Friday, December 19, 2014

Yes, the Padres Will be Good

Upton rounds out a formidable San Diego outfield (SI)
In the three years I've been writing this blog, I could probably count the number of posts dedicated to the San Diego Padres on one hand. Welcome back to baseball relevance, San Diego.

Piggybacking off yesterday's post and my suggestion that San Diego still needed another big bat before I could call them contenders, the Padres got one in Justin Upton. San Diego swapped out four players for B.J. Upton's little brother and another player from the rapidly dismantling Braves, who appear to be punting on 2015 after trading Jason Heyward (replacing him with the perfectly average Nick Markakis) and Jordan Walden for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.

The Padres, who recently traded for All-Star catcher Derek Norris as well, now have one of the best-hitting outfields in baseball in Upton, Matt Kemp, and Wil Myers (though they all bat from the right side and project to be terrible defensively). That leaves them with an entire outfield's worth of reserves--Seth Smith, Will Venable, and Carlos Quentin--from which to trade, though it might be worth keeping one or two around given Kemp's age and injury history as well as Myers's inexperience.

More importantly, the Padres revamped their lineup without sacrificing much of their dynamite rotation of Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, and Odrisamer Despaigne. That they were able to acquire four big bats via trade while giving up just one of their major league-ready arms (Jesse Hahn) is remarkable, but perhaps also speaks to the stupidity of the teams they were dealing with. Given what the Dodgers, Rays, and Braves just gave up, they were well within their right to demand at least one of the aforementioned hurlers, and yet not a single one was moved. Billy Beane, who offered the worst player of San Diego's new quartet, got Hahn in return. Incredible.

I think that says something about how teams treat prospects, that simply stockpiling them is the way to go because the law of averages, right? Well the minor league washout rate is something like 83 percent, which means five out of every six prospects don't pan out. Hording prospects doesn't improve those odds. Rather than collecting players who are still in the midst of their development (guys with "upside," which is really just the "downside" of likely washing out), teams should be targeting players who have already reached the majors or are about to. They should be aiming for nearly-finished products instead of projects, quality over quantity.

Anyways, kudos to the Padres for not just keeping their rotation mostly intact, but coming out of nowhere to gear up for a playoff run in 2015. Just four wins below .500 last year in spite of a historically anemic offense, they were wise to go for it when it makes sense for most teams with a fighting chance at October to do so (thanks to improved parity and the second wild card). I think they're probably even with the Giants now, maybe even a little bit better, which means I'm putting them down for their first winning season since 2010. The division still belongs to the star-studded Dodgers, but the Padres are well-positioned to win upwards of 85 games and contend for one of the two wild card spots.

Because for the first time in a long time, the Padres are going to hit.

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