NL West Offseason Review: San Diego Padres

Back in the good old days of 1999, a team like the Padres wouldn't be in a terrible position. Sure they'd have a few holes to fill like not having a second baseman, center fielder, left fielder, or a four or five starter, no real budget and no prospects they could afford to deal, but with some creative thinking on the free agent market, things would be okay. These days, not so much. Any inefficiencies that may exist on the free agent market are pretty much gone, only allowing small market teams to make "nice little moves". Getting Tadahito Iguchi or David Eckstein for three or four million is a nice little move, but if you fill your team with these guys, you're going to win 80 games. The Padres are stuck in the unenviable position of being too good to sell, but not being good enough to contend, and not having the budget or farm system as an easy out. To their credit, the Padres exploited one of the few ways you can get a good deal out of the free agent market: sign highly injury prone guys then make tributes to the deity of your choice. If Mark Prior, Randy Wolf and Jim Edmonds can be healthy and productive, the Padres can contend in the NL West. Problem is that I think I'd rather take the over on the Mariners winning 86.5 games than betting on that ever happening.

With their limited options, the offseason caused a major problem for the Padres: they stepped away from what has made the team work over the last few years. The Padres build their team around fly ball pitchers who throw strikes, assuming that no one can hit a home run out of PETCO, and then back them up with great defense. In general, this works, letting the Padres run out David Wells, Justin Germamo and Greg Maddux and having them be relatively successful despite not being all that good. It's no coincidence that Chan Ho Park had his lowest ERA outside of a Dodger uniform with the Padres, and then proceeded to give up 27 home runs to AAA players the next year. Since the Padres are loaded with fly ball pitchers, outfield defense is at a premium, and they replaced Milton Bradley and Mike Cameron, great defenders, with Chase Headley and Jim Edmonds. I don't know much about Headley's defense, but I do know Kevin Kouzmanoff is terrible and Headley couldn't displace him, so I wouldn't expect good things out of him transitioning to a new position. Jim Edmonds is perpetually injured and hasn't been great, or even good defensively in years. When Edmonds goes down, he'll be replaced by Scott Hairston who would generously be described as a mediocre left fielder. The other option the Padres have in left is Jody Gerut who has done the following since a strong rookie campaign in 2003:

Ruin my fantasy team
Sue the Pirates because they didn't believe he was hurt.

He last faced professional pitching in 2005, so I doubt that will last, defense or no.

The Padres situation is so dire that if I were Kevin Towers, I would seriously look into getting Juan Pierre. Seeing him try to make a throw from the power alleys at PETCO would be hilarious, but he'd at least be able to run down balls that got out there. Juan Pierre and 15 million for Scott Hairston seems like a very good idea for the Padres, and if I were the Padres brain trust, I would strongly consider it. That's how bad things are for them right now.

The Padres generally manage to succeed despite looking terrible on paper because their good defense and nice park let them scrounge up the dregs of the league as a pitching staff. Without the good defense behind them, their team probably is as bad as it looks on paper. All they can do now is pray Randy Wolf and Mark Prior survive the season. It's not a good bet, but it's probably the only plan they could realistically do.

Overall Grade: C

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