This is one of a series of posts in which we grade each team’s wily hot stove maneuvers and tragic offseason blunders.
With a Park Factor of .755, Petco Park was by far and away the most pitching-friendly stadium in all of MLB in 2007. A hitter was 25% less likely to earn a round-tripper in San Diego than the average ballpark. So it comes as no surprise that the San Diego Padres pitching staff put up numbers that were the cream of the crop in many important categories, such as ERA (1st), Batting Average Against (3rd), OBP Against (1st), SLG Against (1st), BB/9 (3rd) and HR/9 (1st). It should also come as no surprise that the Pads’ offensive numbers were less than stellar, and going into the offseason, this was the most obvious area in which they needed to improve. So let’s take a look and see how they did.
Losing two of your better hitters is usually not the way offenses improve, but that’s what the Padres need to do after losing both Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley to free agency, although the latter didn’t play much anyway due to an injury that received very little notice if I recall correctly. But these were still bats that needed to be replaced, and the Padres picked up centerfielder Jim Edmonds in place of Cameron and will ask Scott Hairston to play left in most games. The only other bat that the team managed to get was Tadahito Iguchi, who should be an offensive upgrade over Geoff Blum and Marcus Giles.
But it’s the Edmonds acquisition that’s most intriguing in a “boom or bust” kind of way. Here we have a centerfielder who is in the twilight of what some will argue is a Hall of Fame career. His numbers have been declining since 2005 and 2007 was rather unkind to Jim as injuries (shoulder, groin, and pinched nerve) built up. While he was able to play in 117 games, those weren’t exactly very successful appearances. He had a career low in OBP (.325) and had the worst slugging percentage (.403) since 1994. How much of this rapid decline was due to age alone? How badly did the injuries affect him? If Edmonds’ struggles in 2007 was more a result of the latter than the former, he still should be capable of replacing, or even surpassing, what offensive value Mike Cameron possessed. But if it really was just old age, Petco Park sure is not going to help the matter. It should also be noted that Edmonds’ pitch selection wasn’t what it used to be either, as he saw only 3.89 pitches per plate appearance – his lowest since 1997 – which resulted in the low walk total. But regardless of health, what Edmonds is not going to be able to replace is Cameron’s glove. While some may still think of Edmonds as the elite centerfielder, he’s no longer that guy. And the flyball pitchers of the Padres might be seeing a few more balls drop in in that huge San Diego centerfield this coming year.
While this doesn’t qualify as an offseason transaction, it should also be interesting to see if the aforementioned Scott Hairston is for real. The 27-year old slugged a ridiculous .644 since he was acquired from Arizona in July. Although no one in their right minds should expect him to repeat that level of success (and the stats do show it was probably a fluke), it still merits attention.
On the pitching side, the Padres didn’t lose much at all (unless you are the president of the Brett Tomko Fan Club. In which case, the Padres lost everything). But they did gain two starting pitchers on one-year deals that may pay some serious dividends.
Randy Wolf had a decent start to his 2007 campaign, but that’s about the only good thing that can be said about his season, as his ERA skyrocketed in June and was shut down for the year in July following shoulder surgery. Although we can’t ignore the fact that the Dodgers turned down his $9 million 2008 option – which may be indicative of what little faith they had in his repaired arm – the Padres did wisely sign him for only one year at $4.75 million guaranteed. I’ve written about the Mark Prior deal before, and nothing has happened since to make me change my mind that this was a good investment on the Padres’ part. If Prior can’t go, the Padres lose only a million. If he can perform, he’s owed $3 million max.
It does seem like the team ought to be concerned about the health of their rotation, however, as in addition to the brittle Wolf and Prior, Greg Maddux has to break down sometime, right? They have a decent filler in Justin Germano, however, but they may find themselves asking “Who else we got?” one more than one occasion.
The other thing that may come back to bite the Padres in the keester is that shallow bench, having lost both Blum and Rob Mackowiak to free agency. Unless they make a couple more acquisitions over the next few weeks, it appears that Kevin Towers will simply let some of the youngsters (super prospect Chase Headley, Drew Macias, Callix Crabbe) earn their way towards Opening Day.
Additions: Jim Edmonds, Tadahito Iguchi, Randy Wolf, Mark Prior, Carlos Guevara
Losses: Mike Cameron, Milton Bradley, Brett Tomko, Rob Mackowiak, Geoff Blum, Jack Cassel, Doug Brocail, Marcus Giles
C – Josh Bard
1B – Adrian Gonzalez
2B – Tadahito Iguchi
3B – Kevin Kouzmanoff
LF – Scott Hairston
CF – Jim Edmonds
RF – Brian Giles
SP: Jake Peavy
SP: Chris Young
SP: Greg Maddux
SP: Randy Wolf
SP: Mark Prior
CL: Trevor Hoffman
Set-Up: Heath Bell/Cla Meridith
Offseason Grade: C+
Maybe I’m too pessimistic about Edmonds’ chances to rebound, but the growth of Adrian Gonzalez is going to take on a new level of importance. The Padres needed some guys capable of posting solid batting averages and OBPs and didn’t really get it. Pitching wise, if health were not a factor, what they did in this arena alone would have earned them at least a B.