Yesterday I wrote about blowing up the Padres. And while there is some logic behind arguments made to do just that, including some based on the frustration CEO Mike Dee has shown with the current club, the club is safe from an all out fire sale. Why? Because it will be perceived to be sending the wrong message.
I suspect that even if the best baseball minds all told ownership that the only way the team was going to win a world series in the next 10 years was to blow it all up and start over, they would not do it. This ownership group just arrived on the scene and they do not want to paint their legacy as the guys who gutted the roster. They also do not want a fan base to sit at home and make the crowds become even more sparse than they already are.
What is there to do instead? The goal that this ownership group will likely be that they will make as much noise as possible about change without reducing payroll or making trades that look like a firesale. You do that by creating scapegoats. The easy target as a scapegoat is Chase Headley. His contract will be up anyway. You trade him or let him leave and have the pre-written message that the team was not winning with him and it can move on without him. However, that does not signal that the team is changing direction for the better by itself.
When Mike Dee speaks of hard or tough choices, that likely means coaches, the manager and front office staff. Nothing signals a new direction quite like firing the manager. Buddy Black has been in San Diego through 3 different General Managers and his firing would arguable send more of a message than firing the General Manager that built the club. The GM gives the manager his players, but the manager sets the clubhouse tone. By firing him you are sending a message to the players in addition to everyone else that seasons like the last 4 in San Diego are no longer tolerated.
From there you are still left with mostly the same roster, but perhaps they will react differently to a different managerial style. Or perhaps the change alone will have players feeling like they have something to prove to the new guy. However, there will be some money freed up by losing Headley and others like Josh Johnson, Seth Smith and Chris Denorfia and I would expect the team to spend it somehow in order to send an additional message of change. Still, in the end there would likely be no major upgrades to the roster and no move towards a rebuild. It would be more of the same with different brand slapped on it. And only a slim hope of competing for a playoff spot in the coming years.