4 questions facing Padres for 2022 season

March 11th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- If Part I of the Padres’ offseason was about reshuffling the coaching staff, Part II could very well be about reshuffling the roster.

Bob Melvin is officially in the manager’s chair, and his coaching staff is set, too. All of the offseason's biggest remaining questions center around the state of a talented, yet flawed, roster. Here are four of the most pressing.

1. How do the Padres upgrade their offense?
There’s an excellent offensive core in place for the foreseeable future. Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth and Trent Grisham -- that’s a pretty nice starting point for roster construction.

Then again, even with that core, the offense nosedived down the stretch last season. For all the talk of injuries to their pitching staff, the Padres’ bats were relatively healthy and still posted a dreadful .234/.305/.379 slash line over the season’s final two months.

San Diego went a bit unorthodox in hiring 27-year-old hitting guru Michael Brdar from San Francisco. Quality control coach Ryan Flaherty and third-base coach Matt Williams will also work with the team’s hitters.

But that’s only a small part of the battle. The Padres could use some thump in the middle of their lineup. Considering they’re in good shape up the middle, they can focus on finding a corner-outfield/DH type exclusively for his bat.

Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler fit the bill. And who knows? If the Padres can clear some salary elsewhere, they might even splurge on a player of Nick Castellanos’ ilk.

2. What’s next for Hosmer and Myers?
So how would the Padres clear salary? Well, they have two obvious paths. Trade speculation around Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers should be nothing new. (They were focal points at the Trade Deadline last summer and again this offseason before the lockout.)

Both will make hefty salaries in 2022, despite underperforming last season. It’d be trickier for the Padres to move Hosmer, who is owed $60 million over the next four years. For a Hosmer deal to come to fruition, San Diego would almost certainly need to attach a prospect or two.

As for Myers, he’s entering the final year of his contract. At the end of the season, he noted somewhat ruefully that, “There’s been trade talks the last four, five years, but at this point it’s less complicated to trade me now than it ever has been, as far as money and years.”

He’s not wrong. Still, Myers is the longest-rostered Padre. He has reached some impressive heights in San Diego -- albeit with very little consistency. If the Padres are looking for a corner-outfield bat -- and if there's no appealing trade offer for him -- perhaps Myers returns and fills that role.

3. How much more pitching depth is needed?
If there’s one lesson the Padres need to take from the end of their 2021 season, it’s this: When you think you have enough pitching depth, you probably don’t have enough pitching depth.

They started the year with, on paper, one of the sport's deepest rotations. But a spate of injuries sent the pitching staff into disarray down the stretch. (In their biggest series of the year -- a three-game set at St. Louis in September with a Wild Card spot on the line -- the Padres started Jake Arrieta and Vince Velasquez.)

A quick refresher on who's returning:

Projected rotation:
RHP Joe Musgrove
RHP Yu Darvish
LHP Blake Snell
RHP Mike Clevinger
RHP Chris Paddack

Other options:
RHP Dinelson Lamet
LHP Adrian Morejon (Tommy John surgery last April)
LHP Ryan Weathers
LHP MacKenzie Gore
RHP Reiss Knehr

There are plenty of big-time arms in that group. There are also plenty of question marks. Clevinger is returning from his second Tommy John surgery. Paddack and Darvish dealt with injury trouble down the stretch. Lamet might be better suited for the bullpen, given his history of elbow trouble. Gore hasn't quite taken the next step from Top Prospect status.

After the nightmare finish to their 2021 season, the Padres seem to have taken the hint. They’re poised to add right-hander Nick Martínez, who could serve as a back-end starter, perhaps pushing Paddack for his spot or setting up a six-man rotation. (Martínez and the Padres were close to finalizing a four-year deal prior to the lockout.)

While it seems unlikely that the Padres pursue any big-name starters, there's room for another depth option or two. There always is.

4. Who’s the closer?
The bullpen features fewer question marks than the rotation. Sure, it sputtered down the stretch last year. But no team in the National League asked its relief corps to cover more innings in ’21 than the Padres. The unit, one of the best in baseball for 4 1/2 months, simply ran out of gas.

That group has plenty of returnees -- including Pierce Johnson and Craig Stammen, who had their team options exercised. It also adds two intriguing righties, Robert Suarez and Luis García.

But who gets the ninth? Mark Melancon signed a two-year deal with the D-backs this offseason, leaving the closer spot vacant.

Internally, Drew Pomeranz is the most readymade option. But he’s coming off flexor-tendon surgery, and injury concerns linger. Lamet has closer-caliber stuff, but his health is also a question mark, and he hasn’t spent much time in the ’pen. It’s possible the Padres look to the free-agent/trade markets for their next closer.