Who will have Padres' next retired number?

April 9th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- It's been nine years since the Padres retired 's No. 51. It'll likely be a while longer before anyone joins Hoffman -- and four other Padres legends, plus -- with a number adorning the upper deck at Petco Park.

For most of the past decade, San Diego has been without a transcendent star on the diamond. Not since and has Petco Park played host to a perennially impactful player on the national scene.

That’s changing. In and , the Padres have two legit superstars on the left side of their infield. Their pitching staff has serious long-term promise, too.

It all begs the question: Who's next to join Hoffman, (No. 19), (No. 31), Randy Jones (No. 35), (No. 6) and Robinson (No. 42)?

The process
San Diego's group of retired numbers is mostly reserved for franchise icons. Gwynn, Hoffman, and Winfield are Hall of Famers, and Jones is a legend in San Diego -- he was the franchise's first Cy Young Award winner and its first certifiable star.

The lone exception is Garvey, whose five seasons in San Diego were unremarkable from a numbers standpoint. But Garvey also authored the biggest home run in franchise history -- a walk-off shot in Game 4 of the 1984 National League Championship Series. That blast ultimately propelled the franchise to its first World Series, and Garvey took home NLCS Most Valuable Player Award honors.

That context gives us some insight into who the Padres' next retired number might be. Let's take a look at some candidates.

Extreme long shots: Wil Myers (No. 4), Eric Hosmer (No. 30), Kirby Yates (No. 39)
It would take something incredibly special for these three to work their way into the discussion. The only way it happens? If the Padres win their first World Series at some point in the next few seasons. If any of those three were to play a decisive role in making that happen, they would be in the mix. (The recent struggles from and would surely be forgiven, and they'd suddenly have a Garvey-esque case.) Perhaps is the likeliest of the three, given that he's already one of the best relievers in franchise history. But that would require him signing an extension beyond 2020.

Maybe one day: MacKenzie Gore, Chris Paddack (No. 59), Luis Patiño
No question, the Padres have an awful lot of young talent on their pitching staff. But it might be asking a bit much to heap retired-number-level expectations on , and -- the presumed future of San Diego's rotation. Paddack has already emerged as a potential ace, while Gore and Patiño are two of the sport's best pitching prospects. But they have a long way to go to work their way into this discussion. Plus, their relative youth puts any number-retirement ceremonies a long way into the future.

Already has a case: Peavy (No. 44)
Let's step away from the current group of Padres and evaluate a candidate from the past. Peavy's eight-year tenure with the Padres from 2002-09 was outstanding. His numbers stack up favorably with Jones, who also spent eight years in San Diego. Like Jones, Peavy won a Cy Young Award and an ERA title (two, actually). But Peavy's departure via trade in '09 may have cost him. Since then, six Padres have worn his No. 44. Peavy seems like a lock to one day be enshrined in the Padres Hall of Fame. But he might have fallen just short of number-retirement status.

Top challenger: Tatis (No. 23)
Of anyone mentioned on this list, Tatis is the player likeliest to put forth a career worthy of a retired number. He's only 21, but he's already a generational talent at a time when the Padres expect to make the leap toward annual contention. Tatis should be the face of that turnaround. But the case against Tatis' No. 23 is threefold: First, he's only 21. Even for a superstar, there's a lot of volatility in a career trajectory like his. Second, Tatis' recent injury history is concerning. Third, even if his number is retired by the Padres someday, they'd prefer for that day to be a long way away.

The favorite: Machado (No. 13)
Obviously, Machado has a long way to go. He's spent only one season in San Diego, and by his lofty standards, it was a disappointment. But he’s under contract for the next nine years, and there’s no denying his talent. Through eight big league seasons, Machado has been worth 36.7 WAR. If he approaches that total over the remainder of his contract, he'd go into the Hall of Fame -- potentially as a Padre. Plus, this is a franchise starved for October baseball, and if Machado were to author a signature postseason moment, he'd become an instant franchise icon.

To be clear, that's a lot of assumptions. Machado has hardly begun to make a case. But the combination of his talent, his career trajectory and his age make Machado’s No. 13 the odds-on favorite to be retired next in San Diego.