It'd be nice to be able to say something positive about baseball in this special summertime issue. Sadly, the Padres have made that quite impossible. Don't let the earliness of the season give you false hope. The hometown team is done in 2008, and given its payroll restrictions and the state of its farm system, we're not optimistic about 2009, either.
The Padres have been playing a bit over their heads during the last couple of years—a team of unspectacular players finding ways to win games with excellent relief pitching and timely hitting—so, in retrospect, the Padres may have done themselves a disservice by finishing as high in the standings as they have. Had they finished lower, they'd have better draft picks to beef up the future.
On Monday morning, general manager Kevin Towers said rather matter-of-factly on The Scott and BR Show on XX 1090 radio that there are only “a couple” players on the team who are championship caliber. “A couple”? Harsh—but pretty close to spot-on. We can name only five: Starters Jake Peavy and Chris Young, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Brian Giles and reliever Heath Bell. As of Monday's game, the Padres were 13 games behind the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, who are absolutely for real, and 10.5 behind the current wild-card leaders, the St. Louis Cardinals. If that weren't daunting enough, the Padres must climb over 12 teams just to make the playoffs. They own the worst win-loss record in the National League. The season is over. But you know that.
So, now what?
It's not like Towers needs us to tell him this, but it's time for a fire sale. The Padres have to start over and spend a couple of years rebuilding, and the fans have to be patient while watching mediocre journeymen hold down the fort until reinforcements arrive in the form of young players from down on the farm. You see, the Padres aren't loaded with young Major League-ready talent like the Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers have been in the last few years.
The Padres have exactly one player—third baseman/left fielder Chase Headley—who's ready to step in right now. Second baseman Matt Antonelli is struggling and is another year away. All the other top prospects are farther down in the system, at least two years away. Headley should be called up immediately, if for no other reason than to give fans a glimpse of the future.
The entire Major League roster, except for Peavy, Young, Gonzalez and Trevor Hoffman (for sentimental reasons), should be placed on the trading block. A sign should be hung outside of Petco Park saying, “Everything Must Go!”
First, Giles and starter Greg Maddux should be offered to the Atlanta Braves for mid-range prospects. Giles could fill the Braves' left-field void, and Maddux could end his career where he had his best years. We'd also dangle the team's best trade bait, Bell, who could be a closer for a contending team that needs one (the return would have to be at least one high-level prospect, preferably an athletic outfielder who can step in next year). Dealing Bell would leave the team without a future closer, but you don't need a closer if you can't score runs. After that, we'd deal third baseman Kevin Kousmanoff—he's expendable because Headley plays the same position—and starter Randy Wolf.
Believe us, a team desperate for a starter would pay handsomely for an innings-eater like Wolf, relatively speaking. Others who might fetch decent young talent are second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, shortstop Khalil Greene and reliever Cla Meredith.
Any of these players who don't get traded between now and the July 31 trade deadline should be dealt after the season. Anyone who can draw talented prospects must go. The rest of them—guys like Scott Hairston, Josh Bard, Jody Gerut, Shawn Estes, Kevin Cameron and Paul McAnulty—can hang around and fill space until the cavalry arrives.What kind of players should the team look for in return, and in future drafts? That's easy: guys who can hit line drives and run fast and who don't make errors. Let the other teams fight over the mashers; Petco Park is designed for hitters that can poke the ball all over the field, run down fly balls and make things happen on the bases. The current Padres don't run at all. Lame.
Monday night's game against the Cardinals was a microcosm of the season: Space-filler Wilfredo Ledezma took the mound in place of Peavy, who took a seat on the disabled list after the game and will be unavailable for at least the next two weeks; Hairston turned a deep Ryan Ludwick fly-out into a homer; the Padres' hitters were befuddled by a mediocre pitcher (Todd Wellemeyer) and managed just five singles and a double while watching four Cardinals bombs leave the yard.
Fans would do well to find joy in every Chase Headley hit, shrug off everything else and hope for better things to come in, say, 2011.
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