Outfield battle looms for Padres in camp

February 9th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres know their outfield is littered with question marks -- or they wouldn't have spent the past month pursuing a trade for star right fielder Mookie Betts.

But even without Betts, who is expected to join the Dodgers in a trade, and , who was dealt to the Rays for reliever Emilio Pagán, the Padres’ outfield improved significantly this offseason. Sure, there are still question marks, but there's also a chance it's a very productive unit in 2020.

"We feel good about the group we have [in the outfield]," general manager A.J. Preller said earlier this offseason before any inkling of a Betts trade had emerged. "We like the depth. We like the quality."

It's hard to argue with him. Yes, Betts would've gone a long way toward solidifying the Padres as one of the best outfields in the sport. But San Diego enters camp with a newfound anchor in left field and five candidates for the two remaining spots.

Here's an early breakdown of all six outfielders in the roster mix.

Status: Roster lock, projected everyday left fielder

Pham's arrival addressed two serious needs for the Padres. He'll serve as the everyday outfield force that was lacking on the roster. He also brings a skill set that has been glaringly absent. Pham owns a .373 on-base percentage in his career. The last Padre with a single-season mark that high? Chase Headley, at .376 in 2012.

Pham arrived in November in the deal that sent Hunter Renfroe and infield prospect Xavier Edwards to Tampa Bay. The long-term risks of that move are obvious. Pham only has two years remaining on his contract, while Renfroe and Edwards are locked up long term. Still, the trade gives the Padres an obvious boost for 2020, and Pham should anchor left field as the only outfielder on the roster with a guaranteed role.

Status: Roster lock, role uncertain

Had the Padres been able to land Betts, it's Myers who would've headed to Boston, along with a package of prospects and young big leaguers. In fact, San Diego has been looking to unload Myers' contract -- with three years and $61 million remaining on it -- for quite some time now.

But once again, Myers will report to Peoria, Ariz., after an offseason filled with trade rumors. And it's worth remembering he's still a useful outfield piece -- especially against left-handed pitching. If Myers can rekindle his All-Star form from 2016, there's an obvious place for him as an everyday right fielder. For now, he might be bound for a platoon.

Status: Roster favorite, role uncertain

Though he's probably best known for the error that spurred the Nationals’ NL Wild Card Game victory, Grisham played a pivotal everyday role during the Brewers’ playoff push -- especially after Christian Yelich's season-ending injury. In 51 games during his rookie season, Grisham posted a .738 OPS. Then, he was traded to the Padres in the deal that sent Luis Urías to Milwaukee.

Grisham’s role in San Diego is still somewhat unclear. It's possible he will play some center field. It's also possible he will form a right-field platoon with Myers. In any case, given what the Padres gave up to acquire him, Grisham seems like a roster favorite. But he'll need to earn his spot during camp.

Status: In a roster battle, role uncertain

Preller likened Cordero to "found money" earlier this offseason, and that feels like the perfect descriptor. Cordero is a potential five-tool force if he's healthy, but he's played only 49 games in the past two seasons due to left leg and right elbow injuries.

This year, the Padres have put enough pieces around Cordero where they aren't banking on his health. But if he's at full strength, they'll certainly take it. Cordero is coming off an abbreviated winter ball season in which he batted .364/.462/.576 for Escogido in the Dominican Republic.

"I'd expect him to be ready to come in and compete and make our decision hard," Preller said.

Status: In a roster battle, role uncertain

Naylor had trouble with his transition to the big leagues last season, posting a .719 OPS over 94 games while struggling defensively. Here's where it's worth remembering that Naylor is only 22, and he was a career first baseman until the Padres signed Eric Hosmer two offseasons ago.

The organization remains high on Naylor's skill set. He projects as a legit on-base threat with some power, too. But the Padres have also made it clear -- with their offseason moves -- that a roster spot won't be handed to Naylor this spring. He'll need to compete with Grisham and Cordero, with two spots available among that trio.

Status: Prospect, doubtful to make roster

Preller has never shied away from promoting prospects early if he feels they're the best players available. A season ago, Chris Paddack and Fernando Tatis Jr. made the Opening Day roster after they entered Spring Training as long shots. And that's exactly what Trammell is -- a roster long shot.

MLB Pipeline's No. 57 overall prospect, Trammell arrived last summer in the trade that sent Franmil Reyes to Cleveland. He then sparked a Texas League title run with Double-A Amarillo, batting .310/.356/.643 during the postseason. Trammell will need an other-worldly Spring Training to force his way onto the Opening Day roster, but don't be surprised if the 22-year-old makes an impact at some point this summer.