This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. The season wasn’t supposed to play out this way. The Padres finally had an owner and GM that was willing to spend the money to be great. Free agents and trades gave the Padres star power they haven’t seen since the late 90’s. San Diego was abuzz about their baseball team and for the 1st time in over a decade there was an optimism about the season ahead. Nobody would have guessed the 2015 version of the Padres would be worse than the offensively challenged 2014 squad.
I know Padres fans can be an optimistic bunch, but tied with a bad Diamondbacks team for next to last in the NL West and following 2 straight drubbings by the rival Giants can’t make fans feel any better about this season.
But have Padres fans completely given up? Has the team? The ownership? It sure seemed that way back in June when manager Bud Black was fired, something that should have been done before the season started. And now, 9.5 games back in the division and 7.5 behind the 2nd wildcard, the Padres may be too far out of reach and need to think about next season instead of the postseason. That might not please fans, but after an abysmal start to such a promising season, how many optimistic Padres fans are left? Of course, the man to blame for that is the same man who was praised just a few short months ago, general manager AJ Preller. He decided to go with an approach that has been proven not to work many times and buy a team instead of forming one with a talented core of homegrown talent. And now that the trade deadline is looming it is time for Preller to make up for his mistakes.
Realistically with the playoffs all but out of reach for the Friars, the Padres must make moves that make sure next season’s chance at success isn’t tied to this year’s failure. And that means getting rid of players that don’t look like future contributors for next year’s players. And that starts with the Padres giving away their lone All Star and best player.
Yes, Justin Upton must be sent packing. Of course that is for the right price. The outfield slugger’s contract is up after this season and it would be in the best interest of not only him, but also the Padres, and a 3rd party team to let him finish this season and sign a contract with a playoff team, while the Pads acquire a few prospects to fill a farm system that is among the worst in baseball.
The Padres farm system lost 7 of their top 11 prospects to trades this offseason, and in return the Pads got a 44-51 record and a payroll they can’t maintain. Now the Padres’ 9th ranked payroll has earned them a tie with the 30th ranked payroll (Diamondbacks) in terms of record.
The Padres would be wise to lose some of that financial burden by not only getting rid of Upton and his $14.7 million this season but also his brother BJ’s $15.2 million. Yep, that’s right, the Padres are the team that would pay $15 million dollars a year to a player batting 3 points over the Mendoza line. And although it might be hard to find another team to make the same mistake and take on 2 more years of $15+ million for 1 of the least productive outfielders in the Majors, it might be worth it to trade him for just about anybody if simply to try and get rid of his ridiculous price tag.
But even though the Padres cannot sustain their current payroll, James Shields, whose salary increases from $10 to $21 million next season, is a player who it might be worth to keep. That is unless an offer comes in that could give the Pads a future middle infielder, a spot that has been terrible since Mark Loretta was playing 2B. Otherwise he should stay at the head of a rotation that features Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, 2 pitchers that have suffered pitching for a team that won’t support them with runs and can’t play defense.
Infielder Will Middlebrooks is terrible, but at least he is cheap. The same can’t be said for starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, who is playing the worst baseball of his life (5-9 4.78 ERA). But still there may be a market for him and his $9.85 million dollar contract. So sell him.
And although Kennedy is just 1 of the problems on a pitching staff that has been an utter disappointment, where the Padres really need to focus is simply on any player who can hit. Getting somebody in the lineup that could produce runs and get on base would be the biggest help for a San Diego team that ranks last in on base percentage (.294) and 2nd to last in batting average (.237). The leader in batting average on the team is hitting .256 (Matt Kemp) and their leader in RBI’s is the lowest in the league (52 Kemp).
The Padres can’t think about getting back into the playoff race this season. They’re too far out to realistically fight for a spot in the postseason without an offense, defense, and even a manager. What they need to do is think ahead and use their assets to get back whatever semblance of a farm system you can and some budget flexibility. Because Lord knows Padres fans will expect some kind of changes to happen next year, just not the same ones. The main thing to understand is that the over-the-top “win now” mentality that led Preller and the Padres to make these offseason moves has left the Padres farm system bare, the payroll absurdly high, and the fans more disappointed than ever. The Padres need to sell.
Now, as a cynic I might argue that for the Padres to trade their way out of this mess they’ll have to rely on the same guy who traded them into it. And although it may be a real fear that Preller could screw up the organization even more on his sell-off, he deserves credit, at least for trying, something the Padres haven’t done since the 20th century. Now he should have another opportunity to save his team and clean up his mess. If he fails at that? Well then, it might be time for him to join these former Padres and find a new team.