At the start of the offseason, Marver posted an aggressive plan that the Padres could pursue to produce an actual playoff season in 2015. The keystone of the argument was to sign Max Scherzer, the top free agent pitcher of this offseason. Some of his suggestions are now a little outdated with Aramis Ramirez resigning with the Brewers, but I was intrigued with his suggestions. But I am also a realist. I have seen decades of Padres offseasons. I listen to team management and try to read between the lines of their cryptic public statements. There is nothing more out of character for this team than signing a 9 figure long term contract for a starting pitcher, as good as he may be. As all Padres fans know, we usually can look forward to the team gambling on a failed top prospect, signing veteran retread pitchers and hope park effects save them, and harvest middle relievers to unload them later for prospects. So, I decided to look at the market and figure out what a realistic and characteristic offseason for the Padres would look like.
Unloading Headley and Street last season produced a bevy of second tier prospects, but also opened up payroll. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Padres, following estimated arbitration raises this offseason, are looking at payroll obligations of $71.13M. Padres management has stated their desire to be in the middle 1/3 of MLB payrolls, which would put them right at the $100M mark. So, I’m using $100M as the target payroll for this offseason.
Trade Ian Kennedy
I should come out and say that I actually like Ian Kennedy more than I like Cashner and Tyson Ross. He’s dependable, he gets strikeouts, he puts up innings. But he is a free agent after this season, and I can’t realistically see the Padres extending him. It is classic Padres form to pick up pitchers whose glory days were in the past, install them into Petco, watch them improve, and then dump the asset at peak value. Kennedy is a classic case of this. Now, he only has one year before free agency, so you’re not going to see a huge return for him, but I could see him fetching a marginal Top 100 prospect, which isn’t bad. I have no faith in Cashner’s ability to stay healthy, and for some reason, I feel like Tyson Ross is an injury risk. It’s just a hunch. But they have years left under contract, they have the most upside, and this team needs to take gambles on pitchers like them to succeed. Trading Kennedy also clears out his estimated $10.3M arbitration salary, lowering the salary obligations to about $60M.
Sign Yasmany Tomas
I totally agree with Marver in that signing Tomas is critical for this team. Not just for his onfield performance, but to restore faith in the fanbase. With the way Mike Dee has pumped up AJ Preller’s reputation by talking about his international chops, I believe it would be a major PR failure to go through this offseason without signing the biggest international prize on the market when your GM’s biggest specialty is supposed to be acquiring international players. On top of that, signing Tomas doesn’t cost the team a draft pick. To tell you the truth, I have no idea how Tomas’ skills will translate to the Majors. But I also had no idea how Cespedes, Puig and Abreu’s skills would translate and they ended up OK. A team likes the Padres needs to take sensible gambles. A losing bet on Tomas won’t totally cripple the team like it would if the team signed Scherzer, he had arm troubles, and was never the same pitcher again (at $200 mil for his contract). Kiley McDaniel on Fangraphs says the Padres don’t intend on going over $70M for Tomas, but I am holding out hope that they will spend what it takes to get him. There are even rumors that he can play 3B, in addition to OF. Let’s just say they sign him for 6/$85M, $14M per season.
Sign Either Mike Morse or Adam LaRoche for 1B
This team CANNOT go into the season with Yonder Alonso penciled in as the starting 1B. With Byrnes gone, the team can finally admit that Alonso doesn’t have what it takes to produce at the level we need out of our 1B. I have gone on record on the podcast as being very pro-Mike Morse. I’ve watched him for years in DC, and saw plenty of him in SF this season. He has the raw power that plays at Petco. He has a clubhouse personality that his teammates love. He is not good defensively at either 1B or OF, but that power! I’ve also seen plenty of LaRoche in his DC years. He is a dependable, 20-25 HR guy with a good glove, whom also apparently, clubhouses love. Neither of them are demanding super long term contracts (supposedly), with Fangraphs predicting LaRoche to be 2/$24M and Morse to be 2/$20M. LaRoche put up an OPS+ of 124 last season, Morse put up 130. Personally, I like Morse more. He’s younger, he knows the division, and it’s taking him from the Giants.
Sign Josh Johnson
We all know how disappointed and not surprised we all were when Josh Johnson went down with injury last season. So, let’s all hope he turns out not like Mark Prior and is able to actually play next season. Fangraphs estimates his contract at $3M. At this point, what do we have to lose. Trading Kennedy leaves a hole in the rotation, it’s worth the $3M flyer to see how Johnson does in spring training, see if he has what it takes still to get MLB hitters out. High risk, low cost, unlike last season’s $8M contract.
Sign Brett Anderson
Fitting the classic Padres mold, Brett Anderson is a pitcher that has seen considerable success in the past but can’t stay healthy more recently. Looking at a 1 year contract to rebuild value, what better place than Petco Park? I understand the riskiness of signing two injury prone pitchers, but isn’t that really a classic Padres strategy? And can he really be worse than Eric Stults? I also suggest going after injury prone pitchers because if they go down, I believe the Padres have a decent stable of minor leaguers to include Joe Wieland, Casey Kelly, Robbie Erlin, Burch Smith and Matt Wisler to fill-in if/when needed. Fangraphs is predicting 1/$7M for Anderson.
Trade for Domonic Brown
Domonic Brown is reportedly on the trading block this offseason. He put up All-Star numbers for the Phillies in 2013, then was one of the worst position players in baseball in 2014 offensively and defensively. He is a roller coaster of a human being. But he also has tremendous power to go with his lead glove. Once a top prospect, he seems to have fallen out of favor with Philly. A classic Padres move is to scoop up former top prospects and hope they pan out in San Diego. It’s worked sometimes; sometimes tremendously. Just take a look at former #1 overall draft picks Phil Nevin and Adrian Gonzalez. It’s also failed miserably. Remember Dewon Brazelton? I haven’t seen any rumors as to what the Phillies would want for Brown, but I wouldn’t be at all upset to see one of those AAA pitchers mentioned above and a couple average prospects sent over there for him. As I said with Tomas, this team needs to take risks like this to succeed, and then pray that these risky players can turn it around. Carlos Quentin isn’t going to be around long term, Brown has a few years of arbitration years left, and as bad as Brown is in LF, he isn’t that much worse than Quentin. At least Domonic Brown still has upside.
I believe with these changes, the Padres can at least have the hope of fielding at the very least, a more exciting team to watch. If things pan out and players are able to turn it around in 2015, you might luck into a wild card spot. And in the end, that is all Mike Dee has said he wants to do: “be competitive”. Well, follow this plan, and we’re at least “competitive”. Follow Marver’s plan if you want to win next season, but we all know his plan is a daydream that will never happen (unfortunately). Follow this plan for slightly less awful 2015 Padres baseball.