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Padres Are In Wait-And-See Mode For 2014

Despite a payroll increase and optimism surround the current team, the future still has many question marks and it seems the Padres front office has put some of them there themselves.

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres have done a number of things that point to their belief that they will contend this season. Chase Headley is going into his last year before free agency and the team has not traded him and is not currently in negotiations to extend his contract. That's a win now move. One of their players that was a season away from hitting the market was Luke Gregerson, and they only traded him for another player that come October will be a free agent. Another win now move. The team signed a 36 year old relief pitcher to a 2 year, $15.5 million contract. Again a win now move. There a couple other little moves that also signal a competitive 2014, but I think you get the picture.

On the flip side, the team has hedged its bets some. The team did not give up many young prospects this offseason. The ones they did give up were in the trade from Alex Torres and Jesse Hahn, two young players who will be under team control for a long time. This combination of moves is certainly laudable. It gives hope to a fan base that has not seen a playoff game for its team since 2006. But, it does come with some curiosities.

Over in Atlanta the team is coming off a division-winning year and features a number of young players. They are certainly prepared to win now, even more so than the Padres. Yet, they have spent their offseason giving their young players contract extensions. Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel all got them and Andrelton Simmons is rumored to be next in line. None of these players were even close to free agency.

The Padres did nothing like that this offseason. Despite having young players like Jedd Gyorko, Everth Cabrera, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso, no contracts were given out that would buy out arbitration or free agent years. This is where it seems like the team is in wait-and-see mode. Cabrera and Grandal have both had injuries and suspensions that would cause apprehension. Cashner and Ross have only begun to find consistency when it comes to performing at a high level. Yonder Alonso is yet to find that. And Gyorko was a just a rookie in 2013, but still could have been an exception. The Padres are waiting on these players to earn something instead of showing faith that they know this is the core for the future. Both strategies are defensible, but the former is far more conservative and could force difficult decisions about who to pay if the young players hold up their end.

The wait-and-see approach does not just apply to the young players. Josh Johnson is signed to a one year deal and GM Josh Byrnes said recently that the team would make every effort to re-sign him if the right hander has a good year. And, of course, there is Chase Headley. The contract situation that will not go away. Recently, talk about it has even heated up again. But it is really just talk. The team is waiting to see what Headley will do in 2014 and then ostensibly compete with 29 other teams for his services in 2015 and beyond should they like what they see. There are alos the contracts of Huston Street and Nick Hundley who each have only an option year left after 2014. Ian Kennedy is in a situation much like Clayton Richard's 2013 where the team could cut him loose and forgo have to pay him for another arbitration year if his 2014 season is not up to snuff.

Hopefully, this is all just a matter of circumstance. That if there had been more consistency in ownership over the last number of years, then the Chase Headley contract situation would have been settled sooner. And that with many of the young players, if there were not for so many question marks surrounding them then they would have similar contract extensions to what other teams dole out to their young cores. And that players with options for 2015 will make good in 2014. However, I think there are some additional reasons with regards to a payroll as to why the team must wait-and-see before opening the checkbook any further than they already have. More on that later.