Last October, the Padres' season ended with three straight losses in Philadelphia.
And, no, their 2023 season did not end with the same result this weekend. But it’s hanging by a thread -- and they’re running out of time and runway to position themselves as buyers ahead of the Trade Deadline.
That Aug. 1 Deadline looms just over two weeks away, and Padres brass has repeatedly expressed its intent to approach it as buyers. But that was always contingent on the team eventually asserting itself as a contender.
After three losses in two days -- including a brutal 12-inning defeat on Sunday which dropped San Diego to a mind-numbing 0-9 in extra innings -- here’s the reality of where things stand: The Padres are 44-50 and eight games out of a playoff spot, needing to jump at least three teams currently six games above them in the National League standings.
General manager A.J. Preller spoke on MLB Network Radio prior to Sunday’s series finale, and he reinforced the notion that his preference is to buy. But he certainly hasn’t committed to that. In his recent interviews, Preller has left himself room to pivot, depending on how the Padres finish the month.
“You never really want to ride the wave game-to-game or anything like that, but from our standpoint, yeah, we’ve got decisions to make over the next few weeks,” Preller said. “Your team kind of tells you where things are at. … We’ve got our work cut out for us. I think we’ll be prepared in all different scenarios at the Deadline.
"I think the biggest thing is: We like our team and our club. Try to get to a spot where we can help fortify some areas. That’s all part of the evaluation process in the next couple weeks -- seeing where we’re at and try to make good decisions when we get to the Deadline.”
If the Padres buy, their needs are fairly obvious. Their lack of pitching depth has been exposed -- both in the bullpen and rotation. They could also use another bat, potentially a DH type who could play some right field if Fernando Tatis Jr. were to shift to center occasionally.
The Padres almost certainly wouldn’t need to part with any of their big-name prospects to fill those needs. Depth starters, middle relievers and offense-only outfielders are plentiful.
But at what point do the Padres look at their place in the standings and ask themselves whether it’s worth sacrificing future assets to boost the ’23 team?
Taking that a step further, at what point do they look at their free-agents-to-be -- namely Blake Snell, Josh Hader and Seth Lugo-- and ask themselves if it’s time to recoup some value?
Based on Preller’s recent comments, the Padres haven’t reached that point just yet. (And perhaps there’s a middle ground where they sell their rental pieces to bring back big league-ready depth players with team control.)
But if the Padres want to view themselves as buyers, they’ve got all of 13 games to make their case.