Padres add Moreland to fill primary DH role

August 30th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- If it wasn't clear already, it should be after this weekend: The Padres are contenders. And they're going for it.

San Diego acquired lefty slugger from Boston on Sunday morning in a deal that sent outfield prospect Jeisson Rosario and infield prospect Hudson Potts to the Red Sox, the Padres' second major trade in advance of Monday's 1 p.m. PT Trade Deadline.

Moreland brings some middle-of-the-order thump to a lineup that has already been one of the best in baseball this season. He's hitting .328/.430/.746 and figures to slot in as the Padres' primary designated hitter.

“It's impactful,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler, who has known Moreland since he was drafted by the Rangers in 2007. “Not only the bat, but somebody like Mitch with 80-grade makeup, a very, very tough man … that’ll blend in really well to this clubhouse. We’re excited.”

The move comes a day after the Padres landed righty reliever from Kansas City for a pair of prospects. The two trades serve as the latest reminder that the Padres -- who sport the third-best record in the National League entering Sunday’s action -- have turned a corner. They view themselves as full-fledged contenders in 2020, and they’re acting like it.

What the Padres got
The DH spot had been one of the few holes in a strong San Diego offense this season. Padres designated hitters have combined to post a .247/.328/.349 slash line entering play on Sunday. Moreland should slot in as the team’s DH against righties, though is still expected to get occasional reps there against left-handed pitching.

The move isn’t quite as win-now as Saturday’s trade for Rosenthal, an impending free agent. It’s possible Moreland will also become a free agent this offseason, but the Padres hold a $3 million option him for 2021. Barring something unforeseen, they seem likely to exercise it.

Moreland brings obvious lefty thump to a San Diego offense that ranks second in baseball with a 122 wRC+. As a team, the Padres rank second in slugging percentage and third in both on-base percentage and home runs. It was, on paper, a more potent offense against left-handed pitching. But Moreland’s arrival helps balance those scales.

“He blends into what we’re about and what we’re doing,” Tingler said.

Moreland also brings 142 plate appearances worth of postseason experience (with a .729 OPS). He has reached the playoffs seven times in his 11-year career between Boston and Texas, and he’s played in three World Series.

“Hard on all ends -- what he does on the field, what he does off the field,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said Sunday morning. “When you try to move forward in things, you need to make some deals -- hard deals at times. He’s excited. He’s excited to go to San Diego with a lot of really talented players, and he should be huge for that team, especially I think with the young guys and how he can help."

What they gave up
Potts and Rosario were once highly touted prospects in the Padres' system, but their stock has fallen a bit recently. Potts was ranked 16th in the Padres’ system and Rosario 19th, per MLB Pipeline.

Potts, who plays first and third base, had his long-term path blocked by and . Rosario, meanwhile, has yet to see his bat translate above Class A.

Both feature some obvious upside. Potts has hit 17 home runs in each of his last three seasons, though his strikeout totals remain troubling. Rosario’s strong on-base skills and otherworldly athleticism remain intact.

But Potts and Rosario are both eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after the season, and the Padres didn’t see an obvious path for either to be added to the 40-man roster.

In a way, trading Potts and Rosario for a win-now piece seems like it was always part of the plan. Padres general manager A.J. Preller spent years building one of the sport's deepest farm systems.

Now he’s cashing in.

What's next?
"Still looking," said one Padres official.

As if Preller would rest on his laurels.

“We’ll wait and see,” Tingler said. “But I know A.J. very well. You guys know him very well. He doesn’t sleep, and he’s relentless.”

San Diego has already addressed weaknesses at the back end of their bullpen and in the DH spot. But the Padres' roster is by no means complete. They're still actively in search of another arm ahead of Monday's Deadline, according to sources.

They're open to adding a starting pitcher to help ease some of the burden on their bullpen. (The fifth spot in the rotation is currently wide open, and and have struggled lately.) They're also open to adding a bullpen arm to add to Rosenthal and at the back end.

As things stand, team decision-makers think most of the prices have been set a bit too high on their current trade targets. But there's still plenty of time for things to change by the Deadline.