After losing 99 games a season ago, the Padres don't appear to be in any better place to avoid that type of failure this season. With the team being sold to a group led by D'backs owner Jeffrey Moorad and former Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman, the Padres are quite possibly the most dysfunctional and chaotic team in the MLB entering the 2009 season. Their farm system is depleted, and the roster barely teeters on the Major League level, held up by possibly the best pitcher in the NL in Jake Peavy, and consistent stud Adrian Gonzalez. It will be a tough season for the fans, with the possibility of moving the sparse talent they have to restock their farm system. Previously mentioned studs Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez would likely bring the most loot in a future trade, with David Eckstein and Brian Giles being potential help for a veteran team in need of some leadership and injury fill-ins. With mostly negativity surrounding the team, there may be hope on the horizon, as a new ownership group is likely to try to build the Pads from the ground up. And in an annually weak NL West division, San Diego may be able to enjoy some competitiveness soon enough.
With most of the additions being a result of a subtraction, the Padres have moved several players up to their Major League roster to fill in for players who have departed. Former SS Khalil Green was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, and will be replaced by Luis Gonzalez. LF Chase Headley and C Nick Hundley will try to make the full-season adjustment from AA and AAA to the big leagues after both spent some time in San Diego in the second half of last season.
Let us take a look at those among other roster changes:
San Diego Padres - NL West
Last Year: Finished 5th in NL West
Notable Additions: 2B/SS David Eckstein, P Kevin Correia, OF Cliff Floyd, C Henry Blanco, UTIL Chris Burke
Notable Subtractions : P Trevor Hoffman, SS Khalil Greene, C Michael Barrett, C Josh Bard, P Shawn Estes
1. Jody Gerut CF
2. Brian Giles RF
3. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
4. Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
5. Chase Headley LF
6. David Eckstein 2B
7. Luis O. Rodriguez SS
8. Nick Hundley C
9. Pitcher's Spot
1. Jake Peavy
2. Chris Young
3. Cha Seung Baek
4. Kevin Correia
5. Josh Geer/Shawn Hill/Wade LeBlanc
(Mark Prior potentially to see time as well)
With thin Major League-ready talent throughout the roster, the Padres do have the benefit of playing in Petco Park, one of the leagues nicer parks, in San Diego, California, one of the nation's most beautiful cities and climates. But on a serious note, the team is very young, and after a pitiful 2008 season, the team can't go anywhere else but up. They have some very tradeable assets on the roster and can begin to restock their roster if GM Kevin Towers is finally able to find an offer he deems suitable, which after the Winter of Peavy, still seems like a daunting task. The Padres do have some pop in the line up with Kouzmanoff (23 HR's in '08) and Gonzalez (36 HR's in '08) in the middle of the order, so they may be able to contend with most of the pitching in the NL West.
The biggest weakness the Padres will face in 2009 is depth and pitching, with much of both cycling between the Minors and the Bigs for a lot of the season. Playing in a pitcher's park, the Padres do hold an advantage and a tad more room for error than other teams, but with the departures of Maddox and Hoffman, and the recoveries of Chris Young and Mark Prior holding much of the staff hostage, San Diego may be a place where batters around the league come to raise their averages. It could be a long year for the staff, but Peavy and Young (when healthy) form a very formidable duo at the top of the order. The remainder however, is a work in progress.
Players to Watch:
Adrian Gonzalez (First Basemen): It's definitely hard to be productive on a team as down as the San Diego Padres, but Adrian Gonzalez is that good. After racking up very respectable numbers with a similar supporting cast last season, look for Gonzalez to continue to amaze his Mexican and American fanbase with continued Gold Glove defense at first base and similar numbers to last season (.279 Avg, 36 HR, 119 RBI, .361 OPB, .510 SLG). With the lack of buzz in the minors, look for the Padres to shop Gonzalez before the deadline in an attempt to get a nice package of young players in return.
Heath Bell (Closer): With big shoes to fill, closer Heath Bell will have the opportunity to fill in for legend closer Trevor Hoffman, who leads the franchise in career appearances (803) and career saves (554). Known as being fat and lazy, Bell went into the offseason with a goal to shed that image and shed the pounds, doing so by playing ridiculous amounts of time playing Wii Fit, where he lost 25 pounds in the process. With only 2 career saves in the Major Leagues, Bell has practically no competition for the closer role and does have the speed and the stuff to get both righties and lefties out. While Bell doesn't look to be a dominant closer, he can bring the heat and control the plate well enough to be a very good one.
While the NL West is annually among the weaker divisions in baseball, the Padres don't have nearly enough to win, let alone compete in the division. They are in a definite rebuilding mode and will likely look to move the little talent on the roster to acquire some young talent to restock their farm system. There is a little silver lining for Padres fans for this season though. They have the ability to win the World Series this season, but that would only be possible if the rest of the league died laughing at watching the Padres play. Maybe in a few years the Padres will be competitive, but for now it looks like the Padres will be cellar dwellars once again and look capable of finishing the season with a laughable 100 losses.