This past Major League Baseball offseason was the most intriguing I’ve witnessed in years.
Of all the interesting moves that went down perhaps the most interesting were how two markets (Miami and San Diego) made themselves relevant in two very different ways.
They kept the one position player worth anything in Giancarlos Stanton. They brought up Jose Fernandez at age 20 and he is already established as one of the top-10 to -15 pitchers in baseball. Derek Dietrich (acquired in from Tampa Bay in Yunel Escobar trade), Adeiny Hechavarria (acquired in trade from the Blue Jays), Nathan Eovaldi (acquired from the Dodgers in the Hanley Ramirez trade), and Henderson Alvarez (acquired from Blue Jays) are legitimate prospects who can (and will) make this team competitive in a hurry. I’m not a fan of the jerk job they’ve done with the city in Miami, but the personnel running the baseball side has always done a fine job of getting the right pieces back. This is a good young team, and I expect them to make things competitive for those who play them, and difficult for those who want to clinch anything on their turf.
I said this last year in my preview of the Marlins and what did they go out and do? 42-39 at home and remained in the Wild Card conversation until Giancarlos Stanton took a fastball to the face.
What the Marlins accomplish in their scouting and drafting of players is remarkable. You may not like what they do after they put these teams together, but they’ve won World Series titles through free agency (1997) and with home-grown talent (2003). This year isn’t any different; bringing in Dee Gordon to go with the most talented young outfield in baseball and a staff ready to flourish shows the Marlins baseball operations are still operating at an incredibly high level.
In fact, in all of the trades the Marlins made they made sure to get high impact, young value in return.
Meanwhile in San Diego
The Padres need a couple of pieces before they take the next step, but all signs point to them heading in that direction with the right foundation.
This was my assessment in 2014. What a difference a season makes.
I will never criticize A.J. Preller, the new Padres General Manager, for a lack of effort. He’s done two things I know are very important to the Padres organization right now: created marketable buzz for the team and made them more competitive than they were 12 months ago.
They’ve taken a very different approach to getting that done. In numerous trades with the Rays, Braves, and Dodgers they’ve gutted their farm system; trading away 20 of their top-30 prospects. My number one issue with the moves aren’t what they got in return, it’s how long they got them for and the long-term ramifications if they don’t work out. Justin Upton, probably the most talented of all of the pieces brought in, is there for one year then he’ll be a free agent. Even at a discounted rate Matt Kemp’s health will make him a risk for the rest of his contract. Wil Myers, American League Rookie of the Year in 2013, isn’t showing he’s making consistent adjustments to get on base more often and that could be a problem as the season wears on. I like the rotation if Andrew Cashner is ready to be its Ace; James Shields is a great addition if he isn’t counted on to carry the load on the mound.
Perhaps most troubling to me is the lack of impact talent available to help this club if they do make a run down the stretch. The Padres don’t have Madison Bumgarner, Michael Wacha, Brandon Belt, Yordano Ventura, or anyone of that ilk to call up and give them a push when they need it in August and September like other championship clubs of the last few years.
A Nice Middle Ground In Miami, Not So Much In San Diego
The Marlins and Padres are two teams I’m picking to contend for the Wild Card in 2015 with the Marlins looking more like a team poised for a run in October. I like everything they did this offseason in bringing in good veteran guys to go with their talented youngsters Ozuna, Yelich, Fernandez, and Stanton. The addition of Dee Gordon to provide an All-Star threat at the top of the lineup was a huge get for them. The Marlins seem to have found a nice middle ground when it comes to constructing their roster.
The Padres, on the other hand, have not.
Their defense won’t be good (especially up the middle), the corner infielders will provide no power, and I don’t know who gets on base in front of the shiny new outfield they’ve put together. In a league that is putting more emphasis on base-stealing, defense, and analytics the Padres appear to have thrown all of that out of the window. Are the Padres any better than they were in 2014? Absolutely, you have to like the promise/idea of Kemp, Upton, and Shields. But beyond 2015 (and maybe even June) I don’t see the foundation that will carry the torch forward; and If the rotation fails to live up to expectations it will be another long Summer in San Diego.
Perhaps leading to another shift in philosophy for the Friars.