The Runner Sports

San Diego Padres – A Fork In The Road

As the San Diego Padres observe a rare off-day in the middle of a homestand, let’s take a look at San Diego’s current situation.

Coming into today, the Padres are 27-33, six games under .500, in fourth place in the NL West, and trailing the division leading San Francisco Giants by a season high 11.5 games. Let’s face it – the way the Padres have swung the bats this season – nearly a twelve game deficit seems utterly insurmountable.

Just yesterday, the Friars eked out a 3-2 win against the Pirates scoring their go-ahead run on a walk and notching their only hit via a bunt single by Cabrera in the bottom of the first. The Padres were so anemic offensively, only two at-bats yielded balls to be driven out of the infield: Quentin’s sacrifice fly to shallow right field (caught by the second baseman) and  Rivera’s fly-out to center field for the last out in the eighth.

Something needs to be done. The Padres are at a fork in the road. They need to shake up their roster and try a different approach because clearly what they’ve attempted so far this season hasn’t worked. In order to get make up ground in the division and claw their way back to .500, the Friars have two realistic options: either make a trade – giving up pitching for a big bat in the lineup – or demote struggling players – giving those who are struggling a chance to work on their swings in the minors with less pressure and those who are in the minors a chance to see if they can perform at the big league level.

If San Diego wants to make a trade they have to be willing to part with their most valuable asset: pitching. The Padres pitching has been phenomenal this year. The biggest problem is that pitching cannot score you runs. Houston Street has been an absolute stud this year posting a 1-0 record, 1.13 ERA, and a perfect 18/18 in save opportunities. To me, moving Huston Street makes the most amount of sense both financially and situationally.

The Padres have encountered save opportunities in only 30% of their games. The necessity for a top tier closer makes no sense, since its presence isn’t truly warranted. Street is nearing his prime at 30 years old and is making $7 million this year. For a team that is struggling to score runs, paying someone a little over 8% of your payroll to close out games when you’re seldom winning or ahead doesn’t make much sense. Benoit can fill in immediately, having closed for the Tigers last year. The Padres may have to sweeten the pot, but Street’s value has never been higher. Now would be the time to move him in exchange for a bat.

If Josh Byrnes is reluctant to make a trade of that magnitude (although he has already pulled deals that led to the departures of Blanks and Hundley), the only other viable option would be to send down struggling players and promote some prospects. By sending down any combination of Venable (.212 BA, 1 HR, 10 RBI), Alonso (.206, 4 HR, 19 RBI), Amarista (.198, 1 HR, 9 RBI), Grandal (.190, 5 HR, 15 RBI), and Gyorko (.162, 5 HR, 24 RBI) the Padres can accomplish a couple of things.

First, demoting any current struggling player would allow them the chance to work on their mechanics and get more individual attention in a low pressure situation. This can lead to hammering out flaws and gaining confidence without putting stress on results. Wiping the slate clean, hearing different coaching jargon, and changing the environment may be exactly what these players need to turn the corner. It’s clear that the current approach is not working.

Second, by promoting AAA players you are giving them a chance to see if they can play on the big stage. Despite playing in the minors, these players have shown that they are capable of contributing offensively. Some possible candidate for promotion include: C Adam Moore (.329, 4 HR, 17 RBI), 2B Tyler Greene (.311, 2 HR, 16 RBI), 2B Brooks Conrad (.289, 11 HR, 36 RBI), OF Jeff Francoeur (.271, 9 HR, 33 RBI), or OF Travis Buck (.310, 1 HR, 14 RBI).

The Padres could hope to catch lightning in a bottle, just like they have in spurts with Medica, by bringing up any one or a combination of these minor leaguers. If any of them have results at the big league level, management can decide to view them as a short-term improvement, long-term replacement, or possibly even sweeten the pot in the aforementioned trade. At worst, even if the players promoted struggle, it would be the same contribution from veterans that have been atrocious at the plate themselves. But at least it would entertain a different approach and nip any media scuttlebutt about shaking things up.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Now whether you want to attribute that quotation to Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, or Rita Mae Brown, it’s up for debate. Though none of them may have known much about the game of baseball, their words ring prophetic in light of the Padres’ performance in the 2014 season thus far.

If Bud Black and the boys continue the same approach, relying heavily on pitching, managing the everyday offensive lineup on righty vs. lefty matchups – rather than trusting whomever may be swinging a hot stick, and trying to emphasize power over contact, it is only going to exacerbate their ineptitude. Whether they decide to roll the die and make a trade or demote struggling players, something needs to be done. If not, the Padres might as well just mail it in the rest of the season. I know that comes off as sounding pessimistic, deflated, defeated, and heck maybe even crazy. But I think we can all agree, the craziest approach of all would be continue doing the same old thing, over and over again.

Author: Guest Writer