SAN DIEGO, CA – As flights from all over world touch down in Southern California carrying not just the powers that be of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball for the 2019 Winter Meetings, but also international players from Japan and Korea, the talk of the offseason to this point is the hometown San Diego Padres.
After a 2018-19 offseason that brought in perennial All-Star third baseman Manny Machado on a $300M contract, the Friars went all in by selecting top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. and top young pitcher Chris Paddock for their Opening Day roster and subsequent debuts. Though the end result was a 70-92 record that cost manager Andy Green his job, the promise at Petco Park is trending upwards.
In a division with the always excellent Los Angeles Dodgers, the Colorado Rockies best take notice of the club that have finished worst or second-worst in the NL West for nine of the last 12 seasons.
General Manager A.J. Preller has been fastidiously working on changing the look of his roster since the end of the regular season – not to mention the appearance of the uniforms, which reverted back to the beloved brown and gold of yesteryears – acquiring five players via trade and signing one pitcher to a lucrative contract.
It’s unclear if free agent RHP Stephen Strasburg is on their radar, but there appears a connection for the 31-year-old ace from San Diego as the Padres payroll still benefits from the league-minimum salaries that decorate the youngest club in the National League.
On November 27, the Friars sent LHP Eric Lauer, IF Luis Urias, and a player-to-be-named-later to the Milwaukee Brewers for RHP Zach Davies and OF Trent Grisham. Five days later, they acquired IF Jurickson Profar from the Athletics for C Austin Allen.
A few days after that, on December 6, Preller agreed to his most impactful and complicated deal of the offseason by trading power-hitting OF Hunter Renfroe and prospect Xavier Edwards to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for OF Tommy Pham and SS Jake Cronenworth.
The trade nets the Padres two years of service for the 31-year-old Pham who adds some much need on-base abilities to the top of a lineup that struggled to reach in front of Machado and 1B Eric Hosmer. The cost: four years of service for the 27-year-old Renfroe who slugged a career-high 33 home runs and played above average defense in right field, not to mention a 20-year-old prospect in Edwards that was selected in the 1st round in 2018.
San Diego also inked former Colorado LHP Drew Pomeranz to a four-year, $36M deal. The 31-year-old spent the final two months of the season as a reliever for the Brewers and was unhittable down the stretch, striking out batters at a rate of 15.4 per nine. Clearly, Preller and the rest of the front office believes Pomeranz will continue in the mold of other dominant lefties such as Andrew Miller and Zach Britton.
While it’s unclear how much more the Padres roster will change before Opening Day 2020, the Rockies and the rest of the division can no longer look past the Swingin’ Friars as little more than perennial punching bags of the NL West.