After 50 games the Padres are 26-24, in 2nd place in the National League West, 6.0 games behind the Dodgers. It’s probably a little frisky to think the Friars will catch the boys in blue and win the division.
But the Wild Card is a whole different story.
San Diego is tied with Pittsburgh just 1.0 game behind the Braves for the 2nd N.L. Wild Card spot and that’s what is going to make the next couple of months so darn interesting.
There are so many things that are up in the air for this club that is really not even supposed to be in legitimate post-season contention yet. Remember we were saying if they can flirt with .500 it would be a good season. If they finish 81-81 they’ll improve by 15 games over last year, a massive improvement for any ballclub.
They’re going to hit June a little ahead of that pace. June is usually when teams in the middle of the pack start seriously considering whether or not they’re in the playoff hunt. It’s also when the real contenders start to look at where they have deficiencies and begin the process of reaching out to teams with assets that might help them over the proverbial hump.
The question for the Padres is this: Do they believe they are ready to contend for a post-season spot in 2019?
The answer is something only they can determine. But it’s not an insignificant decision. Let’s take a look at the two possibilities and speculate on what might happen if the Padres deem themselves contenders now … or in 2020.
Oh, and I offer this as a caveat: in either of these scenarios Wil Myers and Ian Kinsler could very well end up being traded or released. I think it’s a coin flip on those guys right now regardless.
PADRES CAN WIN NOW
The fact this is even a possibility this far into the season is a HUGE positive sign. It means they’re in a position to play into October for the first time since 2006. It also means they might be tempted to add a piece or two, almost certainly to the starting rotation that is going to run into serious inning limit issues as the year goes on.
Chris Paddack and Matt Strahm, far and away their best two starters so far, are both being monitored closely and will have to miss at least a start or two down the stretch if they’re going to be available to pitch meaningful innings in late September. If the Padres think they’re in position to make a postseason run they will have to find other guys to eat innings.
That means either prospects like Logan Allen get their first taste of life in the big leagues … they sign a free agent like Dallas Keuchel … or they swing a trade for someone like Marcus Stroman, the Blue Jays right-hander who’s probably going to be dealt at some point (and gets to make an audition for the San Diego brass on Sunday when he goes up against the Padres and Paddack).
Trading is the most dicey proposition because they’re going to have to part with pieces from the best minor league system in the game and that is something that A.J. Preller has not been in a hurry to do. If he sends away any of his pieces he’s going to have to be CONVINCED the player coming back can not only help this year but over the next few years when the team is truly expecting to be a playoff threat … and when the prospects that left town would have been ready to try and contribute at Petco Park.
This is the most exciting approach for the fan base but also the less likely of the two so let’s look at …
PADRES ARE STILL A YEAR AWAY
Here’s where things get even more tricky because it means a promising summer probably falls apart and certain players who are very good end up being sent out of town.
If the Padres believe they’re still a year away then their best option is to get rid of Kinsler and give 2B prospect Luis Urias the full time job; and make Francisco Mejia the starting catcher while Austin Hedges is the backup. That way you give the two prospects a fighting chance to acclimate to Major League pitching (or at least see if they’re capable of doing that) so they can hit the ground running when 2020 starts.
That means more youngsters in the lineup and more growing pains but also could be the start of a pair of All-Star careers.
Also … and I hate saying this because I love the man … but it could very well mean Kirby Yates is going to be traded.
Yates has converted all 20 of his save chances and is one of the best closers in the game right now. He’s also 32 years old and still has one more year of team contract control and his value will never be higher than it is right now. Looking at the potential closer market it’s Yates, Shane Greene of the Tigers and free agent Craig Kimbrel who are far and away the top 9th inning options potentially available.
The Red Sox, Braves, Cubs and Rays all need closer upgrades and all figure to be in contention until the end. Unless they can find an in-house solution they could come calling and make the Padres a Godfather offer for Yates that would help the Padres in the future.
Hopefully that doesn’t happen because the Friars decide they’re close enough (with the eventual return of Fernando Tatis Jr. To jump-start the offense and another starting pitcher making improvements) to flirt with the post-season this year.
And wouldn’t that be a fun thing to experience?
Source: NBC San Diego.com