The San Diego Padres added three All-Star level bats, one of the most productive platoon catchers in the MLB, rotation depth, bullpen depth, and an ace to top the staff; by far, they were the winners of the off-season. But the question remains: what did they buy? Did they buy 5 wins? The 11 wins they were behind Pittsburgh and San Francisco for the Wild Card? The 17 wins that they were behind the Dodgers for the NL West crown?
We have seen far too many times that teams will try to dominate the off-season by accumulating assets, rather than filling needs. This is not the case with the Padres, as their outfield was woeful last year and they needed a stable ace at the top of the rotation in James Shields. New GM AJ Preller came into San Diego with a thought in mind and he has expertly executed his goals. Matt Kemp and Justin Upton are at the peak of their games and their projected rotation ranks in the top three of the National League; at the end of the day, though, does it matter?
In assessing this, it is important to look first at what the Padres added, and in turn what they had to give up to get those assets, and then how that places them in the National League playoff picture. There were other National League competitors that made huge waves this off-season and it is critical to see where their moves compare to those of the Padres.
What the Padres Added
The 2014 San Diego Padres were 77-85, a respectable record buttressed by better than expected starting pitching, but were never a competitor for the playoffs, finishing 11 games out of contention. Since the end of the season, they have added the superstars listed above, as well as Derek Norris, Tim Federowicz, Clint Barmes, Brandon Morrow, Brandon Maurer, and Shawn Kelley. The most simple way to look at what they added was by looking at WAR; according to Baseball-Reference, the combined 5-Year WAR average of the newest Padres is 12.3. Kemp and Upton are the big name players, but Norris adding stability to the catcher’s role will help the team greatly. Shields brings stability to a young rotation and Brandon Maurer could be a part of the new rotation, as he is only 24 years old. The Padres had to give up a lot of prospects for this to happen, but prospects are projects and the Padres feel that they can compete now. These moves draw the Padres closer to contention.
What the Padres lose
The main losses for the Padres were not on the major league roster, but rather in the minor league and in their future. There is the uncertainty of the 13th pick that Padres forfeited to the Royals in signing James Shields, but there has not been good value at that pick in the past. Since 2000, only Aaron Hill and Chris Sale have provided value from the 13th pick overall and you have to go back to Paul Konerko in 1994 before you reach another All-Star level player at that pick. Ironically, the Padres have drafted 13th in the past two drafts, and traded 2014 first round pick Trea Turner in the Wil Myers trade. In fact, the Padres mortgaged a lot of their future to obtain Myers, Kemp, Upton, and Norris. They traded top pitching prospects Joe Ross, Zach Eflin, Joe Wieland, and Max Fried as well as infielder Dustin Peterson and catcher Yasmani Grandal, both players that the Padres saw as part of their future. They also lost the flexibility that comes in younger players, as Grandal is the only player on that list that had significant MLB experience, and Justin Upton is a free agent after the season. Myers, Kemp, Shields, and Norris are signed at least until 2019, but the Padres essentially invested their future in these transactions.
Where does this place them
The Padres are very solid, but there is a lot of inconsistency and uncertainty with their additions. Although Kemp and Upton have been All-Star caliber players, injuries for Kemp and streaky play for Upton have plagued their All-Star level talents. Shields should be a sound addition to the team, but he is 33 years old and has put more than 1950 innings on his right arm. Also, if they do make the playoffs, remember that Shields is poor in the playoffs, as he has posted a 3-6 record with a 1.53 WHIP and 5.46 ERA in 11 career playoff starts. In reality, what these aggressive moves did, especially the Shields move, was to strengthen the core of the Padres. Now Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross do not need to worry about shouldering the load of being the core of the pitching staff; they brought in Shields to do that. Yonder Alonso and Jedd Gyorko do not need to worry about being the key power threats in the lineup; they brought in two players that have hit 30 home runs in the past. This will probably not be enough to get the Padres over the hump, as they are still the third best team in their own division, but they will be very competitive. They are nearly a sure bet to add 10 wins to their 2014 total and they will give the Giants and Dodgers a tough time in the NL West. The Giants lost Pablo Sandoval and the Dodgers lost both Kemp and Hanley Ramirez; these subtractions may draw the Padres nearer to the NL West powers. With Myers improving in the future, as well as continued progress from 2014 under performers like Gyorko and Alonso, the Padres should be a playoff team in 2016.