The San Diego Padres struggled through most of 2016 and finished with a record of 68-94. The front office began a rebuild of the organization prior to 2016 and decided to trade away many high-priced players midseason. The trades made during 2016 improved the payroll, but left the Major League roster with many holes. Here are some of the needs the front office will focus on this offseason.
San Diego Padres 2016 Offseason Needs
Alexei Ramirez was the starting shortstop this past season, but he released and signed by the Tampa Bay Rays. The remaining middle infielders are Luis Sardinas, Alexi Amarista, and Ryan Schimpf. Just one of these players, Schimpf, posted a WAR above one, and none appeared in more than 90 games. The Padres are in need of both production and a veteran presence up the middle.
Neil Walker is coming off a fantastic season and has been a consistent force since debuting in 2009. Walker tied his career high with 23 home runs last season, to go with 55 RBI and a career-high .823 OPS. The New York Mets have extended a qualifying offer to Walker. Should Walker turn down the one-year deal, the Padres should pursue him aggressively. Other options that San Diego could consider at the position are Kelly Johnson and Sean Rodriguez, but Walker is the best in this class.
San Diego lost a number of outfielders via trade and free agency. Matt Kemp, Jon Jay, and Melvin Upton Jr. all appeared in 90+ games in 2016, but are no longer in the organization. Alex Dickerson and Travis Jankowski remain on the roster, along with super-prospect Hunter Renfroe. The potential varies between these three players, with expectations soaring high for Renfroe. They do not, however, have enough experience or talent to carry the workload for San Diego.
The Padres should investigate a potential deal with converted outfielder Ian Desmond. Desmond played seven seasons at shortstop for the Washington Nationals before signing with the Texas Rangers and switching positions. He learned the outfield quickly and appeared there in 156 games for the Rangers in 2016.
More important to the Padres is the consistent offensive presence Desmond would bring to the lineup. Desmond has posted a 20-20 (home runs and stolen bases) season four times in the past five years. He slashed .285/.335/.446 with 22 home runs, 86 RBI, 29 doubles, 21 steals, and a career-high 279 total bases. The Rangers extended Desmond a qualifying offer, which he is expected to decline. He is due a large payday, and the Padres have freed up enough money to make a serious push to sign him. Desmond would be an immediate upgrade and a welcome addition to the lineup.
Build Through the Draft
The Padres have the third overall draft pick for 2017. It is important that they utilize their high picks to re-stock their farm system with young talent. They are still in the middle of rebuild mode, and increasing the talent in the pipeline should be a top priority. The good news is San Diego has a solid recent history of utilizing top draft picks. Jace Peterson, Max Fried, Jankowski, Renfroe, and Trea Turner are all talented players that the Padres have drafted in the first round. The front office will need similar success with their draft picks in 2017 to continue a successful rebuild.