Padres Add Upton, Beat Christmas Rush

Justin UptonOn their way to scoring 535 runs last season, a scant 3.30 runs per game, the San Diego Padres outfielders accounted for 227 of them, which was tied with the Houston Astros for fewest in the Majors.1 The only legitimate offensive threat of those wall crashers was Seth Smith who posted his best offensive season outside of Colorado and put up borderline All Star quality numbers in the first half. So, yeah. A do-over for the outfield was one of those tasks to be done, but did anyone expect it to happen in just one week? By the time this is posted, I expect Cutch to be Cameron Maybin / Matt Kemp‘s replacement.

Trading for Upton is one of the many completed by general manager A.J. Preller in the last few days. The trade for Kemp finally became official yesterday, the same day they traded for C Derek Norris and a day after the trade for RF Wil Meyers was announced. They also traded for Will Middlebrooks because they could. Without a dominant team in the West to dissuade them (or at the very least, the Dodgers having enough questions to be vulnerable) Preller and the Padres are saying what the heck and reshaping a roster like terrified parents trying to miss the Christmas shopping rush.

It’s the last weekend before Christmas? My God, the malls will be packed! Call up John Hart and let’s gift wrap this last present.

Even amidst the almost daily reports of the Padres offensive woes—at one point last season, you could have reported that the Padres batters refused to swing and potentially break bats due to front office regs to cut costs and people would have believed it—I thought they had a legitimate chance to contend for the wild card. The starting pitching, even with Eric Stults getting 32 of those, was damn good, and their bullpen led the NL in ERA, was second in FIP, and the team was 60-1 when leading after seven, as reported by ESPN’s Jim Bowden. Subtract one Stults, add one Brandon Morrow, and mix in a whole lot of new bats and the Padres are now much more interesting and much more legit.

Upton is likely a three win improvement over Smith. Asking Smith at the age of 32 to repeat his finest season of his career is a bit much. Preller recognized that and traded for the 27-year old righty who is still most projections. I’m not as sold on Upton as some. He’s streaky and when he gets into one of those funks, the pitcher could throw the ball in underhand and he’d probably whiff or hit a pop-up. When he’s going strong, though, look out. Last April, he mashed eight home runs on the way to hitting .326/.400.641 for the month. He was even better in April of ‘13 when he crushed 12 homers while slugging .734.

Preller will surely find a taker for Smith, too, so there’s no doubt the Padres have more deals in mind. Smith is owed just under 13 million over the next two seasons with a team option in 2017, a salary too much to keep warming pine in case Kemp gets hurt but is cheap enough that other GMs won’t hang up the phone.

I guess with the Padres new outfield, there’s a chance the pitching staff might call a Code Red with all those extra base hits that fall in. An outfield of Upton, Kemp, and Meyers won’t remind anyone of the Royals, and by July I fully expect to write a post arguing that Preller is trying to suppress his pitchers’ numbers for arbitration purposes. It could happen. Don’t tell me a 37-year old is beyond deceit.

Have the Padres improved by 10 wins to place themselves into the NL wild card chase? It depends. I have an unreasonable appreciation for Morrow, so I do think he’ll be a big help, and losing Stults is addition by subtraction. I don’t know what the Rays didn’t like about Meyers, but if he’s healthy he’ll put up decent numbers, and even a win or two from Kemp (put that insane MVP year of his out of your mind) is an improvement over Maybin. I doubt if Clint Barmes is the answer at short, and Derek Norris is an improvement offensively over the recently traded Yasmani Grandal. Middlebrooks is like treading water over Yangervis Solarte, acquired last year in the Headley trade.

What’s amazing in all of this is that the Padres haven’t touched their top two prospects C Austin Hedges or RHP Matt Wisler, though that top 10 has definitely taken a hit.

What’s the Padres next move? Who knows? I hope Preller really gets creative and hires this guy as the new manager.

  1. One positive that comes from those low figures is that the Padres outfielders accounted for 42% of the team’s runs, good for 14th in the Majors for percentage of a team’s runs. Detroit scored the second most runs in the Majors but the outfielders accounted for a paltry 37.6%, or 285 of the 757 runs. It’s all in how you look at the numbers. See? It wasn’t all bad news.

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