By this time last year, the Padres had done the bulk of their work for the offseason, adding outfielders Tommy Pham and Trent Grisham, second baseman Jurickson Profar and pitchers Zach Davies and Drew Pomeranz.
With fewer holes to plug on the roster, the pace has moved more slowly this winter, though Padres general manager A.J. Preller continues to engage in discussions on potential trades and free-agent signings that he believes will fortify a club coming off its first postseason appearance in 14 years.
“Every year is different,” Preller said Monday. “I think in general, we’re kind of doing our normal process, doing our due diligence on a lot of guys. If you line up on something, we're not really waiting. If we find something that we think makes sense from a value standpoint for a free agent or trade possibility, we’ll be willing to pull the trigger.”
Improving the depth of the starting rotation remains the priority for the Padres, who lost Mike Clevinger to Tommy John surgery earlier this offseason. Dinelson Lamet should serve as the ace of the pitching staff, but he’s coming off an arm injury of his own, creating some uncertainty about his outlook for 2021.
Preller said that Lamet is “on schedule” with his offseason throwing program so far, but the hard-throwing right-hander likely won’t be out of the woods until the Padres see him face live competition during Spring Training.
“That's the most important test,” Preller said. “But in terms of the tests that he's passing right now -- all his workouts, picking up a baseball, beginning his throwing program to start the offseason -- he's reporting that he's in a very similar spot to where he was last year, which is a good place.”
Davies and Chris Paddack are slated to slot into the middle of the rotation, but the Padres will need Paddack to return to form following his disappointing sophomore season. Prospects MacKenzie Gore, Luis Patiño and Ryan Weathers are expected to be in the mix for the fourth and fifth spots, but Preller could introduce more competition into the group by bringing in more experienced rotation options this offseason.
This year’s free-agent class is headlined by reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, a Southern California native who is projected to command a lucrative payday. The Padres could also explore trades for controllable starters like the Rays’ Blake Snell and the Reds’ Sonny Gray, though it remains to be seen whether they’d be willing to part with the prospects required to acquire those kind of quality arms.
Still, the Padres might not feel the need to pursue a frontline starter to replace Clevinger, as they could prefer to round out their pitching staff with depth pieces that wouldn’t come at as steep of a cost to the organization.
“We've looked at it both ways,” Preller said. “I think it’s just kind of going to depend on the individual pitcher that's involved, and then obviously, what potentially we'd have to do from a money standpoint or from a trade standpoint. Weighing that in versus what we see the impactability of our own talent and when that will happen. I don't think it's one or the other. I don't think we're not looking at it that way. We think there's a lot of different ways to be successful.”