Let’s Do It and Be Legends Pt. 2
I had this post all planned out. It was gonna go through why I thought the Indians had a great case for going after Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel. Then Machado signed with the Padres. So, that kind of nixed that idea. Luckily, the Padres were another team I considered as a potential landing spot. So here’s part two, where I try to make the case for the Padres to go all in.
The thing to know about the Padres is that they have been very bad for the last 12 years. They had winning season in 2010, where they still missed the playoffs. The last extended period of success was a run from 2004 to 2007 where they made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons (2005 and 2006) and were over .500 in all four of those seasons. Before that, they made the World Series in 1998 where they were swept.
They also aren’t particularly known for dishing out long and expensive contracts. A.J. Preller seems to have more freedom, since according to the San Diego Tribune he’s given out three of the seven (now four out of eight) most expensive contracts in team history. Three of those contracts belong to Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer and now Manny Machado. Despite all this, the Padres have around $87 million in luxury tax space. With Francisco Mejia and Fernando Tatís Jr. on the way, they are on the cusp, much like the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs were just a few years ago.
They can build something so much bigger though, potentially locking down a core of position players that can help them compete for the next six years, if it all works out. The pitching prospects are still a couple years away, but they can augment their team so those pitchers are coming into a semi-complete product. With just Machado, this is still a below .500 team that will miss the playoffs. They can speed up the process and potentially make a run at the National League West with just a couple more additions.
Bryce Harper is looking for at a minimum, a Machado-esque contract. Long term and big money. The Padres can provide at least $30 million a year while still being under the luxury tax. The issue is, there is a glut of young outfielders on the major league roster already. Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes and Wil Myers are all pure corner outfielders. While Manuel Margot is the only pure center fielder of the group, Franchy Cordero has the size and speed to play center while also spending time in a corner. That’s five outfielders for three spots before bringing Harper into the mix.
At this point, if they were to sign Harper, I’d bet on Margot to be the full time center fielder while shopping Renfroe and Reyes. Keep Cordero as a plug and play in center or corner if any of Margot, Myers or Harper get hurt. Renfroe and Reyes are statcast darlings, known for big power, but they strike out a lot (though Renfroe did cut his K% last year). They also struggle on the defensive end of the ball, but I can imagine a few teams would look into them regardless. An outfield left to right of Myers, Margot and Harper would be completely adequate offensively and defensively.
The bullpen and starting rotation are severe deficiencies right now. Brad Hand was a solid reliever that was flipped for Francisco Mejia. The rotation has Joey Lucchesi and then a serious drop off. Kimbrel and Keuchel are definite fits here. The bullpen can’t hurt to have Kimbrel as a high leverage reliever, even if he has taken a step back from his peak years. Keuchel fits in Petco Park as a ground ball pitcher with a potentially great defensive infield behind him, regardless of when Tatís Jr. is called up. Ian Kinsler has always played above average defense at second, which is where Luis Urias will slide over to when Tatís Jr. is ready.
In reality, it’s a long shot that they make any of these moves. Machado will only count as $14 million against the payroll this year, as the deal is currently structured. His salary jumps to $34 million, with Wil Myers’ salary jumping to $22.5 million next year as well. Hosmer’s salary will be $21 million for the next four years. That’s four years where $77.5 million will be dedicated to three players.
Adding in Harper, Keuchel and Kimbrel would jettison that number beyond $120 million to six players easily, if signed. I get why the Padres wouldn’t want to do it, even if I disagree with their logic. The Hosmer contract already looks pretty scary, since he sat at -0.1 fWAR last year. Then again no one told them they had to sign Hosmer last year, when they were never supposed to compete.
I think Harper, Myers and Machado will age better, but the Padres would clearly worry about the years when all their prospects hit arbitration and thus will command raises. But that’s so far in the future, and none of their performances are guaranteed. If they fail and all the Padres are left with this off season is Machado, just how successful will they be?
Harper, for all of his under performance compared to his astronomical expectations, will perform wherever he goes. Lest we forget he’s been worth more than 3.0 fWAR for six out of his seven years in the majors. Keuchel and Kimbrel, the older of the free agents, will eventually decline but they can be immediate boosts for these crucial next two or three years.
The Rockies and Dodgers did nothing to improve their current rosters and the Giants are probably looking at a rebuild. I’m running out of ways to say that money means nothing, flags fly forever. Do the damn thing, A.J. Preller.