Man, that got out of hand quickly.
With most offensive upgrades – Adam LaRoche, Yasmany Tomas, Hanley Ramirez, Russell Martin, Pablo Sandoval, Nelson Cruz, Billy Butler – already off the market, the Padres have very few ways they can compete in 2015.
Sure, they could swap Ian Kennedy for Yeonis Cespedes, or something similar, but that doesn’t actually make them a more asset rich team for 2015. They’d just be creating a hole in order to fill another. Yeah, so maybe the hole they open can be more readily filled with organizational depth, but that’s not going to vault a 77 win team into World Series contention. (Especially when you consider the Padres won’t have Street or Headley for half a season as they did in 2014.)
Perhaps the only way they theoretically could compete is by signing marquee free agent arms to replace Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner, should they deal them, but we all know there’s no way in hell that a team too cheap, poorly run, and chicken to improve their league worst offense would ever sign a blank check for Max Scherzer. Keep dreaming, dumbass.
That leaves us with only one scenario that makes any sense whatsoever: a full-scale, no-holds-barred rebuild.
Yes, this would make Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler liars based on their early interviews, would make their promises to Chase Headley completely unfulfilled, and, more immediately, would make Mike Dee’s recent statements explicitly stating “no rebuild” an instant fib. Based on the current state of things, almost all of those are already fact anyway, so this almost doesn’t matter.
And while the term rebuild understandably holds a negative connotation to San Diego Padres fans, being stuck in baseball’s proverbial hamster wheel is a much worse fate.
Besides the obvious advantage to rebuilding – moving short term value in exchange for stockpiling young talent to create a true window to win a World Series – baseball’s dynamics create two additional advantages.
1. Tanking gives the opportunity to add an elite prospect to the system. Even with Renfroe and Turner’s recent advances, they still aren’t upper echelon, top ten prospects. The Padres need at least one, if not two, of them to be contenders. There’s no better way of acquiring those types of assets than by completely sucking for a few years.
2. Surrending a first round pick for signing players attached to free agent compensation only applies to team with a draft position that isn’t indicative of a sufficiently shitty season. Basically, by sucking just enough, we can give ourselves the ability to sign top free agents without surrendering our first round pick.
So how should the Padres rebuild? Glad you asked.
Trade Andrew Cashner
I like Cashner more than most, but that’s almost entirely because I believe, as Padres Jagoff has pointed out on numerous occasions, that Andrew Cashner is holding back while on the mound. A guy with a high 90s fastball doesn’t start throwing 94 without either an injury or making a conscious decision to hold back.
That means that he might be a better postseason pitcher than a regular season one, giving the Padres a potential ace in the hole during a stretch run as he dials the speed back up to 100. Since we’re advocating a rebuild, though, that has no use to the Padres.
Trading Cashner almost makes sense even without rebuilding. He’s just two years away from hitting free agency, and according to the Padres front office – as told to me – it “takes three to tango” in extension talks. Presumably, that means Cashner’s agent is preventing them. Even if he wasn’t, I’m sure Fowler’s wallet would end them anyway.
I don’t think Cashner has the value that Latos had when the Padres dealt Latos before the 2012 season. Cashner is older, more injury prone, and (quite frankly) worse than Latos was at that point in time. But Cashner will still fetch at least one top 50 prospect and another reasonable prospect, if not backend of the top 100.
Trade Yasmani Grandal
Look, I love what Yasmani brings to the team, but catcher is one of the few places where the Padres have a lot of movable pieces.
While I think it actually makes more sense to extend Grandal, while his value is at its lowest, in a rebuild scenario that doesn’t do much for us. He’s one of the few valuable offensive pieces the Padres have to offer, and the Padres have to eventually decide between Yasmani and Hedges anyway (assuming he progresses).
(I’d actually advocate moving Rene Rivera as well, but he probably won’t return much in the long term.)
Bring in a stopgap or hand the job to Kral or whoever the hell mans catcher at AAA. Just keep a warm body there until Hedges is ready, while getting a top 50 prospect for Grandal.
Sign Yoan Moncada
Normally rebuild plans don’t include “sign a player”, but Moncada isn’t a typical free agent. He’s a 19 year old top prospect out of Cuba that just happens to be on the international free agent market.
He’ll cost a lot and he’ll restrict the next two international free agent classes for the Padres, but that’s a small price to pay for a rare top prospect who would instantly vault to the top of the Padres prospect list. Those opportunities are few and far between.
If the Padres aren’t going to add talent through MLB’s free agent market, they have to at least add top tier prospects when they get the opportunity.
Keep going nuts in international free agency
Because signing Moncada will screw over the Padres’ future international free agent classes – side note: MLB may go to an international draft which would make this effect less profound – they have to maximize their international class in this international free agent signing period.
So go nuts.
You know that $100 million you were allegedly willing to spend on Pablo Sandoval? Spend it here. Throw it at more long term assets than you can count. After all, you hired A.J. Preller as general manager for his ability to recognize international talent. Now give him nearly unlimited funds and get out of his way.
Trade Seth Smith and the rest of our shitty outfield
No need for Seth Smith, Will Venable, Carlos Quentin, or even Cameron Maybin long term.
It really doesn’t matter who plays outfield for the Padres during a rebuild, and none of those four players will be integral members of the Padres when a rebuild is complete.
Sure, it’s conceivable that Maybin could regain his health, regain the form that made him useful back when he was healthy, and live up to his potential. The Padres should stop hoping for the improbable when it comes to plays like Maybin, and instead get whatever they can down-the-line.
Will Venable is an easy out, is more athletic than he actually is useful in the outfield, and isn’t exactly a tremendous bargain anyway. He’s been here longer than he should and I find it hard to believe that he tilts the needle with fans in either direction. That doesn’t mean he’s worth nothing, though, since his bat might actually play quite well in a lefty friendly ballpark. Again, get what you can.
Carlos Quentin sucks. No, he’s not even “great” when he plays, which is the myth constantly perpetuated in Padres circles. In 815 plate appearances as a Padre, he has 23 homeruns to go with a .251 average and .354 on-base-percentage. In other words, Carlos Quentin is Chase Headley if Chase Headley was consistently hurt, couldn’t field, couldn’t run, required an additional roster spot for his backup, played a less demanding position, was genuinely surly, and was on the brink of retiring. Carlos Quentin sucks.
I like Seth Smith, but let’s be serious: he’s not a long-term option and with Liriano/Renfroe knocking on the door, you should get what you can for a platoon player while you can.
Combined we might be able to scratch together a top 100 prospect or two for these guys, but better that than nothing.
Trade for other teams’ compensatory picks
These are now tradeable commodities in baseball.
Acquiring them allows the Padres to be flexible during the draft, since it expands their bonus pool. Theoretically, that can allow them to go over slot on one of their first few picks (if they draft a safer player in the compensatory spot). At the very least, extra picks are extra prospects.
So far, compensatory picks have been traded a few times and it always seems to be for less than most fans would value additional draft picks. It might actually be a market inefficiency in baseball.
For a team that has long stated they need to build from within and blah blah blah [insert Garfinkel monologue here] blah blah blah, extra draft picks fit the bill pretty well.
Trade Joaquin Benoit
There’s absolutely no reason to hold on to a closer when you don’t plan on competing while you have him.
Benoit is on a pretty valuable contract and is almost a certainty to have his option vest, adding further value to his deal.
We all saw what Street fetched the Padres last deadline. I’m not sure Benoit is quite as valuable, but I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of getting similar value from a team desperate for bullpen help.
In the end, it comes down to alternatives. The alternative to acquiring Benoit, for a team that needs bullpen help, is giving lesser pitchers on the free agent market more money for a longer period of time.
Hold Ian Kennedy until the deadline
The Padres are currently dangling Kennedy in trade talks, presumably to try to acquire a quick fix for the offense.
The reason to hold onto Kennedy until the deadline is straightforward: the price paid at the deadline is often more than you’d get for the same player prior to a season. Since teams have a better idea on whether or not they’re actually competing for the World Series, they’re more willing to concede additional assets in order to boost that now real opportunity.
Additionally, Kennedy has compensation tied to him. If the Padres don’t have any acceptable offers for Kennedy, they can extend a qualifying offer and receive a first round pick in exchange from wherever he signs. No, Kennedy will not accept the qualifying offer…no one does.
Lose, lose, lose.
Lose the same game twice, if you can. Sacrifice bunt with the bases loaded. Re-sign Eric Stults. Play Carlos Quentin at shortstop. Have Bud Black make managerial decisions. Somehow hit worse than last season.
In the end, a rebuild done correctly requires multiple high draft picks. The only way to get those is by losing. A lot.
We’ve had a lot of losing in our time as Padres fan. In fact, since they became an MLB team, no franchise has more losses. This time, though, it’ll at least be productive losing.
Sign superstars in free agency
Take the money saved by tanking and shedding payroll, and forward that to legitimate superstars in free agency. Presumably, you start signing these guys an offseason or two prior to those top prospects reaching Major League Baseball, so you don’t have to bank on one specific player or free agent market panning out.
This is all predicated on building a true championship window coming out of the rebuild. Since you won’t want to deal prospects in the future, the veteran production in the lineup will have to come through external means.
We Padres fans will never trust that you’ll actually do this with the money the team saves while rebuilding, but this is what they should do with it.
Rebuilding is understandably unpopular. We’ve been waiting forever.
That said, we’ve been waiting even longer for a coherent plan out of the Padres. If the Padres commit to something, however heinous and contradictory to everything that ownership and Mike Dee have stated over the past two years, I could at least pretend to understand.
Besides, rebuilding practically guarantees that Ron Fowler will die before we win a title. If he isn’t going to pony up to help bring in a World Series contender, he doesn’t deserve to see one anyway.