SAN DIEGO -- The next month will be an active one for A.J. Preller and the rest of the Padres' front office.
The Friars have a handful of roster decisions to make by next Tuesday. They're still kicking the tires on shortstops, third basemen, starting pitching and relief pitching. And the Winter Meetings (Dec. 9-13) loom in Las Vegas.
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With that in mind, here's a look at some of your most pressing questions surrounding the Padres this offseason:
Right now, who's the favorite to start at shortstop on Opening Day?
Let's expand on this because there are so many options, and really no clear favorite. Here are my (totally hypothetical) Opening Day shortstop odds for the Padres:
Luis Urias: 3-to-1
Freddy Galvis: 3-to-1
Greg Garcia: 8-to-1
Adeiny Hechavarria: 10-to-1
Alcides Escobar: 20-to-1
Asdrubal Cabrera: 20-to-1
Jordy Mercer: 20-to-1
Javy Guerra: 25-to-1
Jose Iglesias: 30-to-1
Marwin Gonzalez: 40-to-1
Fernando Tatis Jr.: 50-to-1
Christian Villanueva: 100-to-1
Manny Machado: 500-to-1
The Padres have been dropping hints that Urias is an option to play shortstop early next season. He's their second baseman of the future, but they really like his positional flexibility. Urias would have started a handful of September games at short if his callup hadn't been cut short by a left hamstring injury.
Of course, if Galvis is back, he's going to start at shortstop on Opening Day. (And he'll likely start there regularly until Tatis, MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect, is ready). Right now, Galvis is drawing plenty of interest elsewhere, and the chances of a reunion aren't great. But it's still very possible.
As for the other internal options: Garcia could serve as something of a stopgap, rotating with Urias until Tatis is ready. But he's a lefty hitter, and the Padres open next season against the Giants (and presumably Madison Bumgarner). That also hurts Guerra's chances, and it makes Villanueva a long shot, even though he's clearly a third baseman. Meanwhile, Tatis remains likely to start the year in the Minors, having played only four months at Double-A last year before he was sidelined due to left thumb surgery.
Among the non-Galvis free-agent options, Hechavarria seems like the best fit. He'd be a versatile bench piece when Tatis arrives, and he'd probably come pretty cheap. Mercer, Iglesias and the like will be looking for more regular opportunity. As for Machado -- that's just not happening.
Considering the organization loves Franmil Reyes, he's unlikely to be part of any deal, right? More likely options are William Myers and Hunter Renfroe, and I doubt anyone wants to touch Myers' contract. So Hunter is the odd man out, right?
Yes, the Padres are probably going to trade one of those three corner outfielders. But there are a lot of assumptions in that question. There's a hint of truth to all of them. But be careful with the absolutes.
Indeed, the organization loves Reyes. He was excellent during the second half, and he has a bright future. That doesn't mean that Reyes is off-limits. If there's another club that agrees on his high ceiling (especially an American League club where he could serve as designated hitter), San Diego won't shy away from a deal.
And sure, Myers' contract is burdensome. That doesn't mean it's untradeable. He's pieced together a resume that's miles better than those of Renfroe and Reyes, even if he's coming off consecutive down years. No question, the Padres would be selling low if they traded Myers this offseason. But doing so would also give them a chance to embrace Renfroe and Reyes as their corner outfielders.
Finally, I'll agree with the assertion that Renfroe is the likeliest of the three to be dealt. He's a certifiable big league slugger, and he has five years of team control remaining. Renfroe would help fetch a nice return. But he's not an overwhelming favorite to be traded. In fact, it's probably likelier that he stays in San Diego.
Are the Padres actually going to let Joey Lucchesi throw 185-195 innings next year, or are they going to keep pulling him unnecessarily in the in the fifth or the sixth?
San Diego's coaching staff treated Lucchesi with kid gloves last season, and justifiably so. He was the first pitcher on any team to reach the big leagues from the 2016 Draft class, and he spent nearly an entire season in the Majors. That's quite the leap.
The Padres are planning to take those gloves off next season. But that doesn't necessarily mean Lucchesi is going to rack up innings. Many of his early exits came of his own undoing. Most pitchers have poor splits their third time through the order. But Lucchesi's were particularly bad.
First two times through: .234/.295/.429
Third time through: .354/.411/.557
Lucchesi fell apart in the latter stages of his starts. He needs to implement a third pitch -- whether it's a curveball or a cutter -- to make hitters a bit more uncomfortable. San Diego would like for Lucchesi to develop into something of a workhorse this season. But he'll have to earn those late innings.
Is Anderson Espinoza ever going to become relevant again?
Yes -- presumably six days from now, when the Padres add the 20-year-old right-hander to their 40-man roster, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft.
Espinoza, the No. 12 prospect in the system, underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2017. He's on track to face hitters during Spring Training. San Diego will be very cautious with his progression, but he's absolutely in the club's plans moving forward.