The San Diego Padres took the baseball world by surprise this offseason as general manager A.J Preller was outlandishly aggressive on the trade market in December. In a flurry of moves with several different teams, the Padres upgraded at nearly every position and did not worry about the future or the financial repercussions.
The Padres sent plenty of prospects away in exchange for big-name players. Preller pulled the trigger to add Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks to a Padres lineup that ranked last in the MLB in nearly every offensive category, including batting average, runs scored, hits, and OPS.
They are undoubtedly hampered a bit by their home ballpark, the spacious pitcher-friendly Petco Park, but to be at the bottom of all those categories is inexcusable. The lack of offense is likely why Preller felt he must make drastic changes in his first season as general manager.
However, the sheer volume of moves in no way guarantees that the Padres will be instant contenders in the N.L. West.
History is replete with examples of teams that added starpower with unimpressive results. The Miami Marlins are probably the most glaring recent example. Before the 2012 season, they acquired the trio of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell and hoped to win immediately, but the roster never gelled, and all three were eventually traded.
The Los Angeles Angels are another example. After signing costless agents Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to massive contracts to give the Halos a scary heart of the order, they missed the playoffs in 2013.
Back to the Padres -- there are questions about nearly every one of the team’s newest acquisitions. Kemp has failed to live up to his MVP-caliber season in 2012, and although he had a stellar second-half of the past season, he hit .269 with only eight home runs before the All-Star Break. It was also revealed in his physical with San Diego that he has arthritis in both hips, which has to be at least a bit concerning.
Wil Myers had a phenomenal Rookie of the Year season in 2013, but he followed it up with an injury-prone sophomore campaign. He played in only 87 games for the Rays last year due to a wrist injury he suffered in June, and he managed a measly .222 average with six homers.
Justin Upton might be the most consistent of the three outfielders, which is saying something considering the former Brave has proven to be one of the streakiest hitters in the entire league. For example, he hit .326 with eight dingers in April of last year. He also had solid stats in May, July, and August, but hit .226 and .169 in June and September, respectively. For the season, he hit .270 with 29 homers and 102 RBIs.
Upton likely will not hit for a great average in the future, but he is a good bet to hit 25-30 round trippers and have plenty of RBIs if his teammates get on base in front of him.
Derek Norris, who was acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics, is a solid catcher, but he does not have near the potential that Yasmani Grandal does. Grandal was traded to the Dodgers in the Kemp sweepstakes.
In addition, Will Middlebrooks makes everyone look like the model of consistency. The former Boston top prospect had a terrific rookie season back in 2012 when he hit 15 homers in only 75 games. However, he followed with two horrific years in which he failed to crack .230. While he did flash some decent pop in 2013, if he does not improve his contact skills, he will struggle to stay on the field.
The Friars will also hope to get contributions from the likes of infielders Jedd Gyorko and Yangervis Solarte, but those two are not slam dunks to say the least.
Do not forget about the ballpark either. Upton recently told ESPN that he does not fear the cavernous dimensions of Petco Park, which is a positive outlook for the Padres.
“Everybody says it’s big,” he said. “It usually plays pretty fair. It’s one of those places where if you hit a home run, it’s going to be a home run. I’ve enjoyed a bit of success here, and I enjoy playing here.”
He has fared well in San Diego throughout his career, but it has to be expected that the stadium will take away a few home runs from the new sluggers. There is not a single ballpark in America in which if a Major-League slugger gets hold of one, it will stay in the park. It will be interesting to see if any of the new additions will see their power numbers decrease.
And then there is the financial position that the Padres are in with the barrage of moves. Kemp will add only $3 million to the club’s payroll for 2015, but in 2016-2019, the Padres will pay him $18.5 million each year.
Justin Upton is in the last year of his contract, and he will surely command a lucrative contract at season’s end. San Diego has shown a propensity to be frugal in the past, so it is doubtful that they will even re-sign Upton.
If that is the case, the Padres are going all in to win this year. Unfortunately for them, they will not likrly make the playoffs. They finished 17 games out of first place in 2014, and despite the new additions, they do not have enough talent to overtake the Dodgers or the Giants in the division.
The lineup should be considerably more potent in 2015, but there are still numerous questions regarding the pitching staff that have not yet been addressed. The Padres will not be as embarrassing as the 2012 Marlins were, but do not expect them to be this year’s version of the Kansas City Royals either.
On the other hand, if all the acquisitions return to their best form, the outcome could be drastically different.