What an off-season for the Padres! General manager A.J. Preller has been making moves seemingly ever since the end of the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Let’s take a look at just what Preller has been up to and ask how it much it improves the Padres heading into 2015.
First there was the deal with the division rival Dodgers that sent catcher Yasmani Grandal to Los Angeles in exchange for outfielder and 2011 MVP runner-up Matt Kemp. Then a few days later there were rumors swirling that the deal wouldn’t get done due to a problem with Kemp’s physical. The problem turned out to be “severe arthritis” in both of Kemp’s hips. After reportedly discussing with their medical staff, as well as trying (and failing) to receive more money from the Dodgers as compensation, the Padres decided to go through with the deal, and Matt Kemp is officially a Padre.
After his runner-up season in 2011 Kemp had another All-Star year in 2012, but fell off a bit in 2013, appearing in only 73 games and hitting a meager .270 and only six home runs. Kemp bounced back in 2014 though, playing 150 regular season games, hitting .287, and swatting 25 long balls. With the Dodgers having a logjam in their outfield with Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Joc Pederson as well as Kemp. The 25-year-old Grandal batted .225 and hit 15 home runs for the Padres in 2014 but the Dodgers obviously feel like they have something in him otherwise they wouldn’t have sent a player like Kemp off for him.
Kemp’s hip arthritis more than likely puts him in one of the corner outfield spots, as it would be unwise to keep him in center field and risk his hips getting worse.
Fortunately Preller has a solution for that problem. Welcome to San Diego, Wil Myers! Just days after the news of Matt Kemp heading to SD got out, Preller pulled another stunner and acquired 2013 AL Rookie of the Year, Wil Myers, from the Tampa Bay Rays. Myers, who missed much of 2014 with a hand injury, took home the ROY hardware after batting .293 and putting an OPS of .831 out in 2013. Myers was significantly hampered by his injury in 2014, playing in only 87 games and batting only .222 with an OPS of .614. Myers is expected to man center field given Matt Kemp’s shift to one of the corners. Myers is an exciting player and has room to grow even more, although maybe not in the home run category, as his home field is Petco Park now.
The next question should be, “Well who will play the other corner outfield spot? Cameron Maybin? Will Venable? Seth Smith? The answer is actually Justin Upton. After being on the trading block ever since the off-season started, the Padres were the team to finally coax the Atlanta Braves into a deal for Justin Upton. Upton will flank Myers’ other side, and is projected to bat third, ahead of both Myers and Kemp. Upton hit 29 homers last year for the Braves and was worth an impressive 3.3 WAR. Expect the home run numbers to fall a bit since Upton will now be hitting in the cavernous Petco Park a lot now. Still, Upton has been a consistent performer all through the last few season, and didn’t have any notable injuries in 2014 like Kemp and Myers, and is the final piece in an outfield that is one of the most dynamic in baseball, if not the most dynamic.
The Padres and Preller weren’t done yet though, because the loss of Grandal had to be addressed right? So naturally Preller brought in another All-Star, this time catcher Derrick Norris from the A’s. Norris was an All-Star in 2014, batting .270 and putting up a fielding% of .992 to go with 745 putouts and 43 assists.
What’s next? Well the Padres could stand to improve the back-end of the rotation, as Odrisamer Despaigne (3.36 ERA in 96 1/3 IP last year) has potential but is no sure thing, and 23 year-old Robbie Erlin had a 4.99 ERA in just over 60 innings last year. The Padres would do well to add a low-budget arm from the free-agent market, someone like Aaron Harang, who had a nice year with the Braves in 2014, going over 200 IP and putting out a healthy ERA of 3.57. If Harang is looking for a bit more than the Padres are willing to offer though, there are still good options like Paul Maholm and Ryan Vogelsong out there that Preller could take a chance on. There is also the fact that Upton is in the final year of his contract, so that situation is something that Preller may want to address sooner than later, so his prospects given up don’t go in vain if the Padres don’t compete like they hope to in 2015.
Either way it certainly appears the Padres are all in on 2015, and if they can add another solid or at least serviceable pitcher for the back-end of the rotation, they will be a team to watch for one of the Wild Card spots.