Matt Kemp Afterglow: What Next?

So we’re all enjoying the afterglow after that wild night last night. I’m finishing up my cig, toweling off and jumping in the shower. The Padres really did it. Computerless AJ Preller pulled off the long awaited move of trading for Matt Kemp. So we have a superstar. A player that dates Hollywood stars. Someone that TMZ can feature. A marketing dream, and frankly, when he’s on, one of the best hitters in the game. There is already oodles of analysis on this topic and I honestly have trouble calculating a tip, let alone performing advanced statistical analysis, so just read Dave Cameron’s analysis or SacBuntDustin’s fantastic analyses on the subject. In general, I’m cautiously positive on the trade. Matt Kemp is exciting and gives us an actual home run threat. I loved Yasmani Grandal and thought of all of our players, he was the one who should be immediately given a contract extension. At the same time, I consider the Padres’ strength to be developing, trading for and attracting pitching talent. If we were going to make a trade, I’d much rather trade one of our starting pitchers and backfill that pitcher with a free agent signing or of our group of young talent (Erlin, Kelly, Wisler, etc.). But that didn’t happen, AJ Preller opted to dump Grandal onto the Dodgers. What’s done is done. We now have a face for Wayne Partello and the Padres marketing team to plaster on every piece of printed media the team produces this season.

The more important question is what is next? Adding Kemp barely moved the meter on the Padres expected win total for 2015. We are still in the mid-70’s. So to get up to a playoff level team, there needs to be an additional infusion of talent to boost that projected win total. For years, the team has relied on the ol’ “they showed a lot in the 2nd half that we hope will continue into the next season”. “So and so is really positioned for a rebound season” is another front office favorite. This has rarely worked. As Marver and I have stated many times, a trade is not a net increase in talent level. The whole theory of a trade is the exchange of relatively equally valued assets. A true addition of talent is signing free agents that fill holes and are net improvements over what we had last season.

Here is my tentative plan for the rest of the offseason. Keep in mind that Mike Dee has said the team will be positioned in the “middle of MLB payrolls”, which we have interpreted to mean just within the middle 1/3 of payrolls, i.e. roughly #20 in payroll which is about $100 million. Our current big holes are 1B, SS and 3B. I’m going to consider the OF complete because I don’t think they can dump Quentin off on another team and I think they will try to play him, repeating the mantra that “HE’S A BEAST WHEN HEALTHY!”

MOVE 1: SIGN MICHAEL MORSE

Do you know who had the World Series winning RBI in 2014? Do you know who was regularly called Beast Mode back when Marshawn Lynch was still a marginal fantasy RB3? Clue: he has massive power and is terrible at defense. Mike Morse is a behemoth that couldn’t play OF worse. All the heartburn over Matt Kemp’s terrible defense would be forgotten if Mike Morse was manning Petco’s RF. The thing is, pre Adam LaRoche, he was mixing in quite a bit of 1B for the Nationals when he first started coming into his own there. At every clubhouse he’s been in, he’s been a clubhouse favorite with teammates. And again, he can crush balls into the Western Metal Supply upper levels that now cost $40 to sit on a stool instead of free for first come first serve (THANKS MIKE DEE!). I saw a projection of 2/$14M today. That is chump change for someone with his power in this market, and hopefully putting him at 1B minimizes his value hit on defense. The best part? Minimizing how much we see Yonder Alonso on a MLB field.

MOVE 2: SIGN KANG JUNG-HO (OR ASDRUBAL CABRERA)

There’s a shortstop that put up a .356 average with 40 HR’s and 117 RBIs soon to hit the market. The catch? It was in the Korean leagues. There is very little data on how Korean numbers would translate to MLB. He’s a lottery ticket for sure. Given the options of starting Alexi Amarista or Clint Barmes at SS though, that’s a ticket I’d like to play. Tim Dierkes predicted a posting fee of $2-3 Million with a contract roughly 3/$9M. In the world of free agency, it’s not the penny slots, but it’s also not the high roller slots; it’s the middle ground dollar slots, and sometimes, when I’m feeling saucy, I’ll throw a few $1 bills into the dollar slots when I hit up Sycuan.

As a fallback, I think Asdrubal Cabrera is worth a flyer, although he’ll be at a much higher price. He had a decent rebound once he joined Washington last season, he’s still relatively young, and he’s only a few years removed from a season that garnered him MVP votes. The main point is that the team, despite what Preller said this week, go into 2015 thinking an Amarista/Barmes combo is a good thing for this team.

MOVE 3: SOMETHING SOMETHING THIRD BASE

I’m not sure what the 3B plan is to tell you the truth. They can move Gyorko there, maybe sign a guy like Rickie Weeks to play 2B (I don’t hate this idea), but it marginalizes Gyorko’s talents by not leaving him at 2B where is better when compared to other 3B, in addition to the fact that you’re now moving a guy that’s played 2B for a few years and asking him to jump back into a demanding defensive position. They could also put Spangenberg at 2B, but I’d much rather see him at CF. Sign Chase Headley? Um. I’d be for it, sure, I just don’t think it would happen. I’ve seen rumors of him getting offers of 4/$44 which wouldn’t be bad for him (I don’t think the 4/$65M offer was credible, he would have taken it). But I don’t think it would happen. Besides Headley, there’s pretty much no one left on the FA market.

MOVE 4: BOLSTER STARTING PITCHING

I know everyone thinks the Padres have the awesomest rotation ever. Also remember that this rotation featured Billy Buckner at one point last season. They have some minor league depth, but it’s injury prone. So is Cashner. Ross scares me to death. Once Cashner inevitably goes down again, gets rid of another pitch in his arsenal and decides to cut velocity another 1-2 mph to desperately try to preserve his arm, and Tyson Ross’ arm falls off from throwing 80 trillion sliders, the rotation doesn’t look so good anymore. I’m fairly sure Preller will bring in Josh Johnson on a low money contract, but I expect about as much as I did Mark Prior: zippy. I’m still in favor of trying to get Brett Anderson in here. He’s an injury risk, but he has high upside. He’s also only 26. Maybe hedge our risk by bringing in a veteran inning eater like Aaron Harang again on a short term contract. But I do not think this rotation needs no work. Especially if Preller ends up shipping off Kennedy (if he doesn’t do it now, he’s going to do it at some point during the season, so we may as well prepare).

Is this enough? I don’t know. But if Dee isn’t going to really open the purse strings (noted blowhard and misogynist Dan Sileo said this morning that he thinks the Padres would need a $125M payroll to compete against the Giants and Dodgers), I think this is the limit of what they could do. That, and pray that players like Jedd Gyorko rebound (I think he will). That Cashner and Ross don’t get hurt (I think they will). But without having payroll to support a complete turnaround (a la signing Scherzer), there are real limits to the improvement you can expect in one offseason.

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