Last week’s swap of surprise All-Star Drew Pomeranz to the Boston Red Sox for top prospect Anderson Espinoza was a sign that the Padres are in full-on seller mode. With the trade deadline of July 31st less than two weeks away, it’s more than likely that the Padres will make some moves to better position the organization for 2017 and beyond. With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the position players that might be dealt.
Derek Norris: The Padres have a relative position of depth at catcher. Christian Bethancourt has proven himself capable behind the plate and the bat plays up enough that he’s seen some time in the outfield as well as off the bench. Top prospect Austin Hedges has long been considered one of the best defensive catcher prospects around, but his performance in El Paso this year has quieted the critics of any concern about his hitting. Hedges has nothing left to prove in the minors and needs to be a daily starter, but he’s blocked at the MLB level by Norris. While Norris had a rough start to his season, his bat has gotten better each month. Since the start of June he’s been hitting at his career average with no sign of injury or fatigue. Fangraphs’ analytics have him ranked in the top five of all catchers defensively, so he will be a major asset to any team needing help at the position. With two more years of arbitration ahead of him, he comes at a more affordable price than Jonathan Lucroy and should still be on the upswing of his career. With Yan Gomes potentially being sidelined for the season with a separated shoulder, the Indians are in a division race and have a sudden need, and their prospect talent is among the richest in the game. The Rangers are another team with a potential to upgrade at catcher with Robinson Chirinos and Bobby Wilson currently manning the position.
Yangervis Solarte: The charismatic utility infielder is having the best season of his career for the Padres. Mainly starting at third base, he has put up an OPS+ of 138 while playing steady defense. The entire offense seemed to perk up when he came back from the DL, and he’s handled the cleanup slot with aplomb. Any team can use a utility IF with a plus bat, and he’s under team control until 2020. He’ll certainly draw some interest, but I selfishly want to see him in brown & gold for years to come. He’s fun to watch, and he seems like an emotional boost. We all love Soley.
Melvin Upton Jr: When "Bossman, Junior" was the remora to Craig Kimbrel’s great white shark trade, nobody expected much of the overpaid outfielder. He’s done everything anyone could have wanted to wash that reputation away. From stellar defense in left field and center to clutch hitting to heart-stopping speed, Upton has established himself as a premium athlete and a great teammate. While his hefty contract runs through the 2017 season, he is finally playing up to (agruably above) his salary and can be an immediate impact player to many contending teams. At the top of the list of teams with outfielder needs are the Giants, Royals, Yankees, and Nationals.
Jon Jay: Before suffering a forearm fracture that has shelved him for over a month, Jay was holding down the fort at leadoff and in center field. His offensive numbers fall right in line with his career norms and the glove looks as good as ever. Playing out the final season of a team-friendly contract, he could be a relatively affordable rental player for the Royals or Nationals.
Matt Kemp: Say what you want about defense and OBP, but Matt Kemp can still hit a baseball really hard. Any team looking for a DH or bench bat with occasional outfield duties might be interested in his services. A big part of the motivation to move Kemp is stuck in AAA, as Hunter Renfroe is in a similar spot as Hedges, with nothing more to prove but no role on the MLB roster as of yet. Expect the Padres to eat a big chunk of the >$54mil remaining on his contract if they want to move him to open up an opportunity for the power-hitting Renfroe.
Wil Myers: The All-Star first baseman is having a breakout season, and most of us fans envision him as a centerpiece of a building franchise. While the front office has stated that they don't want to trade him, everyone has a price. Other teams may view him as a potential outfielder, but he's proven himself to be one of the best defensive first baseman in the league already. Surely there will be suitors, but the asking price will be astronomical. I want to see #4 manning the first base bag for a long long time.
It’s clear that the Padres aren’t contending this year. The front office will probably assemble a team next year that is competitive with a chance to do something "if the stars align" similar to this season, but the sights are locked on to 2018 and beyond. Whether a move is made to clear salary and acquire prospects or to open up an opportunity for an up-and-comer, the team on the field at Petco Park will likely look different next month from the lineup we see today.