Padres try to stop revolving door at shortstop
SAN DIEGO -- For a five-year period from 2004-08, the Padres rarely had concerns about the shortstop position.
Only three other shortstops in the National League -- Jimmy Rollins, Jack Wilson and Jose Reyes -- logged more innings at shortstop during that five-year stretch than Khalil Greene, who played on San Diego's last two playoff teams (2005-06).
But when the Padres parted ways with Greene after the 2008 season, sending him to the Cardinals, they probably didn't think they'd spend the next seven seasons trying player after player at one of the most critical positions on the field.
That's exactly what has happened, though.
Not only has San Diego used 17 shortstops since the start of the 2009 season -- hello, Pedro Ciriaco! -- but the organization has failed to produce anything close to an everyday shortstop through the Draft since selecting Greene in 2002 with the 13th overall pick.
As the Padres and general manager A.J. Preller head toward the non-waiver Trade Deadline on Friday, you can bet they are looking to add talent to the organization at shortstop, with the intent on stopping the revolving door at the position.
"I don't want to attribute it to bad luck, but some of it is how we have prioritized players in the Draft," said assistant general manager Josh Stein, who has been with the organization since 2003, when he was a baseball operations intern.
"I don't think we have made it a priority to draft shortstops in the early part of the Draft. But I can tell you it's certainly a priority and something we are taking a hard look at moving forward."
Especially at Petco Park, a ballpark -- though while playing more fair than in the past -- that is built for teams who thrive on run prevention, pitching and defense.
Since drafting Greene, the Padres have had very little luck in getting homegrown talent to the big leagues.
Since 2003, San Diego has drafted 17 shortstops during the first 10 rounds of the Draft. In fairness to the Padres, some of those players were drafted to play different positions once they turned pro.
Help wanted: Shortstops
But in many cases, those players simply didn't pan out.
The team has also had trouble developing middle infielders from Latin America during that stretch, a trend the Friars are looking to buck. Earlier this month, San Diego signed three Latin American shortstops during the international signing period. That wasn't by accident.
"It's a crucial spot," Preller said. "That's what makes the good ones so valuable. Only a handful of guys can handle that position. They are the captain of the infield."
There have been some notable misses along the way, starting with Matt Bush, the first overall pick in 2004. Bush has had his share of personal and legal trouble, and he has been out of baseball since '11. Many feel Bush will go down as the biggest miss in Draft history.
Drew Cumberland, the 46th overall pick in 2007, might have had the best chance to become an everyday big leaguer. He hit .316/.380/.420 in his four seasons in the Minor Leagues before having to retire in March 2012 because of a rare neurological condition called bilateral vestibulopathy.
"I think Drew, for us, was on pace to be a Major League-caliber shortstop," Stein said.
Of the 17 shortstops drafted since the Padres picked Greene, only Lance Zawadzki (fourth round, 2007), Sean Kazmar (fifth round, '04) and Jace Peterson (58th overall, '11) have reached the big leagues.
Those three combined for a minus-0.8 WAR (wins above replacement) in just 66 games at shortstop for San Diego.
The Padres might have had a fourth had they not traded their 2014 first-rounder, Trea Turner, to the Nationals as part of the three-team deal that got them Wil Myers from the Rays. Turner has already advanced to Triple-A.
"Turner, for me, was one of the easiest everyday shortstop grades I have ever written," one NL scout said last year.
So for now, the search continues.
Even if San Diego doesn't trade for a shortstop before the Deadline, Preller said the need will remain near or atop the team's wish list.
"You're always looking out for quality shortstops, and we've always said we want to be strong up the middle," Preller said. "That's something in the last six, eight months we've looked at trying to find ways to improve.
"But teams aren't looking to give away guys at that position. Teams want to hold onto them."