What's next? 4 effects of the Pham deal

December 10th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- A.J. Preller set out this winter in search of a potent everyday outfield bat. Last week, he found one.

And yet, even with ’s arrival, it’s pretty clear Preller isn't done maneuvering.

"We're still working," said the Padres general manager in the wake of the deal. "We’re still looking to improve our roster."

So what's next? As the Winter Meetings roll into San Diego, here are four aftereffects of the deal that sent Pham to San Diego.

1. The Padres' 2020 offense is not quite complete

The top of the San Diego lineup suddenly seems pretty fearsome. Pham slots into a top-half that already features , (against righties, at least) and .

But what about the bottom half? Right now, it's a mix of platoon pieces, prospects and veteran question marks. If Pham anchors left field, that leaves five outfielders vying for two spots every day. There's a jumbled group of second basemen, too. And at catcher, both and have flaws.

That's four spots in the order where there's probably room for improvement. It's not clear where Preller looks to add, and it's not clear how he'll go about it. But the current offense is not a finished product.

"We'll see what the Winter Meetings bring," Preller said.

2. Second base is wide open -- short- and long-term

Luis Urías seemed destined to become the Padres’ everyday second baseman in 2020. Then he was dealt to Milwaukee. Xavier Edwards seemed destined to become the team's second baseman of the future after Urías’ departure. Then he was dealt to Tampa Bay.

Sure, Preller landed in a trade with Oakland last week. But Profar is a free agent after the season, and he hasn't been guaranteed a starting role. Instead, he'll compete with an enigmatic group that also features Greg Garcia, Ian Kinsler and prospects Jake Cronenworth and Owen Miller.

Those options leave plenty to be desired, so it's reasonable to expect Preller to pursue another addition. But the second-base market isn't exactly bursting with talent.

Meanwhile, the long-term second-base predicament is even more intriguing. Without Edwards, 2019 draftee CJ Abrams rises to the forefront of the team's options. But he’s a few years away, meaning Miller and Cronenworth might get a shot first. Second base is suddenly the most glaring long-term need in San Diego.

3. Myers is the next big question mark

A year ago, the Padres were overflowing with slugging righty-hitting corner outfielders. With Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes on board, seemed like the odd man out. Instead, Renfroe and Reyes have been dealt within the past five months, and Myers -- whose tenure in San Diego has been plagued with inconsistency -- remains.

But for how long? Pham's arrival moves Myers out of left field. There's probably a place for him as a right-field platoon piece with the ability to play center. But that's an awfully expensive platoon piece.

Myers is owed $61 million over the next three seasons, and the Padres are already approaching ownership's stated payroll goal. The best chance for the team to make a big-budget addition this winter would be for a chunk of Myers' salary to be moved.

But how? Would Preller be willing to attach a prospect or two to that deal? Would the Padres be willing to eat a sizeable chunk of money? Those questions might be answered very soon.

4. Is Cronenworth the 26th man?

Pham was the headliner. But ask anyone in the Padres front office, and this wasn't merely "the Tommy Pham trade."

San Diego is eagerly awaiting the chance to work with Cronenworth, their newly acquired two-way prospect. He's an intriguing option for a middle-infield role in camp next spring. Cronenworth batted .334/.429/.520 at Durham last season and was named the Rays' Triple-A MVP.

But his value might extend beyond that. The Rays had begun converting Cronenworth into a two-way player toward the end of his tenure in Tampa Bay. He pitched 7 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run last season and struck out nine while boasting a mid-90s fastball.

“We'll get to know him better as we go,” Preller said. “It's nice having options.”

The Padres aren't yet sure how they'll use Cronenworth, and they probably won't commit to a plan until they’ve worked with him in Spring Training. But Major League Baseball is set to expand rosters to 26 players next season -- with a 13-pitcher maximum. If Cronenworth makes the team, his presence could give San Diego a creative way to keep a 14th pitcher.