The 2019 San Diego Padres have 17 games left to play this year.
If the team goes 10-7 the rest of the way, they will end up with a 77-84 record.
Flip that, and a 7-10 record will bring them to 74-87.
In the unlikely event that this club pulls off a win streak and manages a 12-5 mark over the next three weeks, a losing record, at 79-82, will be their ultimate reward.
However you slice it, the next month of Padre baseball has very little to offer aside from evaluational opportunities and the time-honored refuge of losing ballclubs—those so-called moral victories of September. Yuck.
With about seven months left until San Diego plays another meaningful baseball game, it’s probably time to start turning our attention toward the 2019-2020 offseason.
Given the club’s repeated expression that 2020 is the expected opening to its window of contention, said offseason figures to be a very important one; factor in the much-ballyhooed roster crunch GM AJ Preller will be dealing with, and it may be fair to upgrade the situation from “important” to “critical”.
The club’s 40-man roster is full. Eleven players currently sit on the 60-day injured list, putting them temporarily off of that 40-man—but they will need space on that roster when they are ready for activation. Several prospects will need to be moved onto the 40-man in order to avoid the Rule V Draft this offseason (including Buddy Reed, Esteury Ruiz, and Trevor Megill), while the club still holds 40-man spots for fringe considerations like Travis Jankowski and Edward Olivares.
Those last two players are of particular note. With a much-discussed logjam in the 2019 outfield, the Padres have received little in the way of clarity regarding their on-grass picture for 2020. Uneven performance, injury, and stagnation have more or less muddied what was already an uncertain state of affairs with San Diego outfielders this year. With Wil Myers, Hunter Renfroe, Josh Naylor, Nick Martini, and Franchy Cordero all expected back next season, how will the team continue to make 40-man room for players like Jankowski and Olivares?
It’s with a question like this that we kick off what will be a new series over the next two weeks, wherein potential trade pieces for the 2019-2020 offseason will be evaluated. Hunter Renfroe, who figures to be the second-most expensive player of San Diego’s outfield group next year, is certainly a trade candidate worth taking a look at.
Someone’s Gotta Go
Let’s play a game. I’ll provide you with a few players and their recent statistical outputs—to remove as much bias as possible from the situation, I’ve stripped their names away.
Player A : .794 OPS, 1.6 WAR, 122 wRC+ in 73 career games
Player B : .241/.323/.416, 17 HR and 15 SB, 95 wRC+ in 141 games this year
Player C : .788 OPS, 1.9 WAR, 99 wRC+ in 129 games this year
Taken as a group, each of these players seems to offer a unique attribute. “Player A” seems downright hitterish, albeit in a more limited sample. Player B offers a unique blend of power and speed. Player C has weighted numbers indicating that he’s basically an average hitter; still, we can guess that strong defense is a large factor in that 1.9 WAR figure.
Now, what if I told you that Player A, Nick Martini, was available for near the league minimum next year? What if I told you that Player B, Wil Myers, will be in the first $20MM season of a massive, likely untradeable contract in 2020? What if I told you that Player C, Hunter Renfroe, was likely to see his first-year arbitration figure land somewhere in the $4MM-$5MM dollar range?
The Monetary Factor
Back in 2017, A’s slugger Khris Davis made $5MM in his first trip through arbitration. Davis is a slugger who, via Baseball Reference’s Similarity Score calculations, rates as one of Hunter Renfroe’s closest comps to this point in his career. While Davis is an awful defender and Renfroe has turned into quite a good one, Davis had accomplished more at the plate by his first trip to arb, so it’s reasonable enough to assume that his $5MM designation is something of a safe ballpark for Renfroe this offseason.
There will be those that assume that $5MM is a palatable sum for a front office that recently shelled out high-dollar guarantees to Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer. However, placing too much faith in this ownership group’s proclivity toward spending money would be exactly that—faith.
According to Spotrac, during no season in the Fowler/Seidler era have the Padres recorded a top-20 payroll. In 2017, they scraped near the bottom, at 27th, and even their 2015 “spending spree” resulted only in the 21st-largest payroll in the sport (or 10th-smallest, depending on your personality).
Next year, the Myers contract jumps to $20MM. Machado, Hosmer, and Garrett Richards remain on the books, and the club will likely have to eat the second year of Ian Kinsler’s contract. $8.5MM remains earmarked for Hector Olivera. In total, nine players, including Renfroe, will pass through arbitration. The result? What projects in 2020 to be the 13th-largest payroll in baseball.
It’s possible that the Padres will be looking to add, not subtract, to those on-book commitments. It’s also possible that, true to their prior behavior, they will attempt to buttress their high-AAV players with as many league-minimum pieces as possible, a la Martini and Josh Naylor.
For clubs in need of a right fielder this offseason, the free agent market will not present many options better than Renfroe. The best player available in right for next year is, arguably, either Adam Eaton or Nicholas Castellanos; however, Eaton is likely to have his $9.5MM club option exercised and Castellanos is the kind of defensive liability that could wither for a while on the free agent vine, despite his second-half warpath at the plate.
After that, teams will be able to pick through either old (Adam Jones, Nick Markakis), old-ish (Kole Calhoun), or inconsistent (Avisail Garcia, Yasiel Puig) players.
Hunter Renfroe, at $5MM, could make sense on a lot of rosters.
As with any potential trade, the potential return is of critical importance. Simply put: what could the Padres expect to get for Hunter Renfroe on the trade market?
It was just this trade deadline that the Padres dealt “outfielder” Franmil Reyes and pitcher Logan Allen in return for consensus top-50 prospect Taylor Trammell. The inclusion of those two former players was also a key in the Reds’ acquisition of starter Trevor Bauer. While Reyes offered more control than Renfroe will, he is also a DH-only player. Could Renfroe be part of a package that helps San Diego land either A) another prospect jewel or B) a much-needed frontline starter?
Even if such a trade isn’t likely, it would be hard to believe that Renfroe would not, at least, return a promising 7th-inning option to help bolster San Diego’s uncertain bullpen mix.
Either way, a trade of Hunter Renfroe may not be what you want. But it may be the most obvious option on AJ Preller’s Winter Meeting agenda.