2009 Record: (75-87); 4th place NL West; 20GB the Los Angeles Dodgers
The Padres were mildly active this off-season under the direction of brand-new GM Jed Hoyer, the former assistant GM with the Boston Red Sox. The acquired 3 recognizable names; SP Jon Garland, INF Jerry Hairston Jr., and C Yorvit Torrealba.
None of these guys are going to make the Padres into a contender and apart from Garland, they would struggle to get a starting spot with most teams. To me the most interesting off-season change for the Padres is adding Hoyer who, at one time, was the GM of the Red Sox before Theo Epstein took over. We'll see what Hoyer can do with a minuscule budget, my guess is he'll struggle...that is unless Padres ownership loosens the pocketbook a little.
The Padres lost quite a few players in the off-season, but none of them are key so let's just cover the few names anyone would recognize.
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff (signed by the Oakland Athletics); OF Brian Giles (retired, recently charged with battery); C Henry Blanco (signed by the New York Mets)
Like I said, nothing key here, Kouzmanoff was probably the most recognizable Padre, but he wasn't producing anything they'll miss.
Talent En Route:
Three prospects deserve mention within the Padres system, though all 3 of them are realistically a year or two away from being major-league ready.
Donavan Tate OF - (1st round draft pick, 2009 draft) Tate was selected 3rd by the Padres last year and received a club-record $6.25M signing bonus, the highest bonus ever paid to a high-school draftee. He proceeded to develop an injury similar to sports hernia that required surgery and then broke his jaw in an ATV accident, all of which prevented him from making his pro debut last season. Tate was a two-sport athlete in high-school, excelling in both football and baseball. He is the son of former NFL player Lars Tate and all the projections point to great things for him. Baseball Prospectus wrote the following about him:
"No player in the 2009 draft could match Tate in terms of athleticism. His raw power and speed rate as well above average, giving him true 30/30 potential, and possibly even more. He's a very good center fielder now with the possibility of turning into an impact defender, and his arm is yet another plus tool."
Simon Castro RHP - (signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2006) Castro had his first full season last year, playing a Low-A ball and starting 28 games. He wowed with 157Ks in 141IP while compiling a 3.33ERA. Castro's feature pitch is a fastball that consistently hits 96mph, but his continued success will depend on his ability to develop a complimentary pitch, which at this point, he does not possess. He'll start this season at High-A ball and it's unlikely that he cracks the major leagues until 2011, if that.
James Darnell 3B - (2nd round draft pick, 2008 draft) in his first full season Darnell performed very well, hitting .311/.424/.536 showing both power and patience at the plate. The downside for Darnell is not a lack of offense, but rather below-average defense and an inaccurate arm. Darnell eventually projects to be a right or left fielder because of the inaccuracy, but if he keeps hitting at the pace he established last year, it will be impossible to keep him out of the lineup. At any rate, he's only played as high as High-A ball, so it's going to be a year or two.
2011 Salary and Free Agency Outlook:
FIRE SALE!! Unless the Padres organization has a sudden change in modus operandi, there will be one major free-agent that will be leaving their organization, and likely this year or next. His name is Adrian Gonzalez and if he didn't play in San Diego, he would be a star 1st baseman. He's a two-time Gold-glove winner and two-time All Star and despite ZERO protection in the San Diego lineup, he has hit 30+ HRs and driven in 100+ runs for the last 3 years straight. His price tag will certainly be high, and maybe he doesn't move this year as the club has an option for 2011, but he will move sometime and the Padres will get much in return. Aside from him, SP Kevin Correia, uber-hustler INF David Eckstein and recently acquired INF Jerry Hairston Jr. are all free-agents this coming off-season. Correia is probably the only worth keeping because he's young, but with a new GM, it's hard to say what the Padres will do.
As far as salary goes, the Padres high-water mark for team payroll in the last 10 years is $73M in 2008. In 2009, it dropped to $43M which was good for 29th in the league. Like I said to start this thing out, unless the ownership loosens up some money, this team will not be able to compete.
The Future of the San Diego Padres:
Aside from some young talent such as recently drafted Donavan Tate or young stud-pitcher Mat Latos, there isn't much to be excited for as a Padres fan. You're going to lose Adrian Gonzalez whether it's this year or next, your minor league talent is still a couple of years away, and though you have a young, mildly exciting pitching staff, there's no offense to support them, not to mention Petco Park is an airport that is hard to hit a ball out of. I feel like a team that plays in the paradise that is San Diego should be more of a contender. You have the population to support the team, consistently beautiful weather, and NO EXCUSES. The Padres could really build on the base of young, talented pitchers they have, add some offensive pieces and be contenders within a couple of years, but that would require some serious investment on the part of Padres ownership which, to this point, they have shown no wont to do.