We’re Padres fans, we’re used to disappointment. Many of us were refreshing Twitter and MLBTradeRumors.com and whatever other sources we use, hoping to see the breaking news that the sport’s most intriguing prospect was coming our way. He isn’t. Shohei Ohtani is officially a member of the Anaheim Angels organization, so our part of the baseball world can move on. Giancarlo Stanton was the other big name in play who seemed to be holding up the rest of the offseason’s action, and his trade to the New York Yankees should allow the rest of the free agent and trade rumor mills to spring into life.
The Winter Meetings are opening today. Free agents and their agents will be talking to anyone and everyone for a new job. Front office types will be talking behind closed doors about trade scenarios. The Rule 5 draft will take place, which will shuffle some talent around the league. Many deals should take place this week, and the groundwork for many more will be set. Here’s what the team is looking for, and how they may go about finding the right men to fill those roles.
The biggest hole in the Padres roster is at shortstop. Last year’s infield defense was inadequate, especially behind a rotation with two of the most groundball-prone pitchers in the game in Luis Perdomo and Clayton Richard. The Padres have suffered through a decade of inadequate play at a critical position, and team chairman Ron Fowler has voiced his frustrations and intent to break this cycle with the addition of a quality player who can bridge the gap until Preller’s kids grow to be MLB players. The rotation is hardly 60% filled, and there’s no Ace to take the lead. Leftfield is up in the air with plenty of “meh” options but a power lefty bat sure would fit nicely in the lineup. Austin Hedges is locked in behind the plate, but he needs a backup, and preferably a veteran with a lefty bat. Finally, the bullpen can always use some depth, and Preller always seems to find some diamonds in the rough.
The team has already been linked to several free agents. At first base, the team has expressed interest in Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana. The team is interested in adding left-handed power bats as well in increasing on-base percentage. Hosmer and Santana generate high OBP and both excel defensively at the position. They would force Wil Myers into the outfield, but he’s come out and said that he’d accept the move, especially if it meant adding Hosmer, a player he respects. At shortstop, the team needs a two-to-three year player who is a step up from the Aybars and Ramirezes we’ve had to watch. Zack Cozart and Alcides Escobar have been linked in rumors, and both would appear to be quality matches.
A.J. Preller has been much more active in the trade market than he has in signing big-ticket free agents, so he may make some savvy swaps to fill team needs. With relative positions of strength at second and third base, a trade may include one of Yangervis Solarte, Cory Spangenberg, or Carlos Asuaje. Reliever Brad Hand was expected to have been traded mid-season last year, and he’ll certainly be one of the most valuable trade pieces on the market. Several teams have extra depth at shortstop, and the team has already checked in with the Phillies regarding Freddy Galvis. The Padres may talk to the Rays about Adeiny Hechavarria and the Rangers in the perennial Jurickson Profar rumor mill.
Rule 5 Draft
Each of the last two years, the Padres have hit the Rule 5 draft hard. The 2015 draft netted starter Luis Perdomo and outfielder Jabari Blash, and last year’s draft added three players in SS/OF Allen Cordoba, RHP Miguel Diaz, and C Luis Torrens. The team has a full 40-man roster, so they would need to move players to create room, but don’t be surprised to see a flurry of activity approaching this Thursday’s draft. J.J. Cooper over at Baseball America ($) logged a voluminous preview of the players who may be considered for selection this year, and some names may fit into the Padres’ needs. Former Padre prospect Burch Smith could fit nicely into the Padres rotation, and the team has the financial flexibility to do something wacky like claim Rusney Castillo and his contract away from the Red Sox.
This week will be full of rumors and transactions. Look for A.J. Preller to kick every tire in the lot and be involved in what seems like every deal being negotiated this week. It’s an exciting time for those of us who enjoy the back workings of the game. Throughout the week, we’ll try to keep you posted as the roster slowly begins to take shape.