For those breathlessly awaiting the return of speedy outfielder Travis Jankowski, well, it appears you will be waiting a while longer. “Freddy” as he’s affectionately and counterintuitively known around here, will be optioned to Triple-A after finally mending from a broken wrist he suffered in Spring Training. In a corresponding move, infielder, outfielder, and Gaslamp Ball punching bag Jose Pirela has been designated for assignment.
More than anything, this confluence of moves signals to me how far this team has come in 12-24 months. Sure, we still seem to kind of stink, but it wasn’t long ago we were ferociously debating the merits of players like Jankowski and Pirela as if they were the ones who would carry us to the promised land. As it turns out, it’s players like Machado, Tatis Jr., and Chris Paddack that will probably bring the next winning Padres club, while Jank and Pirela are yet to touch the Petco Park grass in 2019. Whether they ever do again remains to be seen.
So Long, Amigo
Pirela, hitting .353/.401/.674 in Triple-A, is a decent enough bet to be claimed. With an 88 career wRC+, he’s already proven he can be a slightly below-average major league hitter, while offering average or slightly worse defense at a small handful of positions. I’ll fondly remember his run in 2017, when he was the club’s best hitter in the second half of the season. Thanks, Jose.
The Road Back for Jankowski
As for Travis, he’s off to a horrid start in his first 61 rehab ABs with El Paso, logging a .019 ISO slugging mark in the celestial environments of the Pacific Coast League. Talking with a friend yesterday, I realized an interesting quandary that could have ramifications on Jankowski’s future moving forward.
Here’s a question for you: Who’s playing outfield for San Diego in 2020? Heading into the year, it seemed one of the main organizational priorities was clearing our outfield logjam; theoretically, this would be done through trade—with the club hopefully being able to rebuild some of Wil Myers value in order to facilitate a bad contract swap, or via trading one of the slightly redundant corner outfielders they possessed in Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes. The hope, also, was that one of Manuel Margot or Franchy Cordero would establish themselves as the centerfielder of the future. In such a scenario, the club could keep Jankowski as a 4th or 5th outfielder, where his elite speed and defense could pay dividends.
Alas, it is nearly August, and I’m not sure how much more clarity the team has on this situation. Wil Myers, miscast again as a centerfielder, has absolutely cratered as a ballplayer—moved to a bench role, he has seemingly lost his timing at the plate, often flailing at pitches a la Chase Headley 2018. Like Headley 2018, his strikeouts are often followed by a hang-dog slump back to the dugout. It’s depressing to watch.
Meanwhile, Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe were two central reasons why the club maintained a .500 record leading into All-Star weekend, so it has become increasingly difficult to see the club trading either of them—especially considering the league-wide power binge that has cheapened the value of 40 home run hitters of their ilk.
Manuel Margot did not respond well to limited playing time early in the year, but has played well after the benching of Myers. However, will the club get enough plate appearances out of him to justify NOT exploring an upgrade in center in the offseason (looking around the lineup, it’s really the only position of serious instability). His contact-oriented approach will always have a very low offensive floor if he does not become an on-base threat.
Oh, and Franchy Cordero got hurt, again, at the worst possible time. Does the organization just give up on him next year? Do they bring him back as the fifth outfielder, or give that role to Jankowski?
More or less, the sad reality is that the Padres may be forced to play the same wait-and-see game next year with regard to Myers, Margot, Cordero, and Jankowski. None are likely to have a ton of trade value at the moment, but all of them offer enough potential to where you wouldn’t want to just cut bait for nothing. A surplus can turn into a deficit in a heatbeat, but sometimes a surplus just lingers, and lingers, and lingers...