Another World Series, and another year with former Padres winning it all: manager Bruce Bochy, coach Tim Flannery, and pitcher Jake Peavy.
Remember them? Bochy and Flannery were bit-players for the Padres during the 1980s, including their first World Series appearance in 1984. Bochy later managed the Padres from 1996-2006, and Flannery was the third base coach until 2003. Peavy began his career in San Diego and had his best years there, including 2006, when he won the Cy Young Award. Yesterday, as members of the San Francisco Giants, they beat the Kansas City Royals in seven games.
It was a great series, but sadly, it was also another year where the Padres didn’t even make the playoffs. It’s tempting to think how, if things had just been a little different, maybe Bochy, Flannery, and Peavy could have been winning championships in Padre uniforms.
But things are not different. In my line of work, I use a phrase a lot more than I thought I ever would: It is what it is. In other words, no matter how troubling or bothersome something might be, you can’t go back and change what’s already been done.
Regarding the Padres, it doesn’t really matter if Bochy, Flannery, and Peavy were still in San Diego; there were circumstances beyond their control that led to the Padres’ mediocrity, most especially the dysfunctional saga of John Moores’ latter years as owner, which was then followed by the badly mishandled Jeff Moorad era.
But those days are done. The Padres have a very capable manager in Bud Black, new ownership that has indicated that they are willing to spend more if the price is right, and a highly regarded new general manager in A.J. Preller.
With that in view, what should the Padres do this offseason? Where should they start? Whom should they trade? Whom should they sign to long-term deals? Which free agents should they go after?
Starting today and for the next few days, we’re going to consider five things the Padres should do to improve for 2015 and beyond, so that like their neighbors to the north in San Francisco, they too can regularly compete in the postseason.
So let’s get started.
1. Go Cuban! There are two very talented Cuban defectors who have recently been declared free agents. The first, outfielder Yasmani Tomas, is already well-known by Padres fans. At 23, he appears to be the real deal: he hits for power and is a excellent fielder with a strong throwing arm. So real, in fact, that many other teams are also very interested.
In fact, many observers were surprised that the Padres are even interested. But when the Union-Tribune reported a few weeks back that Tomas had given a second private workout to the Padres, this confirmed that they are serious contenders for his services.
Granted, there is reason for caution; most especially, what certainty do they have that Tomas will perform at the big league level? Signing anyone–especially an unproven quantity–to a multi-year, $100 million contract is very risky. However, it seems to be one that is worth it. Last year, the Chicago White Sox took a chance on Jose Abreu, Tomas’ fellow Cuban, and it paid off in spades: he batted .317 with a league-leading 36 home runs and 107 RBI. Not only is he the favorite to not only be named AL Rookie of the Year, he may also be selected as the AL MVP.
Tomas has gotten many of the high marks that Abreu did, and he appears to be the real deal. So I say, go for it!
The second Cuban free agent is Jose Fernandez. According to mlbtraderumors.com, he is an on-base machine, and at age 26 is major-league ready. It would make sense to pursue him, especially since the Padres do not seem comfortable going with their in-house talent (Cory Spangenburg and Yongervis Solarte are projected as utility players, Alexi Amarista might become the starting shortstop next year, and AAA 2B Taylor Lindsey drastically underperformed after being acquired in the Huston Street trade). So perhaps even more than Tomas, Fernandez seems to be a perfect fit for the Padres.
Should they sign Fernandez, Black can slide Jedd Gyorko back to third base, and bat Fernandez leadoff or number two in the order. If he can put up a .340-.360 OBP, that would be a dramatic improvement from what the Padres had last year, when they finished dead last in this category.
But don’t other clubs have more money? Certainly. But Padres management has given Preller the green light to boost the payroll if the right circumstances come along. Well. What could be more right than a power-hitting outfielder in Tomas and an on-base machine in Fernandez? Two of the biggest woes of the 2014 season (lack of power and on-base potential) would automatically be corrected.
Additionally, Tomas and Fernandez would be welcomed by fellow countrymen Yasmani Grandal, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Yonder Alonso (assuming he is still around).
Finally, Preller’s specialty is international scouting, and given the paucity of decent free agents, this is the most beneficial area for the Padres to be looking for talent.
For these reasons, it would benefit the Padres greatly to pursue Yasmani Tomas and Jose Fernandez, and provide a solid one-two punch to the lineup that has been sorely lacking.