SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' elite farm system, it seems, is finally paying dividends at the big league level. Past the halfway mark of the 2020 season, San Diego finds itself in legitimate contention for a playoff spot, with a roster capable of doing damage in October.
That's largely a product of a Minor League pipeline that has produced both regular contributors and trade chips who were dealt for regular contributors.
Thing is, even though a number of those prospects have either graduated or been dealt, the Padres still have one of the best farm systems in the sport. Which puts general manager A.J. Preller in an interesting position ahead of Monday's Trade Deadline.
"We've been building here over the course of the last four or five years to get to a point where we have talent, top to bottom," Preller said. "That's the goal for any organization, where you have multiples at different spots. That enables you to deal from a position of strength. But you don't want to be flippant about it. We like the players we have and the depth throughout the organization."
Indeed, the Padres' status as contenders, plus their deep farm system, could make for an interesting weekend. The Deadline is slated for Monday at 1 p.m. PT. An important wrinkle this year is that teams can only trade players who are part of their 60-man player pool (assigned either to the big league team or the alternate training site). Clubs are permitted to include players to be named later in trades, however. In addition, scouts have not been allowed to attend games, so all assessments of prospects have been done based on video, data and prior knowledge.
For the first time since 2010, the Padres are buyers. That doesn't mean they absolutely need to make a move, but it means they enter the weekend in search of one.
Of course, it's useful to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. By no means are the Padres desperate. Almost all of their main contributors are under contract for several seasons. They'd like to win now, but they'd like to win later, too.
"It's hard to make trades," Preller cautioned. "For the most part, our stuff has been focused on the guys that we have in our organization right now and how some of those guys may fit for us."
What they want
Preller was confident he'd built one of the sport's top relief corps this winter. He was also quick to point out that a bullpen is more susceptible to regression than any other part of a roster.
Sure enough, Kirby Yates, Drew Pomeranz, José Castillo and Trey Wingenter have all landed on the injured list. The remaining arms have slumped, too, and the Padres enter the Deadline as a bottom-third bullpen. That's their first priority.
With Tommy Pham out following surgery on the hamate bone in his left wrist, Preller might also look for an impact outfield bat. It seems less likely, however, that the Padres go after a catcher, given the thin market and the presence of prospect Luis Campusano as the presumed long-term answer.
What they have to offer
A handful of prospects from one of the sport's top farm systems could be available over the next few days.
"We have options," Preller said, "because we have players that teams like."
It's also worth noting that on-field developments this season might affect how the Padres view some of their Minor Leaguers.
Jake Cronenworth and Trent Grisham have emerged as viable long-term options at second base and center field, respectively, and Fernando Tatis Jr. has made huge strides defensively at short, solidifying his place there.
To some extent, the Padres' question marks up the middle have been resolved. That doesn't mean a high-end talent like CJ Abrams is available, but it might make middle-infield prospects Gabriel Arias, Tucupita Marcano and Owen Miller expendable.
Chance of a deal
60 percent. This is the best Padres roster in at least a decade, maybe longer. It also has a few obvious holes.
If Preller chooses, he has plenty of prospect capital to fill those holes. He has made it clear that he doesn't feel forced to do so, but he also isn’t going to sit still. This is A.J. Preller we're talking about.