Last year, it only took until June 12 before I was forced to consider blowing up the Padres. This year it is July 2 and I am forced again to propose what the team might want to sell off this month. While the high hopes for the 2015 season have seemingly gone down the toilet, I would still argue that the team is in better shape than before. There are pieces to sell off, but in the end there's going to be a nice core of players that are still worth rooting for.
As always, when you talk about selling you have to talk about the players that will be free agents once the season ends. Sadly, the one that comes to mind first has also been the Padres best player this season. When Justin Upton was acquired this offseason, everyone took note that he only had one more year left on his contract. Whether the Padres won the World Series in 2015 or finished last in the NL West, in all likelihood Upton would be a free agent when the season reached its end. The Padres do have the option to wait until the season finishes, offer Upton what is called a Qualifying Offer and receive a supplemental 1st round draft pick in the 2016 draft should he sign somewhere else. With the team falling out of contention, the better choice is likely to find a team that could use his bat down the stretch and is willing to pay for it with something more valuable than a pick at the end of the 1st round. In that scenario, if you still hold out hope that the Padres would want to sign Upton as a free agent, then they could get a return for him before July 31 and then still be able to have him for future years. A long shot, of course, but better than saying adios and just pocketing a draft pick.
Here are some other free agents-to-be:
Ian Kennedy - After a resurgent 2014 season, it looked like Kennedy might be another candidate for a Qualifying Offer and a first round pick. However, he's struggling this season and the Padres might not want to risk offering a approximatly $14M one year contract to him. Even if they did, teams might get pretty shy about having to give up a 1st round pick of their own in order to sign him. The Padres were kind of in a similar situation with Headley last year and chose to deal him before the deadline.
Will Venable - For the second consecutive season, a long-time Padre seems to have his tenure with the San Diego club coming to an end. Last year it was Tim Stauffer who the Padres held onto after the deadline and allowed to go to free agency. Venable probably has a little more trade value and should find himself dealt once the team starts selling.
Clint Barmes - A.J. Preller's first free agent signing only signed a one year contract and I suppose could be on the block. Being that he's at best a backup SS at this point, there probably isn't a lot of trade value here and a team that's selling off pieces might want to hold on to a player with his versatility in order to weather the remainder of the season.
Joaquin Benoit - The Padres' 8th inning reliever actually has an $8M option year remaining of his contract (with a $1.5M buyout), but it's never been clear that the Padres would want to pay a 38 year old set-up-man another $6.5M. It might be better to deal him to a contender now, save the whole $8M and get a little something in return.
Shawn Kelley - When the Padres acquired Kelley, I thought they were acquiring a late inning reliever. At the time Benoit was ticketed to be the closer and the 7th and 8th innings were somewhat up for grabs. Not only did Kelley get bumped down the late inning pecking order when Craig Kimbrel arrived, but early struggles took him out of the running all together. However, he has turned things around of late and has showcased that he could be a nice add to a contender's bullpen.
Those are the strong candidates to be sold at the deadline and will be on everyone's list of who the Padres would be willing to trade. I left off Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson because they both won't be healthy enough to deal. I also have some other ideas of what the Padres could do if they feel a bigger need to restock the system after depleting last offseason with all the trades.
Andrew Cashner - The right handed Texan is still under team control for 2016, but that's it. He'll likely earn a sizable raise from his current $4M salary via arbitration. Losing him and Kennedy would be quite a loss to the rotation, but not so much that the Padres shouldn't listen to offers. A contending team that is looking to help both this season and next would be interesting. In fact, the Houston Astros could be one of those teams and would be a choice destination for the Conroe native if he were picking landing spots.
Yonder Alonso - The Padres control Alonso for even longer than Cashner (through the 2017 season), but hear me out. This could be a break out year for Alonso, but it also could be a nice sell high moment. We've already seen that Wil Myers looks pretty comfortable at 1B and even with a corner OF spot opening up with Justin Upton's impending departure, the AAA club has Rymer Liriano and Alex Dickerson waiting in the wings. What I'm saying is that the Padres have the flexibility to deal Alonso for a quality return. Many of the AL contenders have the flexibility to put Alonso at 1B or DH. One I'd look at is the Orioles who could see Alonso as their 1B of the future with Chris Davis about to be a free agent.
Even if they dealt all 8 of those trade candidates, I would call it a blow up or a fire sale. Just look at who would remain with the club: Matt Kemp, James Shields, Craig Kimbrel, Tyson Ross, Derek Norris and Wil Myers. Of course, Matt Kemp (contract), James Shields (opt out after 2016) and Wil Myers (injury) are near untradable to they'll be around no matter what. One could make the argument for a true blow up and then Kimbrel (signed through 2017, closers are expendable on a non-contender), Ross (under team control through 2017, could have a lot of value) and Norris (team control through 2018, Hedges could replace him) would be on the block, but I don't see the need for that unless a team blows them away with an offer. I would never advocate truly starting over from scratch. If you keep a good core together, there is always a chance that things could break their way, especially if the farm can get restocked a little.