SAN DIEGO -- It's not quite 2016, when the Padres traded six major contributors in the span of a few weeks. But expect general manager A.J. Preller to be busy ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline again this season.The trade chips aren't quite as obvious as they were
SAN DIEGO -- It's not quite 2016, when the Padres traded six major contributors in the span of a few weeks. But expect general manager A.J. Preller to be busy ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline again this season.
The trade chips aren't quite as obvious as they were a year ago. But with the Padres out of contention, they're once again in the business of acquiring young talent -- so long as it comes at the right price.
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Lefty reliever Brad Hand is the most coveted piece. (Every contender could use some bullpen help, after all.) And -- with 2 1/2 years of team control remaining -- he should fetch a nice return in the form of a highly rated prospect or two.
There are more question marks surrounding the Padres' other trade candidates. Yangervis Solarte is battling back from an oblique strain, and Trevor Cahill has already spent two stints on the disabled list with back and shoulder ailments.
The Padres could very well deem Solarte's trade value too low to sacrifice his presence in the clubhouse. They'd be justified in doing so, given that he has another year and two team options remaining on his contract.
With Cahill -- and potentially Jhoulys Chacin or Clayton Richard -- San Diego doesn't have that luxury. All three pitchers signed one-year deals before the season. Given that they'd be short-term rentals for the back end of a rotation, the return is probably minimal for all the three.
But if Preller and Co. can land a potential impact piece for the future, they won't hesitate to make a deal. That same concept holds true for any of the pitchers in the Padres bullpen (with rookies Jose Torres and Phil Maton as likely exceptions).
It's easy to see why Hand is one of the most sought-after relievers on the market. He brings more just than good numbers to the table, though his numbers -- a 2.30 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 47 innings -- are certainly gaudy. As a left-hander who can pitch multiple innings and whiff hitters from both sides of the plate, Hand is a nice fit on any contender. But the Nationals, whose bullpen might be their only flaw, seem to be a very likely trade partner.
WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING FOR?
Like the first half, the Padres are playing for development. They got plenty of that during the first half, specifically among youngsters Austin Hedges, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe and Allen Cordoba. Manager Andy Green will continue to throw his young players into the fire, with hopes that their growth this year leads the Padres into contention in the not-so-distant future.
THE ROAD AHEAD
August and September offer a significant challenge for a young Padres roster that features five or six regulars in their first full big league season. The dog days could offer a critical lesson in how to sustain the grind of the schedule. On the pitching side of things, Luis Perdomo and Dinelson Lamet will be shouldering more significant workloads as well.
First and foremost, the Padres need to get William Myers going. When he's thriving, he's a legit middle-of-the-order presence and an All-Star-caliber bat. That's the player they signed to a six-year extension during the offseason. But Myers has struggled of late, with a .197 average since the start of June. If Myers is producing runs, he's an anchor in the Padres order and easy to build a lineup around. He hasn't done much of that lately.
PROSPECTS TO WATCH
Unlike last September, the Padres don't have a plethora of Triple-A talent knocking down the big league door. This time around, the strength of their farm system resides at the lower levels. Still, it's in the realm of possibility that No. 4 prospect Luis Urias is given a September callup. Plus, Carlos Asuaje (No. 9), Lamet (No. 10), Maton (No. 16) and possibly even Franchy Cordero (No. 23) will continue to make an impact with the big club.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.