This is part of a series of posts wherein we castigate teams for their foul offseason escapades and applaud them for their choice acquisitions.
Sometime in February, Padres closer Heath Bell told USA Today he sees big things for his team in 2010:
“I’m very optimistic,” Bell said. “I think we can do real well, surprise a lot of people, turn a lot of heads. I think this team could possibly not just go to the playoffs but go to the Series. I think the young guys want to win and they’re ready to win. We just have to play our game.”
You can’t blame the fireballer for suddenly sounding like a internet start-up business model. Step One: Be optimistic about the season, turn some heads even; Step Two: … ; Step Three: win World Series. The club did finish strong in 2009, winning 12 of their last 19 series, but good play for a few weeks doesn’t translate to playoff berths or division titles. So has new GM Jed Hoyer made the necessary moves to put the Pads back in contention? Let’s break it down.
The biggest question this offseason has been the future of first-sacker Adrian Gonzalez. The slugger is at his prime and if his production continues, the Padres will have a difficult time keeping him beyond 2011 when his contract ends. Gonzalez himself has made it no secret that he wants to cash in on his talents. Numerous trade scenarios have been laid out and several teams have expressed serious interest in acquiring Gonzalez’s services, the issue boils down to how much the Padres will get in return if he’s indeed moved.
So far, however, Gonzalez remains in southern California, and he’ll be the lone heart and soul of the Padres offense since the Padres didn’t exactly break the bank adding more bats. Hoyer signed Matt Stairs, hoping to squeeze a few last home runs from the veteran journeyman, as well as Josh Barfield and catcher Yorvit Torrealba. Nothing stellar there.
Hoyer opened the year by shuffling his line-up a bit, trading an under-performing Kevin Kouzmanoff and Eric Sogard to Oakland for outfielder Aaron Cunningham and Scott Hairston (now entering his second stint with the Pads). Although, the move doesn’t scream upgrade.
An interesting possibility would arise if Hoyer does trade Gonzalez this year, acquiring talent and opening the way for youngster Kyle Blanks to move to the infield to play full-time. But don’t hold your breath: Blanks hit just .250 and swung at the first pitch half the time.
The biggest move this offseason was signing veteran hurler Jon Garland to take Peavy’s spot in the rotation. Though he won’t win the Cy Young (watch, he’ll do it just to make me look bad), Garland provides a workhorse that can chew up 200 innings and go deep into games and maybe win 12-15 contests. Again, not an upgrade, not by a long shot.
There’s no doubt the Padres are shuffling their roster to weed out expiring talent, while making room for fresh prospects to compete for starting positions. The issue will be, however, that the financial constrains on such a small-market team will make increasing the budget a very unlikely scenario. As the Yankees proved last year, it’ll be even harder for small-market teams with promise to compete.
Offseason grade: C-
Notable additions: Josh Barfield, Matt Stairs, Yorvit Torrealba, Jon Garland, Scott Hairston, Aaron Cunningham.
Key losses: Kevin Kouzmanoff, Eric Sogard, Edgar Gonzalez
Lineup, rotation, and closer:
C – Yorvit Torrealba
1B – Adrian Gonzalez
2B – David Eckstein
SS – Everth Cabrera
3B – Chase Headley
LF – Kyle Banks
CF – Tony K. Gwynn/Scott Hairston
RF – Will Venable/Aaron Cunningham
SP1 – Jon Garland
SP2 – Chris Young
SP3 – Kevin Correia
SP4 – Clayton Richard
SP5 – Matt Latos
CL – Heath Bell