Playing AJ Prellar - The Padres' Offseason according to the Anteater

If it’s the off-season it’s time for the annual Offseason Sim run by the amazing Max Rieper at Royals Review, who somehow plays commissioner and player agent controlling a bunch of baseball obsessed fans as they spend 72 hours in control of their favorite team. This is my fifth year and my how things have changed for the Padres in just those few years. The two big rules in this are that you can’t trade players with a no trade clause (so I couldn’t get rid of some of the worst contracts we have) and no extensions are allowed (which will play heavily into this). So without further delay, let’s see what the 2023 Padres look like.

The Start

Matt Carpenter exercised his option
Nick Martinez, Seth Lugo & Michael Wacha had their options or chose to decline their options
Austin Nola & Tim Hill were non-tendered

Don’t think this is a surprise in anyway, I followed the Padres in real life except for Nola and Hill, both of whom were expensive and performed poorly this year.

THE trade

Padres send OF Juan Soto to the Yankees for OF Spencer Jones, Ps Chase Hampton, Drew Thorpe, Will Warren, C Austin Wells and OF Brado Mayea.

It comes down to three things: a 4th rounder, one year and $33 million.
If Soto stayed on this team and left in free agency, which is what is going to happen baring some stunning reversal, I would’ve paid him $33 million for a year and would’ve received a 4th round compensation pick. And in this simulation, I couldn’t extend him even if I wanted. So I had to see what I could get for him to better my team in the short & long term. I had discussions with the Rays, Braves and Orioles which went nowhere and received inquiries about a joint Soto-Kim or Soto-Cronenworth deal. I wouldn’t attach my WAR leader without an even bigger boost in return, nor would I attach a bad contract to what would be my biggest move and biggest haul. In the end it came down to two teams; the Yankees and the Mets. Both teams offered six players, including numerous top prospects. The deciding factor to me was primarily that the Mets wouldn’t offer Jeet Williams and/or Drew Gilbert, two guys who would’ve been massively beneficial in the short and long term, even while offering four Top-10 prospects including Luisangel Acuna, Ronny Mauricio, Blade Tidwell, Alex Ramirez and potentially Kevin Parada. That, combined with the fact I could be sending Soto to a team I (could) face in the playoffs lead to me accepting the Yankees offer.

I doubt the six prospects combined will match one year of WAR for Soto, but that couldn’t be the deciding factor. Instead, it was about immediate to short term value and addition. I ended up with three legitimate starters in AA/AAA, a backup catcher with the potential to grow and develop further, a lottery pick outfielder who was among the best prospects in the recent international class, and an outfielder with strong Aaron Judge vibes including better defense and speed. Five of the six will be ready to join the team in no more than 2 years and all of them are cheap and controllable contributors at key positions. In terms of prospects, I got the Yankees 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th, 10th, and 11th prospects. Even considering the Yankees system is not in the top 10, this is nearly every bit of value that I gave up for him. In fact, most GMs in the Sim were stunned at what I received and thought I received almost the same amount of value, if not more, than we gave up getting Soto. Is that the case? Maybe. Perhaps someone else could’ve offered me more, but of the offers I had this was the best one.

Clearing out some Salary

Padres trade INF Matt Carpenter, P Alek Jacob, and INF Ripken Reyes to the Angels for RHP Nick Jones

Padres trade INF Jake Cronenworth to the Angels for OF Randy de Jesus and SS Capri Ortiz

Padres trade OF Trent Grisham and INF Eguy Rosario to Athletics for OF/1B Seth Brown

My first order from "Peter Seidler" was to get rid of some salary and get rid of it fast. I had free agents in mind I wanted to get, and I needed to clear some of the biggest contracts/albatrosses off the books. While Soto was the primary move, there were others that needed to be done.

Carpenter was a pure salary dump, and truth be told I traded less than I expected and got a decent lottery ticket. Losing Jacob hurts, but at the same time I question someone who uses trickery to get outs, and Reyes is nothing more than filler in El Paso. That’s a bunch of money and a roster spot wasted off the books.

The Angels were far more receptive to taking Cro and all his salary since he remains a young talented player who was shoved into a position that he never should’ve been in. For Cro, I got the 23rd and 27th prospects in arguably the worst system in baseball. Both players are under 20, both are at low levels of the minors, and both are distant lottery picks at best. But as I said, the goal was to clear out salary and trading Cro without including any money while still getting something of value for him was a big win in my book.

The A’s trade was my first of the sim, and I feel like I got a good return at a key spot. Grisham is what he is, and I’m done waiting for his bat to ever develop. Rosario is talented but I knew I could get better depth pieces elsewhere in FA that could play more positions. In exchange I got a very talented left-handed hitter who can play the outfield, first base or be the DH, and is clearly better than his numbers suggest. Ironically, he’s cheaper than Grisham in arbitration and available for more years, meaning I saved money in the deal as well. Even if he doesn’t play well, I have another option at multiple positions who has a chance to return to form as a hitter. Win-Win, and hey look at the A’s taking on salary.

In the end between these moves and Soto I cleared nearly $70 million in salary and brought it down to around $170 million. But it wouldn’t stay that way for long.

Welcome Home, to the bench!

Padres trade C Brandon Valenzuela, P Ray Kerr & Austin Krob for INF Brandon Drury

Padres sign INF Luis Urias - 1 year $3.5m

Padres trade P Garrett Hawkins to Orioles for SS/CF Jorge Mateo

Padres sign 1B Garrett Cooper to 1 year $5.5m deal

Padres sign INF Jurickson Profar to a 1 year, $3M deal with a $4M club option

I didn’t really set out to get huge chunks of former Padres back on the team but once some of these guys became available, I jumped at the opportunity. There’s no doubt I went overboard in terms of getting depth pieces; there’s only so many utility roles available and there’s four guys here (not including someone like Jose Azocar). One of last year’s biggest failures was in building an atrociously bad bench with two players who could only DH, and both of whom couldn’t hit. The way I see it, I’ve got multiple players who all, except for Cooper, play all around the infield and even the outfield.

In Urias, Profar, Drury and Mateo I have three guys who can play pretty much all over the infield and even the outfield (in the case of the latter two). Urias still has a decent bat and can play a solid field especially the middle infield. Mateo has the advantage of being a great runner and center fielder on top of covering the middle infield. Drury was successful in his time here and can play almost anywhere on the infield or be the DH. Cooper had a pretty solid time here and can play first base, so I can rotate him in and out accordingly with Brown or Drury.

In the end this will have to be sorted out at training camp but there are plenty of good options across the board. In addition, all of them combined cost me about $23.4 million with nothing of real value sent out, and none of them lasting beyond next season. Regardless of how it works out, the 2024 Padres bench will be a real strength however it straightens out.

Pitching, mostly

Padres trade OF Tirso Ornelas to the Brewers for P Eric Lauer

Padres trade RHP Henry Henry & LHP Eric Lauer for OF Victor Victor Mesa

Padres sign RHP Domingo Germain to a one year $5m deal

Padres sign RP Brad Hand to 1 year 2m deal

Padres trade INF Carlos Luis to the Brewers for LHP Ethan Small

Padres sign Hyun-Jin Ryu to a 1 year, $2M deal with incentives

The goal was to fill out at least 2 pitching rotation spots and try to add a little to the bullpen. Initially I was going to bring Lauer to fill out the 5th or swing spot, he cost little (I’m down on Ornelas) and had some real positive years with the Brewers. Then Miami and I spoke, and we performed our semi-regular name swap; but this time it was less of a joke and more of a value pick up. I sent Lauer and a minimal but funny named prospect for the Marlins’ 6th best prospect and someone with the talent to be a stud outfielder. Just imagine an outfield of him and Tatis running around.

From there it was about adding players a’la Wacha/Lugo who have a reason to try and improve their next contract. Germain and Ryu both were good in the past and fell on hard times/luck (some of it self-inflicted), but both got cheap deals and can build up their value under the tutelage of a master pitching coach. It’s also not like I need them long term with so many pitchers coming up in the farm, so best case scenario they perform great, leave at the end of the season (or maybe can be traded midseason if someone like Snelling is ready) and get more money next year. Hand was a nice cheap bullpen option who provides depth, can help shepherd some of the younger players and contribute to his former team. Finally Small is a nice depth piece, maybe a swingman right away, who still has time to develop and contribute.

The Big Free agents

Padres sign CF Jung Ho Lee to 7yr 260m deal

Padres sign P Sho Imanaga 7yrs $160m

OK so let’s get this out of the way; money gets thrown around like crazy in this off-season sim on a year-to-year basis. For context, in last year’s sim Aaron Judge received $500 million, Trea Turner $420 million (both went to the Yankees in the sim), Bogaerts $416 million and Correa $400 million. And Othani topped all of those (see the end of the article) In no way do I believe the Padres will or even should throw this kind of money at either Lee and Imanaga, and frankly if AJ Prellar walks away with these two players at those prices and lengths he ought to be fired. My mindset was simple, get two guys who can fill major holes in the rotation and line up, and in the end I accomplished that with the third and sixth highest contracts in the sim.

From the start the bidding for both Yamamoto and Ohtani went obscenely high obscenely fast (see end of this article for proof), and I had too many needs to throw all of that at one player. As such I pivoted quickly to the ‘second tier’ of Asian free agents with the goal of getting both on the Padres. In the end I got one of the best centerfielders in the class and a top-notch pitcher who can slide into the third spot. Both are expensive, and of course they give us more long-term contracts, but at the same time they meet clear needs of this team.

Lee gives me a good center fielder who can hit well and, worst case, he ends up in LF or even RF where his bat still makes him very useful and he can still play a good defense. Imanaga gives me an excellent #3 who can face batters with three good pitches and has shown the ability to dominate at the NPB. Neither of them are Othani or Yamamoto but I don’t need that, I need players who can contribute at key positions. In addition, these decisions were not just from a GM perspective but from a business and owner position. The Padres have two excellent young Korean players, one legendary Japanese vet and one young star from Japan. Sure, Ohtani and Yamamoto will get plenty of attention in their new homes, but no one has shown the commitment nor will have the interest level in Japan and Korea that the Padres will get. That alone is worth their contracts.

Minor League Deals: OF Adam Engle, INF Ehire Adrianza, RHP Corey Kluber, LHP Aaron Loup, RHP Julio Tehran, LHP Tim Hill, OF Trayce Thompson

Minor League deals always pop up at the end of the sim and it can vary tremendously who goes where, even if it makes little sense. Ironically, except for Adrianza, I again picked up a bunch of players who played for the Padres in the past. At the worst, it gives me some more depth in El Paso at a few different positions.

Fun Additional Facts

Shohei Othani went to the Mets on a 15 year contract worth $845m & Yoshinobu Yamamoto went to the Giants on a 13 year contract worth $480m

Obviously I had interest in both but when the money started flowing I figured it made more sense to pivot. Even taking into account I spent a bunch on Lee & Imanaga both combined were cheaper than Yamamoto. Hell every free agent I signed or player I got combined didn’t equal Yamamoto let alone Othani. I do wonder what this sim would’ve looked like had I sent Soto to the Mets instead…..

Rays trade Randy Arozarena, Tyler Glasnow, and Raimel Tapia to the Dodgers for Josue De Paula, Emmet Sheehan, Landon Knack, River Ryan, and Dalton Rushing

Yeah…..the Dodgers are not going to be fun in the slightest again this year

Seth Lugo signed for 3 years $33 million with the Giants, Michael Wacha signed for 3 years $45 million with the Royals, Blake Snell signed for 5 years $105 million with the Tigers, Josh Hader signed for 4 years $70 million with the Cubs.

I did look into resigning both Lugo & Wacha but in the end it was a bit too much money and too many years. I will admit I should’ve taken a longer look at re-signing Snell but I figured more for a younger pitcher with better consistency was a step up from a pitcher who flashes both high and low too much. As for Hader……bye.

Honestly this wasn’t as big of a trade year as before, I didn’t wheel and deal as much as I previously did because my focus was just on trading Soto/Cro and then going after 1-2 big free agents. I did inquire about a few players like Aaron Ashby, Joey Meneses, MJ Melendez & Max Kepler but nothing came of it.

Final Budget: $220, 357,142 (9th highest in the league). Goal Budget: $200,000,000

Probable starting lineup


Luis Campusano


Joe Musgrove


Garrett Cooper


Yu Darvis


Ha-Seong Kim


Shota Inagama


Xander Bogaerts


Hyun-Jin Ryu


Manny Machado


Domingo German


Jurickson Profar


Jung-Ho Lee


Roberto Suarez


Fernando Tatis Jr.


Scott Barlow


Seth Brown


Tom Cosgrove


Steven Wilson


Ausin Wells


Brad hand


Brandon Drury


Adrian Morejon


Jorge Mateo


Matt Waldron


Jose Azocar


Pedro Avila

Final Thoughts

Did the Padres take a step back in this sim of 2023? Yes. In the end it’s something I didn’t believe I had a choice. I had to cut payroll and while I did by a total of $10 million, it cost me one of the best players in the game and some good pitchers that could’ve stuck around with more money available. Hell, I could’ve even made a play for Othani or Yamamoto with just a bit more foresight by AJ Prellar last year.

I did build a better bench, I fortified the bullpen, my defense at LF improved, I brought some good reclamation pitching projects to compete against players like Avila, Groome and Waldroon for the starting rotation, I added a better DH option/rotation and brought a good first baseman back. But yes, the 2023 Padres on paper are weaker than last year’s version.

However, there are some names to keep in mind when you look at this sim:

· Spencer Jones

· Will Warren

· Chase Hampton

· Drew Thorpe

· Adam Mazcur

· Robby Snelling

· Jairo Iriarte

· Austin Wells

· Jackson Merrill

· Victor Victor Mesa

These are all players that in the sim should be major league ready in no more than two years. That’s six pitchers, two outfielders, one infielder and a catcher. While the Padres of 2023 had plenty of issues and holes with their roster, one thing that separated them from playoff teams like the Rangers, Diamondbacks, Orioles, Braves & Dodgers is that they had no young reinforcements in the high minors. Except for Lee, Brown and Inagama, every acquisition is on a one-year deal, and Brown is cheap enough to not be a salary concern. With so many young players at the doorstep of the majors, it makes sense to clear the deck and be ready to bring them in. Most importantly every one of those young players will be cheap and will substantially lessen the financial burden on the Padres, who should be able to better weather the six massive contracts still on the books.

That group doesn’t even include three guys who force themselves onto the Padres top 15 prospect list in 1B Nathan Martorella, INF Graham Pauley and OF Jakob Marsee, all of whom were asked for repeatedly in trade negotiations, but I decided to hold onto them.

The scary thing is that that’s not even the most exciting group. There’s another bunch of players who should be making an impact in 3-4 years including:

· Ethan Salas

· Dylan Lesko

· Homer Bush Jr.

· Dillon Head

· Samuel Zavala

Or another group potentially in 4-6 years including:

· Randy de Jesus

· Capri Ortiz

· Brado Mayea

· Leo De Vries (potentially)

A good general manager has to look at both the short-, medium- and long-term of a club when making moves. In 2023, the Padres went all in on the short term with the hopes that spending big money on long contracts for players like Bogarts would produce good results. So instead, I took a step back. I added more clubhouse players and two international superstars and believe my team will do better in 2024 and beyond.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Gaslamp Ball community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gaslamp Ball staff or SB Nation.