All offseason, Diamond Digest writers will be taking a look at each team’s 2020 season and looking forward at what moves each team might have to make to set themselves up for improvement in 2021. Today, Connor O’Brien takes a look at the San Diego Padres.
2020 Record: 37-23, 2nd place in NL West
Team MVP: Manny Machado
Team Cy Young: Dinelson Lamet
Biggest Positive Surprise: Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers
Biggest Negative Surprise: Francisco Mejia
When I wrote the 2020 season preview for the San Diego Padres, I was relatively high on them compared to other writers. I had the Padres pegged for a 33 win season, while Fangraphs had them just below me at 31 wins. And while I believed in this team more than most, I didn’t see a 37 win season coming, which saw the Padres buy at the trade deadline and challenge the Dodgers down the stretch for the National League West title.
My three X factors for the season consisted of Fernando Tatis Jr., Dinelson Lamet, and Francisco Mejia. Tatis looked like an MVP front runner in the first half of the season before fading down the stretch. Lamet dazzled in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, becoming the ace of the staff during the season. Mejia, well, it was a step backward for him as he struggled on both sides of the ball this season.
Entering the season, I thought that if the Padres were to make it to the playoffs, it would be behind their pitching staff. With a young and electric starting rotation and a bullpen with numerous upgrades during the offseason, this would be the path to October baseball. The staff as a whole held their own, but it wasn’t the dominant back end of the bullpen that I was expecting, especially with Kirby Yates missing almost the entire season.
But instead, the offense helped carry the load. With Eric Hosmer returning to his old Kansas City form and Wil Myers finally having his long-awaited breakout season, the Padres offense was a force to be reckoned with. Manny Machado posted the best OPS+ of his career, and Tatis stayed healthy, showing his full potential. Trent Grisham provided more than any Padres fan could have expected, and rookie Jake Cronenworth broke out in a big way.
With this, the Padres were buyers at the trade deadline. Mike Clevinger was the main piece, but will miss the 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery. Austin Nola and Jason Castro brought depth behind the plate. Castro and Mitch Moreland will be free agents this upcoming offseason.
2020-2021 Offseason Preview
Key Losses: Kirby Yates, Garrett Richards, Jurickson Profar, Trevor Rosenthal, Mitch Moreland, Jason Castro
Areas of Greatest Need: Starting Pitching, Relief Pitching, Utility Man
A few rumors have recently been swirling revolving Bauer going to San Diego. Despite the need for another pitcher, it seems like a longshot for the Padres to take on another large contract. With Hosmer, Machado, and Myers on high-value deals, the smaller market Padres may opt to spend on a Fernando Tatis Jr. extension. Still, Bauer would fill the need for another high-quality starter, especially with Mike Clevinger missing the 2021 season.
Odorizzi accepted the Twins qualifying offer last offseason and chose to bet on himself for the 2020 season. That decision backfired as injuries limited Odorizzi to only 13.2 innings pitched this past season. Still, Odorizzi is that perfect mid-tier pitcher that could fit in nicely in the back end of the Padres rotation. He’ll start the 2021 season at the age of 31, and could be in line for a 1-year prove-it deal, worth somewhere around 12 million.
Last offseason, rumors swirled with the possibility of Kluber landing in Southern California. But after being traded to the Rangers, Kluber tore a muscle in his shoulder, causing him to miss the whole season with the exception of 1 inning. Kluber might not be the ace that he once was, but he more than likely will come on a 1 year prove it deal wherever he lands for 2021. He is still only 4 years removed from his second Cy Young award-winning season and might have more in the tank than people expect him to.
What’s the best way to make up the gap on the defending world series champions? Take their players. Hernandez would be a nice piece for the Padres starting lineup/bench. Hernandez can play all over the field, similar to Jurickson Profar, but at a slightly higher level. It remains unknown whether the long term Dodger will be brought back, but if he is open to outside offers, the Padres should be one of many teams looking for his services.
Tommy La Stella
La Stella isn’t as versatile as Hernandez as he can’t play the outfield or shortstop, but we would still be a nice piece for the Padres. After a breakout All-Star campaign in 2019, La Stella continued in 2020 posting a 127 OPS+. While La Stella isn’t the most reliable player in the field, he could be an extremely valuable bench bat as he was with the Chicago Cubs.
The Padres spent big on a reliever last year in Drew Pomeranz and should consider the same this offseason. Losing former closer Kirby Yates to free agency, Hendriks could take over the spot Yates held prior to his injury. Hendriks posted 14 saves this past season while holding opponents to a 1.78 ERA. He won’t come cheap though, as many teams are expected to pursue him in free agency.
Rosenthal was dominant for both the Royals and the Padres during the 2020 season. After coming over in a midseason trade, Rosenthal helped to lock down the back end of the Padres bullpen with Kirby Yates missing almost the whole season. Even after Tommy John surgery knocked him out for 2017 and 2018, Rosenthal’s velocity was still there in 2020. He could continue to replace Yates at the back end of the bullpen and would come much cheaper than Hendriks.
Let’s mix it up a little with a trade. Musgrove has been one of the more underappreciated starters in baseball. With the Pirates in a full-scale rebuild, he looks to be one of the most likely pitchers to be traded this offseason. But Musgrove won’t come cheap, as he has two years of arbitration remaining until he reaches free agency. While the Padres don’t want to part with more prospects, moving Luis Campasano might make sense to continue the Padres’ push to win now.
This one seems like more of a long shot, given that the Padres don’t have a dire need for a player like Merrifield. But, with the Royals in a rebuild, moving the speedy infielder makes sense. A couple of young players like Adrian Morejon and 2020 first-round pick Robert Hassel might be enough to get Kansas City to ship Merrifield out west. One of the reasons why the price on Merrifield is so high is that he is due to make only $15 million over the next 3 seasons under contract. The Padres would appear more likely to go through free agency to avoid giving up prospects.
2021 Projected Roster
- SS Fernando Tatis Jr.
- LF Tommy Pham
- 3B Manny Machado
- 1B Eric Hosmer
- RF Wil Myers
- 2B Jake Cronenworth
- CF Trent Grisham
- C Austin Nola
The lineup for the Padres should remain roughly the same. Much of the depth of this lineup will depend on repeat performances from Hosmer and Myers in 2021. Despite a lost season for Tommy Pham, his on-base ability should be able to put him back up in the Padres lineup and could be a valuable table-setter for the Friars. If Pham were to struggle, Trent Grisham could quickly replace him in the lineup in front of Manny Machado.
- Dinelson Lamet
- Chris Paddack
- Zach Davies
- Jake Odorizzi
- Joey Luchessi
Dinelson Lamet’s first season back from Tommy John surgery had him as one of the top pitchers in all of baseball. Paddack needs to find that ace potential that he flashed as the Cowboy during the 2019 season. Zach Davies continues to be one of the more underappreciated pitchers in all of baseball. After a 3.55 ERA in 2019, Davies took it to another level in 2020, posting a 2.73 ERA across 12 starts. Jake Odorizzi could be a free agent target for the Padres and should come on a short term contract. Joey Lucchesi could just be a placeholder until top prospect Mackenzie Gore is ready to make his big league debut.
The bullpen will be a strength for the Padres if they can maintain Rosenthal and acquire another relief arm. I have them signing Cam Bedrosian, who would head south after spending 5 seasons with the Angels. With Pomeranz, Rosenthal, and Stammen, high expectations for this relief corps are reasonable.
Going into 2021, the Padres have a pretty complete team. With a solid top three in the pitching staff in Lamet, Paddack, and Davies, along with young prospects like Gore on the way, the rotation could be a strength for the Padres, assuming they add one more arm. The bullpen which helped pave the way to their 2020 playoff berth, could look very similar in 2021 as well.
The offense, led by Tatis and Machado should be as dynamic as last year, while Hosmer, Myers, and Grisham look to continue to build off great shortened campaigns. Austin Nola should provide a nice offensive boost at catcher, while Jake Cronenworth will look to avoid a sophomore slump.
I expect the Padres to be firmly in the hunt for a Wild Card spot, and possibly the division if the Dodgers suffer from the dreaded World Series hangover. While they are still a step behind the Dodgers, the Padres continue to take steps in the right direction. At long last, the window to win for the Padres has opened and doesn’t look to be closing anytime soon.