Mar 23, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The San Diego Padres.
The Big Question: Can the Padres build on their strong second half from last year?
While the Padres had their second straight losing season last year with a 76-86 record, they very quietly went 42-33 after the All-Star break. And that’s with losing 10 out of their last 15 games. The major reason for the turnaround was the offense, as they were fifth in the National League in runs scored during the second half. We’re not used to seeing that from a team which calls PETCO Park home.
Cameron Maybin, Yonder Alonso and the right field platoon of Will Venable and Chris Denorfia all finished strong and Carlos Quentin provided pop when his knee wasn’t hurting, but the big key for the offense was Chase Headley. The 28-year-old unexpectedly broke out by hitting .286/.376/.498 with 31 home runs and an NL-leading 115 RBI. He finished fifth in the National League MVP balloting and also took home his first Gold Glove Award for his defense at third base. Unfortunately, Headley recently suffered a small fracture at the tip of his left thumb and is expected to miss the entire month of April. So much for the momentum narrative.
While the Padres will try to stay afloat until Headley is ready to return, they are also waiting on two other important pieces. 24-year-old catcher Yasmani Grandal, who hit .297/.394/.469 with eight homers and an .863 OPS in 60 games as a rookie last year, was suspended 50-games for testing positive for synthetic testosterone and isn’t eligible to return until late May. Cory Luebke, who signed a four-year, $12 million extension with the Padres last year, is currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected to rejoin the starting rotation until around June or July. By the way, there’s even a chance that Quentin could begin the season on the disabled list due to continued soreness in his surgically-repaired knee.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Padres get off to a slow start, as a rotation led by Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard and Jason Marquis isn’t good enough to make up for a mediocre offense, but Bud Black’s squad certainly has the pieces to get better as the year goes along. I don’t think they are strong enough to challenge the Dodgers or the Giants, but they could surprise some folks in the NL West.
What else is going on?
• Rotation hopeful Tyson Ross might be the biggest addition the Padres made over the winter, but things will still look a little bit different at PETCO Park this season. That’s because the team has made some alterations to the dimensions of the stadium. The most dramatic change is in right field, where the fence was moved in 11 feet and lowered to eight feet. The left-center field wall was also moved in from 402 feet to 390 feet. With the thick marine air, PETCO Park will never be a hitters’ paradise, but perhaps it will play something closer to neutral. That’s the goal, anyway.
• Top prospect Jedd Gyorko is poised to make the Opening Day roster, though it hasn’t been decided whether he’ll play exclusively at second base or help fill in for Headley at third base, which is his natural position. The 24-year-old has done nothing but hit in the minors, compiling a .319/.385/.529 batting line over his first three professional seasons. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the pressures of playing a big role in the lineup early in the season. If he produces, the Padres may be more open to moving Headley in a trade at some point down the road.
• The Padres continue to have some pretty rotten luck with pitching elbows. After Luebke and Joe Wieland both needed Tommy John surgery last year, now it’s Casey Kelly‘s turn. As we learned yesterday, he’s scheduled to have surgery on April 1 and will miss the entire 2013 season. Kelly was acquired from the Red Sox in the big Adrian Gonzalez trade and has been a highly regarded prospect for quite a long time now, but his condition of his elbow has slowed his progress over the past year. He’ll hope to get back on track in his age-24 season.
• While the starting rotation is questionable, the back-end of the bullpen is one of the team’s biggest strengths. Closer Huston Street is quietly coming off a brilliant season. While the 29-year-old right-hander served two stints on the disabled list, he posted a 1.95 ERA to go along with 23 saves in 24 chances and finished with his highest strikeout rate since 2007. Meanwhile, Luke Gregerson continues to fly under the radar as one of the best set-up men in the game.
• One potential difference maker for the rotation is Andrew Cashner. Acquired from the Cubs in the Anthony Rizzo deal, the 26-year-old right-hander began last season in the bullpen before being moving to the rotation around midseason. There are questions about his health, as he missed time with rotator cuff and lat injuries over the past two seasons and is coming off December surgery to repair a torn tendon in his thumb, but his electric arm carries plenty of upside.
Prediction: Fourth place, NL West. I like what they have going here, but I’m just not sure the starting pitching will be there.
Dec 6, 2013, 12:13 AM EST
The Rangers are zeroing in on catching help on the heels of A.J. Pierzynski leaving Texas for a one-year deal with the World Series champion Red Sox. While Kurt Suzuki was mentioned as a possibility earlier this week, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Rangers and J.P. Arencibia are “progressing” toward a deal. Arencibia…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:15 PM EST
The Legend of Sam Fuld, it appears, will live on. Fuld was non-tendered by the Rays earlier this week, but Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the 32-year-old outfielder has received “lots of interest” since hitting free agency. He’s only been on the market for a couple of days and is still…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:40 PM EST
Last we heard, free agent second baseman Robinson Cano was reportedly on a private plane to Seattle to meet with the Mariners, who are prepared to offer him $225 million over the course of a nine-year contract. Meanwhile, the Yankees have been pretty firm about how high they are willing to go in negotiations. And as…
Dec 5, 2013, 9:50 PM EST
According to the Associated Press, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield has joined the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) as a special assistant to new executive director Tony Clark. Clark, who played 15 seasons in the majors, was officially appointed to the position of executive director this week following the death of Michael Weiner last…
Dec 5, 2013, 9:41 PM EST
UPDATE: Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that Furcal will get $3 million plus incentives. 10:02 p.m. ET: Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel hears that Furcal will receive $3.5 million on the one-year deal in additional to playing time incentives. 9:41 p.m. ET: FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Marlins…
Dec 5, 2013, 9:02 PM EST
We heard earlier this week that free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran had a three-year, $48 million offer in hand from an unidentified team. Most assumed that it came from the Royals, as they have been the hottest team on him recently, but FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal hears that no such offer was made. Sources: #Royals…
Dec 5, 2013, 8:38 PM EST
The Dodgers non-tendered reliever Ronald Belisario earlier this week, but it didn’t take him long to find a new home. According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Belisario has agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract with the White Sox. He also drew interest from the Angels and Cubs during his brief time on…
Dec 5, 2013, 7:48 PM EST
UPDATE: The Mariners may not have offered $200 million to Robinson Cano yet, but it sounds like it’s going to happen before long. David Waldstein of the New York Times and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman are both reporting that the Mariners plan to offer nine years and $225 million to Cano. This is a slightly…
Dec 5, 2013, 7:30 PM EST
The Nationals are on the lookout for a left-handed reliever and Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that former Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty is their latest target. O’Flaherty required Tommy John surgery on his left elbow this May and is expected to miss at least the first month of the 2014 season, but that…
Dec 5, 2013, 5:47 PM EST
Texas announced some non-roster spring training invitations and there’s a familiar name on the list: Jose Contreras. Contreras is 42 years old and pitched just five innings for the Pirates this year after coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery. He hasn’t been healthy and effective since 2010, but on a minor-league deal … why…
Dec 5, 2013, 4:21 PM EST
Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports that Robinson Cano flew to Seattle to meet with the Mariners today and they’re willing to offer him a 10-year contract worth as much as $240 million. Previous reports claim the Yankees aren’t willing to go as high as $200 million, so if Rojas’ information is correct the money…
Dec 5, 2013, 2:44 PM EST
Brian Wilson and the Dodgers have agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract that includes a player option for 2015, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports. That’s a nice payday for Wilson, who looked great in 20 innings down the stretch and into the playoffs after missing all of 2012 following Tommy John elbow…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
Miguel Cabrera isn’t the only MVP changing positions. As part of the Norichika Aoki trade the Brewers announced that Ryan Braun will move from left field to right field for 2014, opening up left field for Khris Davis after he showed a ton of power in a 56-game debut. Moving from one outfield corner to…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:55 AM EST
Edward Mujica‘s late-season struggles (and arm/back problems) caused him to go from the Cardinals’ closer to out of their playoff plans, but it hasn’t stopped him from getting a nice payday. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that the right-hander has agreed to a two-year, $9.5 million deal with the Red Sox. St. Louis acquired…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:11 AM EST
Kansas City has a new starting outfielder, as the Royals announced that they’ve acquired Norichika Aoki from the Brewers for left-hander Will Smith. Aoki has been a tremendous bargain for Milwaukee since coming over from Japan two seasons ago, playing nearly every day and hitting .287 with a .355 on-base percentage, 50 steals, and quality…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:40 AM EST
Washington has been linked to basically every left-handed free agent reliever and now Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that the Nationals have “expressed interest” in Scott Downs. Downs was traded from the Angels to the Braves in July and then left off Atlanta’s playoff roster, but he pitched well overall with a 2.49 ERA and…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:01 AM EST
When the Reds fired Dusty Baker and hired Bryan Price as their new manager there was speculation that it could lead to Aroldis Chapman moving from the bullpen to the rotation, as Price had previously indicated he’d be in favor of getting more innings out of the stud left-hander. However, now that Price actually has…
Dec 5, 2013, 9:15 AM EST
Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald reports that the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami has charged three people with smuggling Cuban prospects into the United States, including smuggling, kidnapping, and extortion charges specifically related to Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin. According to Weaver two of the accused–Eliezer Lazo and Joel Martinez–are already serving prison sentences…
Dec 5, 2013, 8:32 AM EST
From MLB.com’s Rangers beat writer, T.R. Sullivan: The Rangers had serious trade discussions with the Blue Jays about catcher J.P. Arencibia before he was non-tendered on Monday, according to industry sources. A trade was close to being completed but the Rangers were reluctant to add another arbitration-eligible player. The Rangers were willing to do a…
Dec 4, 2013, 11:05 PM EST
A bullpen pickup for the Cubs, via USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale … The #Cubs signed left-handed reliever Wesley Wright to a one-year contract believed to be for $1.425 million. — Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 5, 2013 Wright had a 3.69 ERA and 55/19 K/BB ratio in 53 2/3 innings this summer between the Astros and…
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- Report: Talks between the Mets and Curtis Granderson have “intensified” 31
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- Marlins sign free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to three-year, $21 million contract 44
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- Report: Mariners willing to offer Robinson Cano a 10-year, $240 million deal (143)
- When will the Yankees regret the Jacoby Ellsbury contract? (98)
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