The San Diego Padres, after years of being one of the league’s worst teams, underwent a dramatic makeover this offseason. General manager A.J. Preller, hired in August, has made the Padres nearly unrecognizable through a series of trades, the first few of which brought in outfielders Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers. These moves alone gave the Padres one of the most dynamic outfields and a potent offense to boot.
Preller wasn’t finished, as he next acquired All-Star catcher Derek Norris from Oakland to replace the departed Yasmani Grandal (traded to the Dodgers in the Kemp deal). Preller then made a low-risk gamble, trading catcher Ryan Hanigan (acquired in the Myers trade) to Boston for embattled third-baseman Will Middlebrooks. This was a good move by Preller, as he gave up next to nothing for Middlebrooks, who may be a solid player and if nothing else a good source of power if he can stay injury free, in which case Preller will look like even more of a genius. Preller had taken care of the offense of this point, so to address the pitching staff he brought in one of the gems of free agency, right hander James Shields, to lead the rotation. That left the Padres sitting pretty, but Preller was still wheeling and dealing; on Opening Night, minutes before the first pitch of the season, Preller pulled off another blockbuster and acquired elite closer Craig Kimbrel by dealing from his abundance of outfielders, sending Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin to Atlanta.
Now, the Padres have a great-looking roster, but looks can be deceiving. Preller has done his best to turn this perennially bad team into a playoff team, but no October slot comes easy. The Padres have been well built in just one offseason under Preller, but they will have a tough time taking a division crown in a tough NL West already containing the Dodgers and reigning champion Giants, as well as a Diamondbacks team looking to rebound.
Let’s forget a division crown and look at the possibility of the Padres snagging a wild card. For that let’s assume that the division champions look like this:
NL East, Washington Nationals
NL Central, St. Louis Cardinals
NL West, Los Angeles Dodgers.
That would leave everyone else in the NL competing with the Padres for two Wild Card spots. Since it’s early we’ll include everyone in that picture. But let’s narrow it down and say the Mets, Phillies, Brewers and Rockies all fall off. That leaves the following teams: Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves, and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Thats stiff competition, all teams the Padres will have to beat out. Could they do it? Sure, and let’s be honest this is baseball, so anything could happen. The Padres have a good rotation, a great bullpen, and an offense that can hit with he best of them, but they have to put it all together if they want even a sniff of the postseason. After all, what use would it be if James Shields goes seven innings and scatters four or five hits, but the offense can’t deliver? Preller has done one hell of a job launching this team into relevance, but it isn’t going to be an easy job to lock down a spot in October. The Padres have started well, as they are currently 4-3, with a win against the Dodgers and three against the Giants. As inter-division play continues, if the Padres really want to impress they will have to do better in their next series against the Dodgers, the first game of which is on April 24. The Padres have become relevant, but it’s no cakewalk to the postseason.