, they have been connected to Cuban free agent Yasmany Tomas since before the offseason started. There were rumblings about some talks about Reds OF Jay Bruce and Dodgers OF Matt Kemp. More recently there are some rumors about a trade with the Red Sox for Yoennis Cespedes (possibly involving Ian Kennedy) as well as one about some trade exploration with the A's Brandon Moss.
Tomas is interesting because of his youth, promise and mystery. He should attract plenty of their attention up until eventual signing and rightfully so. Bruce and Moss are coming off 2014 seasons that weren't as good as 2013 (and in Bruce's case other previous seasons) and would be buy low candidate. Teams hate to sell low, so it's a tough negotiation for either player unless the selling team is pretty comfortable moving on. Moss fits well since 1B was a void for offense despite it needing to be a position where a team gets the most. Putting Bruce in a corner OF spot muddles up things with Seth Smith, prospects Rymer Liriano and Hunter Renfroe, and potential signing Tomas, but those are things you can work out down the line. Cespedes could also end up in a corner OF spot, but putting him CF would surely upgrade the offense at the position.
In free agency the pickings are getting slimmer. The Padres could upgrade 1B with a signing like Mike Morse, but it not be as big of a bang for the buck as his 2014 numbers would lead you to believe since previous seasons were nearly as good (except for 2012). Kendrys Morales could also work at 1B, but is coming off an awful 2014 after not getting the contract he was looking for. A return to form would be a boost for the Padres. Asdrubal Cabrera is another that could use a return to form, but wasn't nearly as bad as Morales in 2014. The price could be right to attract the former all star. Chase Headley is still available, but whether either party wants to go down that road again is a big question mark. I would have no problem welcoming him back even if it comes with a pretty big raise.
The outfield free agents are almosst all corner guys and come with the same caveats as mentioned above with Bruce. Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera also carry the additional cost of losing a first round draft pick if they signed here. The Padres were seemingly willing to do that with Sandoval, so maybe they are still willing. Cruz's 2014 was fantastic, but he'll be 34 and his defense in LF is only slightly better than Carlos Quentin's. At least he doesn't seem likely to get hurt doing it. Cabrera is 3 years younger and offers a possibly similar amount of offense but with far less power. Alexis Rios is another player who is coming off a bad 2014, but has a nice history of providing offensive impact. Colby Rasmus can play CF and his power plays at Petco Park then he could be an upgrade there, but it's pretty risky given that it comes with an all or nothing approach.
Even with a free agent signing "splash" or too there is a pretty good case that the needle wouldn't move enough to impact the 2015 season in a major way. The team has a number of holes and question marks on the offense that aren't all going to addressed. They also have a handful of players that could be interesting if given major league time to prove (or re-prove) themselves. That means giving at bats to retreads like Cameron Maybin, Everth Cabrera and Yonder Alonso. More time to the similarly-aged Yangervis Solarte. And handing out time to Rymer Liriano, Tommy Medica, Cory Spangenberg and eventually Hunter Renfroe. While relying on Jedd Gyorko, Yasami Grandal and Seth Smith to be your core for the time being. It's not sexy, and it will infuriate people who want to see the ownership spend money, but it might help clear things up about where the money needs to be spent. Unfortunately it would come with Ian Kennedy and Joaquin Benoit's time ticking to free agency after 2015 and other pitchers like Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross getting one year closer. Every path is risky. As Buddy Black would say, "That's baseball."