Preface: First posted on Facebook just before the Padres-Cardinals series began @ Petco. Updates will continue until they are mathematically eliminated, or (miraculously) make the post-season.
Padres have won 7 in a row to increase their chances of making the post-season from <0.1% to 0.7%. RHP’s Joe Musgrove & Hu Darvish, along with C Gary Sanchez & UT Jake Cronenworth, etc, all shut down for the season. The Padres still have a strong rotation with Blake Snell, Michael Wacha & Seth Lugo, but they NEED a 4th starter. Young righty knuckleballer Matt Waldron (PTBNL in the Mike Clevinger deal with Indians) starts for the Padres tonight against the Cardinals.
Pedro Avila is their 5th starter but he can be skipped this time through the rotation because the Padres just had a off day. They’ll either need Avila to win a game in the Giants series next week, or continue to be an effective bullpen option. Pedro Avila is a young promising righty arm, who has been a good bullpen guy that can also spot start. AJP got him in the Derek Norris heist from the Nationals in December 2016. That farm system depth needs to play more for the Padres in 2024.
Sat 23 Sep 2023 10:30 AM CDT
Matt Waldron (pic above) pitched great, as the Padres won 4-2 last night for their 8th straight (post-season chances now 1.7%). It’s RHP Nick Martinez starting for the Friars tonight, not Pedro Avila. Martinez is the other duel use Padres option. It just shows how much talent this roster has.
The Padres are being aggressive and using their 5th starter now, at home against a poor team, instead of against the Giants next Wednesday. It will be Matt Waldron for that start, then an off day, allowing their rotation to flip back to Wacha-Snell-Lugo @ White Sox to close the season. I describe all this to prove this team is well managed. Bob Melvin is a good manager. That’s not the problem.
The Padres now sit four games behind the Cubs with eight left. Padres lose the tiebreakers to the Cubs & Snakes, so it ain’t happenin’, but as a fan you kinda have to follow your team until the end… The 2023 Padres are the most frustrating & confounding team I’ve ever rooted for.
As a Reds fan in 1981, that was the most frustrating. Most baseball fans don’t recognize that season as legitimate. The post-season should have been the Brewers v A’s in the AL, and the Reds v Cardinals in the NL. But MLB owners wanted to reset the season for everybody after the players strike was settled, so the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the WS that year. Total joke. Fans don’t blame their teams for that.
When the Rays traded ace LHP David Price in 2014, that was frustrating as a fan. Same goes for Brewers fans with dumping ace closer Josh Hader last year. Fans rightly blame ownership & management for that crap.
But the 2023 Padres were given everything they needed to win, by management & the fans. Padres set an attendance record this season, and they had their highest payroll ever, both 3rd in MLB. But the Padres players never showed any urgency, and seemingly lost every close ballgame they played, until these final three weeks of the season. For the first 5+ months, they underperformed with very little fight.
I honestly never expected the Padres to win the NL West this year, as they finished 22 GB the Dodgers last year. But they were expected to nab a Wild Card and be a dangerous team in the playoffs again. Instead, GM AJP was forced to consider selling at the trade deadline, but the market was cold, so he flipped to being a soft buyer and got cheap reinforcements for his squad. It was better than doing what the Mets did, but nothing worked for the 2023 Padres and sometimes it’s just not your year.
As a fan you have to applaud the player effort up to the end, but then ask, “Where was this all season?” This franchise will be in the news again this winter, you can be sure. AJ Preller has some team chemistry issues that need to be addressed if the Padres are going to be a serious WS contender going forward.
The Padres lineup was clicking in spring training. I know ST doesn’t matter, but in this case they had Fernando Tatis, Jr. Then the season started and Tatis was placed on the suspended list until April 20, as a carry-over from his PED suspension in 2022.
This happened because Tatis hurt his wrist in a motorbike accident(s), and it happened in the Dominican Republic during the MLB owners lockout, so the Padres didn’t know about it, as teams were not allowed to communicate with any of their players during this collective bargaining stand-off. The CBA was ratified just before 2022 Spring Training, and then the Padres found out he had been hurt. Tatis then used a banned substance out of stupidity & recklessness, and was busted for it just as he was about to return from his wrist injury. This is why AJP had to empty the farm system to get Juan Soto. The 2022 Padres never would have made the post-season without all the deals AJP made that trade deadline.
Tatis, who was once hailed as the franchise leader, wasn’t there with his teammates on Opening Day 2023. The Padres struggled out of the gate, anxiously awaiting Tatis’ return, fans were told. When he re-joined the team, he’s now the RF, with splash FA signing Xander Bogaerts taking over at SS. But the question remained, “Who is the leader of this team?” It can’t be the PED guy, he’s got to produce and win back the team, organization & fans. He ALONE has to face to the jeers, boo birds & harsh critics. That divides a team, and it was inevitable.
Padres got very little production at CF, 1B & DH in 2023. When AJP nabbed C Gary Sanchez off waivers on May 29, it filled a HUGE hole– until he got hurt in September. It still begged the question, “How come this expensive team has so many holes?”
LF Juan Soto had a great season, and that’s the guy the Padres give money to this off-season, if ownership insists on making a splash. Not DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani, due to his 2nd TJ. That’s how much the market has shifted on that.
With Tatis, Machado, Bogaerts & Soto the Padres should be competitive. They have a decent pitching staff and a good farm system (again), as they’ve gotten better at drafting & player development, which they needed to do to catch the Dodgers. At this point, the Padres need to get better than the Phillies & Brewers before they can set their sights on the Dodgers & Braves. The 2024 Padres need to be younger & more homegrown, otherwise they will turn into the Mets & Yankees.
Sat 23 Sep 2023 11:30 PM CDT
Padres stacked righties Nick Martinez (4.0 IP) with Pedro Avila (2.2 IP), and it worked for six scoreless innings. But Avila cracked for two runs in the 7th, and the Padres lost 5-2 to the Cardinals in 11 innings. Padres fall to 0-12 in extra innings in 2023, and in many ways it capsulized the Padres season. They had a solid game plan to win. They had a lead & pitched well, but couldn’t tack-on when opportunities arose, either through bad luck or bad play. They couldn’t produce good AB’s when it mattered most. Just enough to beat them.
This time a main culprit was Luis Campusano not running hard out-of-the-box and getting hosed easily at second base to kill a potential rally in the 6th. The normally supportive home fans booed, and deservedly so. In 2023, that crap happened over & over against bad teams in front of capacity Petco crowds. Padres players have work to do to win back their fans in 2024, as Friar faithful feel betrayed by a careless lack of effort this past season.
Padres then started to press and it snowballed into defeat. Ha-Seong Kim got picked off 1st base to end the 8th. Bottom of the 9th, Padres down 2-1, they load the bases with no outs, and the top of the order coming up. Bogaerts grounds into a force play for a game-tying RBI, then Tatis & Soto strike out, which means extra innings. A couple of GIDP’s late in the game were leitmotifs for the 2023 Padres. Twelve walks, but only six hits in 11 innings for the Padres, all singles.
Cubs & Marlins won, while the Giants & Reds lost, so the Padres are virtually eliminated, which means I’m done after this update. The Diamondbacks were weathered-out @ Yankees on Saturday by Tropical Storm Ophelia, and will try to make it up as a doubleheader on Monday (hopefully), as they have no more off days. Sunday’s game is questionable at this point. The most likely NL team to collapse down the stretch is the D-backs, who along with the Reds & Marlins have a negative run differential.
Climate change has created havoc with the MLB schedule this season, and it’s hurting the Snakes here. Earlier in the summer (June 27-29), the Padres played a series @ Pirates where Canadian wildfire smoke choked the air for three games. Players weren’t allowed to complain too loudly, as getting the games in was primary. What was supposed to be a soft spot in their road schedule turned into a disaster, as the Padres got swept in Pittsburgh and then lost 2-of-3 in Cincinnati. There were times during the season I felt players were put in a position where winning the game was secondary compared to what was going on around them. No doubt this affected their effort & performance at times. This happened to every team to a varying degree.
Padres hot stove season outlook
Austin Nola, the older brother of Phillies RHP Aaron Nola, is an interesting Padres arbitration case. He’s gonna be 34, which is very old for a catcher, and he was sent down to the minors in July after posting an anemic .146/.260/.192 batting line in 2023. Austin Nola has 3.1 years of MLB service time, making him arbitration eligible this winter after making $2.35M this year. He’s possibly/likely a non-tender for the Padres. Look for AJP to try to package him in a deal, if possible– or re-sign him to a minor league contract.
Padres are still hopeful on C Luis Campusano who is about to turn 25. He’s had defensive issues and injuries have hampered his development. Health is a skill, but the raw talent is there. He can really hit. Also recall, the Padres went all-in on C Ethan Salas during the Jan 15, 2023 International Draft. He was the top prospect available and the Padres gave Salas all their slot money to get him. Ethan Salas is the Padres #1 prospect, playing at AA at age 17. Padres need a veteran C to start 2024, so re-signing Gary Sanchez remains a possibility. AJP will explore the market, but their catching future appears to be in the system.
LHP Robby Snelling is the Padres #3 prospect, one of three finalists for minor league pitcher of the year. This high school draftee, above-slot bonus baby, the #39 overall pick in the 2022 Draft, could be competing for a Padres rotation slot some time in 2024. Padres #6 prospect, 2018 International Draft selection RHP Jairo Iriarte, age 21, is expected to compete for the Padres rotation in 2024. RHP Adam Mazur, a 2022 college draft pick, age 22 has a 2025 ETA. Padres farm system doesn’t have the depth it had a few years back when it was the best in baseball, but it has some high-end talent.
Padres have RHPs Joe Musgrove & Hu Darvish locked up, so it’s ‘however AJP decides’ to fill out his rotation after losing LHP Blake Snell (NL Cy Young 2023) to free agency. Padres will take the compensation pick on Blake Snell, and for Josh Hader too. Those were a couple of GREAT trades that will continue to bear fruit for the Padres. One way to build talent & depth in a farm system is by acquiring compensation picks* and using them well. For the record, AJP was set up to deal Blake Snell, Josh Hader, and possibly Juan Soto at the 2023 trade deadline– the BEST rental starter, closer, AND positional player available. When the seller market froze (due to East Coast Bias collusion), AJ Preller pulled back and left the Mets high & dry as they proceeded to dump for pennies on the dollar because they had no choice.
* Compensation picks are more valuable than many of the top prospects that were dealt this past trade deadline, including the players in the Max Scherzer & Justin Verlander deals. The Mets paid $43.3M to the Rangers to get SS/2B Luisangel Acuña in the Max Scherzer trade deadline dump. Luisangel Acuña is now the Mets top prospect (#38 in MLB), expected to arrive in 2024 at age 22. A compensation pick costs a team <1/10th (top pick, ~1/5th) of that in terms of dollars, which means if the player busts, it’s not devastating. But if this “$43M prospect” doesn’t cut it in the Big Apple, then fans, players & media will immediately point fingers.
That’s the risk of overvaluing prospects, which GM’s tend to do when their farm system is barren and a re-build is in order. RHP Justin Verlander was also dumped by the Mets, to the Astros for OF Drew Gilbert (#2 Mets, [#52 MLB], 2025 ETA), and OF/1B Ryan Clifford (#6 Mets, 2026 ETA). Mets paid $39.1M to get those two prospects, neither of them a pitcher. In total, the Mets paid $82M on August 1, 2023 for three non-pitcher prospects (now #1, #2 & #6 in their system), in exchange for their two veteran aces. Was it worth it? Probably not, but we’ll see.
The bigger point is a GM should never put an organization in that situation. With all those resources made available, the Mets had no back-up plan if their 2023 team collapsed, which it did– and it cost them dearly. Mets GM Billy Eppler then had to do as ownership commanded at the trade deadline and recoup what he could regardless of the cost, knowing all along he was going to be replaced by David Stearns. It was the worst kept secret in MLB for over two years.
This is the Amazin’ Mess which new GM David Stearns now inherits. He’s a bright guy who built the Brewers pitching staff of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff Freddie Peralta which is as good as any trio in MLB. The Brew Crew have a deep bullpen, and a manager who knows how to use it. Craig Counsell is a top-3 MLB manager every year. David Stearns also made great trades over the years to build the Brewers into a consistent winner on a budget. He leaves Milwaukee in good hands and will now have a top-tier payroll in the #1 media market. It’s comparable to Andrew Friedman leaving the Rays for the Dodgers in 2015. The Mets will be good again very soon with David Stearns as their GM. ****
Padres have an interesting decision on RHP Michael Wacha, age 32, who has a player option for $6.5M, while the Padres hold a $16M team option for 2024 & 2025. Wacha earned $7.5 in 2023, and was their 2nd-best starter, behind Blake Snell. I suspect the Padres will pick up Michael Wacha’s option for $16M.
RHP Seth Lugo also pitched great, after being signed as a 5th/6th starter, he ended up as the Padres 3rd starter. Seth Lugo has a $7.5M player option for 2024, but may decline that after having a nice age-33 season for the Friars. He might be looking for a multi-year deal on the free agent market. The Padres are looking to get younger on the pitching side, but on the other hand, if Seth Lugo exercises his player option, the Padres would be ecstatic. You can never have too much pitching, especially when it’s a reliable team player.
Padres #2 prospect, SS Jackson Merrill, age 20, is expected to arrive in 2024. I don’t envision AJ Preller dealing any of his top prospects, as they’re part of his plan to get younger, cheaper & better. If AJP deals any of them, it’s this one, and only for a young stud pitcher. CF Trent Grisham & UT Jake Cronenworth are different stories. Unless they can become invaluable bench/utility pieces, they don’t fit on the Padres active roster, and thus become tradeable.
Trent Grisham is my favorite Padres player, but he’s done two things I don’t like. He changed his number, and he grew a porn mustache which has coincided with his two-year hitting slump. Go back to the old #2, and shave the stache! That’s old school coaching. As far as advanced metrics go, Trent Grisham is a pure lefty, so I don’t understand his splits. According to his 2023 numbers (with ~ a week to go), Trent Grisham (overall .199/.315/.353) can’t hit righties. He’s a punchless .180/.300/.329 with three times the at-bats against righties, while hitting .252/.355/.420 against lefties. This is the opposite of what’s expected in lefty/righty splits for a lefty hitter.
It’s just one of the MANY things that is so confounding about this Padres team. Why can’t Trent Grisham hit righties? It would solve so many problems! Perhaps the most difficult part of evaluating a player like Trent Grisham is distinguishing what a player is from what you want him to be. For prospects, its infinitely tougher because they are all so far away from the Majors that projections are tentative at best & always subject to change. Baseball is the toughest game to predict.
Padres just signed Jake Cronenworth to an extension through 2030 last winter, while Trent Grisham has two more arbitration years remaining, after earning $3.175M in 2023. Of the two, CF Trent Grisham is a more coveted asset because he’s younger, cheaper, and plays a more valuable defensive position at a gold glove level. He can be seen as a guy who needs a change-of-scenery, and still has upside. Jake Cronenworth has value, due to his positional flexibility, good defense & lefty bat. He needs to be a utility guy for the Padres, not a DH or 1B. The Padres would have to eat contract to maximize his trade value. How much is the rub, so most likely the Padres keep Jake Cronenworth, but he could be floated this winter.
AJP reserves the right to do that with all his players, except those with no trade clauses. GM’s maximize the value of their players & prospects by offering deals for them. If another organization over-values that player, a smart GM will know what players he/she wants from EVERY organization, top to bottom. That’s when they make a deal. If that organization also undervalues their player/prospect, it becomes a steal.
2B Ha-Seong Kim is an underrated player signed to a team-friendly deal through 2026. Padres want to keep him, but they have too many middle infielders, so he could be dangled as trade bait. AJP refused Ha-Seong Kim-for-RHP Pablo López from the Marlins last winter, so the righty pitcher went to the Twins instead, who extended him before his arbitration expired. Good move by the Twins. That was also a good ‘no trade’ by AJP. Marlins new GM Kim Ng moved on and made a great deal getting 2B Luis Arraez from the Twins for Pablo López. This ‘non-trade’ was a vast improvement in team relations, as AJP couldn’t even talk to Marlins ex-GM Mike Hill after the 2016 trade deadline.
The best thing about being a Padres fan in this era is knowing the management side of things is being taken care of. This team no longer gets ripped-off in trades. They do that to other unwitting franchises now. Padres scouting & drafting has improved by light years from when AJP took over in 2014. It’s a long way to the top, it’s VERY competitive, and success isn’t always linear. Padres need to stick with their process, even as the doubters persist. This was a necessary step back year for them, as they still owed on Fernando Tatis Jr’s PED baggage. They weren’t as good as they finished in 2022, but they aren’t as bad as they played in 2023. The hardest part is recognizing, understanding & accepting this.