Are the young Padres ready for contention, or will they finish below .500 for a third straight season?
Our next National League West offseason review brings us to the San Diego Padres, who finished 2012 strong but still finished with just 76 wins.
|San Diego Padres|
|2013 at Dodger Stadium:
||Apr. 15-17, Jun. 3-5, Aug. 30-Sept. 1|
|2013 Dodgers at Petco Park:||Apr. 9-11, Jun. 20-23, Sept. 20-22|
|SB Nation coverage:||Gaslamp Ball|
1) How long will Headley remain a Padre?
Chase Headley emerged in 2012 as an absolute force for San Diego, as he hit .286/.376/.498 with 31 home runs and a National League-best 115 RBI. Since moving to Petco Park in 2004, the Padres have had two players hit 30 home runs in a season: Adrian Gonzalez (four times), and Headley.
Headley was especially potent after the All-Star break, with 23 home runs in 75 games while hitting .308/.396/.582, and on the season was especially deadly against the Dodgers. In 18 games against Los Angeles last year, Headley hit .304/.402/.623 with six home runs and 20 RBI.
That surge earned Headley a 147% raise in the arbitration process, as he settled last week for $8.575 million in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility. But with that price tag, and another potential pay day looming in 2014, Headley could be trade bait, especially if the Padres can't ink him to a long-term contract before he hits free agency after the 2014 season.
Headley settled for a one-year deal this year, and general manager Josh Byrnes told Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune that a long-term extension "wasn’t part of these discussions." Byrnes told Corey Brock of MLB.com, "We couldn't frame it up where it made sense for both sides."
But just because a deal hasn't been struck yet doesn't mean it won't, or can't happen. But until a deal does happen, there will be Headley trade rumors. But for 2013 he is in San Diego, which means the Padres have the best third baseman in the division.
2) Will bringing the fences in dramatically change how Petco Park plays?
The Padres brought in the fences in the gaps, in left center field by 12 feet (402' to 390') and in right center field by 11 feet (402' to 391') in the hopes of adding more offense.
"Our goal is to move Petco Park away from being the most extreme run suppressing ballpark in Major League Baseball," said Padres exec Ron Fowler in October. "After an extensive study, it became clear to all of us that some change was needed. Petco will still be a pitcher's park; however, it will no longer be the outlier."
We'll see how it plays out, but let's just say you probably shouldn't bet on Eric Stults putting up a 2.92 ERA again in 2013, as he did in 2012 with San Diego. But at least now with more space behind the fences, the visitor's bullpen at Petco will no longer be in play, down the right field line.
3) How much will San Diego miss Grandal?
The Padres will open the season without catcher Yasmani Grandal for the first 50 games, because the 24-year-old tested positive for testosterone. Grandal lived up to the billing in his two months of action last year with San Diego, as he hit .297/.394/.469 with eight home runs in 60 games in his first taste of big league action.
It means the Padres will have to rely on Nick Hundley for the first two months, one year after Hundley hit a robust .157/.219/.245 in 57 games. It means the Padres will open the season without Grandal, the man with whom they went 31-21 in his starts.
The suspension of Grandal put Padres fans in a rough spot, as Dex at Gaslamp Ball noted in November:
Will I boo him after he serves his suspension? Probably not. Will I cheer him? Maybe not as loudly as I would have, and that's probably the real shame as a fan, being desensitized to this sort of thing. And since I don't want to not enjoy baseball anymore, I will just put Yasmani Grandal out of mind until he gets back and hope that when he does get back, he's doing the right thing.
Whatever that is.
4) Will Garcia or Stauffer crack the rotation?
The Padres signed a pair of 30-somethings to minor league contracts, including Tim Stauffer, who started on opening day for San Diego as recently as 2011. Injuries limited Stuaffer to just five innings pitched for the Padres in 2012, but I'm more intrigued by Freddy Garcia, 36, who put up a 5.20 ERA in 30 games, including 17 starts for the Yankees in 2012.
Again, I turn to Dex for reaction to Garcia, who warranted the headline "San Diego Padres sign Freddy Garcia 13 years after anybody could possibly give a sh_t":
Padres fans know Freddy Garcia mostly during his days with the hated Seattle Mariners when he was amazing a decade ago. Freddy Garcia's nickname is The Chief, which is a reference to him looking like the crazy American Indian dude from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. In recent years he's been seen wearing a Yankees uniform and a White Sox uniform.
I'm looking forward to what he can do, but I'm also kinda meh. I blame it on the deep rooted hatred I have of anything notable about our natural rival Seattle Mariners, which I'm sure MLB marketing is happy about.
5) Was San Diego's strong second half a harbinger of a contending run, like in 2009/2010?
The Padres in 2009 lost 87 games, their second straight losing season, but finished 37-25 over the final two months of the year. San Diego rode that success into a 90-win season in 2010, and were in first place in the National League West for 148 days before choking away the division and helping create a world in which "San Francisco Giants" and "World Series champions" could be used in the same sentence.
The Padres in 2012 lost 86 games, their second straight losing season, but finished 31-22 over the final 8½ weeks of the year. Does that mean San Diego will make another somewhat surprising contending run in 2013?
I'm not sure if the pitching is there, but the team has a young core group of players, and a strong farm system to boot (Keith Law, for one, pegged six Padres' minor leaguers in his top 100 prospects). So if the Padres don't quite contend in 2013, it might not be too long before they are back in contention in the division.
|Padres Trades, Etc. This Winter|
Andy Parrino if
Andrew Werner lhp
Tyson Ross rhp
A.J. Kirby-Jones 1b
|White Sox||Blake Tekotte of||Brandon Kloess rhp|
Neither of these trades screamed 'impact move' to me.
|Padres Contracts Signed This Winter|
|Pos||Player||Type||Total Contract||2013 Salary|
|SP||Jason Marquis||FA||1-yr, $3m||$3,000,000|
|3B||Chase Headley||arb||1 yr, $8.575m||$8,575,000|
|SP||Edinson Volquez||arb||1 yr, $5.275m||$5,275,000|
|RP||Luke Gregerson||arb||1 yr, $3.2m||$3,200,000|
|OF||Will Venable||arb||1 yr, $2.675m||$2,675,000|
|SS||Everth Cabrera||arb||1 yr, $1.275m||$1,275,000|
|RP||Joe Thatcher||arb||1 yr, $1.35m||$1,350,000|
|C||John Baker||arb||1 yr, $930k||$930,000|
|*including signing bonus; ^arb midpoint
|Padres Players Lost|
|P/PH||Micah Owings||free agent|
|P||Dustin Moseley||free agent|
|*Minor league deal|
Here's my guess as to the Padres' 25-man roster, with a few assumptions mixed in:
|2013 Padres Under Contract|
|Pos||Player||2013 Age*||2012 Salary|
|1B||Yonder Alonso||26||team control|
|2B||Logan Forsythe||26||team control|
|IF||Alexi Amarista||24||team control|
|1B/OF||Jesus Guzman||29||team control|
|RHP||Dale Thayer||32||team control|
|RHP||Brad Boxberger||25||team control|
|RHP||Brad Brach||27||team control|
|LHP||Tommy Layne||28||team control|
|Totals (16 players)
|*Age as of June 30, 2013; ^arb midpoint