At Deadline, SD gets Marisnick, no starters

July 31st, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- As the minutes ticked toward Friday afternoon's Trade Deadline, the Padres did indeed come together on a last-minute trade -- though perhaps not the kind of swap everyone had been expecting.

San Diego landed outfielder from the Cubs in exchange for righty pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza on Friday afternoon, bringing the Padres' overall Trade Deadline haul this week to:

• 2B/OF Adam Frazier from the Pirates
• RHP Daniel Hudson from the Nationals
• OF Marisnick from the Cubs

All three are useful pieces for a playoff-contending roster. But that list, somewhat stunningly, does not include a starting pitcher. And as such, general manager A.J. Preller managed to find a way to surprise us all once again.

“We have starters that we believe in,” Preller said. “We could’ve added a starting pitcher, but if the other four or five guys don’t pitch like they’re capable of, honestly, it’s not going to matter. We feel like we have enough from a starting pitching standpoint.”

Do they? Well, we’re going to find out over the next couple months. But the Padres were clearly pushing hard this week for starting pitching, and they came away with two bats and a back-end reliever. Here’s a rundown of their Deadline decision-making:

Why didn’t they land a starter?
The Padres were in on a handful of the market’s biggest-name starting pitchers, including, very publicly, Washington’s Max Scherzer. When Scherzer ended up with the Dodgers, San Diego pivoted to José Berríos, who went to Toronto for two top 100 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. San Diego continued its search for starting pitching right up until the 1 p.m. PT Deadline, but ultimately found the prices to be much higher than it was willing to pay.

In part, that’s a play for the future. Rumors swirled all week about a handful of top Padres prospects, notably Luis Campusano and Robert Hassell III, the team’s No. 3 and No. 4 prospects, respectively. They stayed, and the Padres feel as though, ultimately, they kept all of their long-term difference-makers in house.

“The value of young talent is huge,” Preller said. “That’s the dance. You’re constantly weighing out what you’re able to get from a trade standpoint versus the value of what you think players are going to be in the future. Young-player talent, we continue to have a lot of it. It’s gold. It gives you access to at least be in the conversations, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to line up on every deal.”

Still, the fact that the Padres didn’t add at least one starting pitcher qualifies as a major surprise, considering the rotation’s glaring lack of depth. Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove have been excellent this season, but behind them, Chris Paddack and Blake Snell remain serious question marks. Rookie Ryan Weathers, meanwhile, is viewed as more of a long-man type for the postseason.

Had the Padres landed another starter, it would’ve significantly lessened their reliance on Paddack and Snell, who both sport ERAs north of 5. In no uncertain terms, the fate of San Diego's season might hinge on whether that duo can figure things out.

“Both guys have given us some flashes,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “The one thing: It’s just been a little bit inconsistent.”

Paddack has shown some encouraging signs since the All-Star break, but consistency has eluded him, and Paddack’s ceiling isn’t as high as Snell’s. Lest we forget, Snell won the 2018 AL Cy Young Award and was dominant on the sport’s biggest stage last October.

Said one Padres official following Friday’s events: “Snell will tell us how our season ends.”

How do they cover the innings?
There’s one reason to think that maybe the burden on Paddack and Snell might be a bit overstated: The Padres have the best bullpen (2.97 ERA) in the Majors, and they just added Hudson, one of the sport’s most electric relievers.

“If we weren’t going to quite line up on a starting pitcher that we felt was impactful, let’s make the bullpen as strong as we can make it,” Preller said.

On top of Hudson, add these two wild cards: Matt Strahm (right knee surgery) and Dinelson Lamet (right forearm inflammation) are expected to join the mix at some point in August. Strahm was one of the team’s most reliable relievers down the stretch last season, capable of chewing up multiple innings. Lamet, meanwhile, dealt with a few setbacks as a starter, so the Padres are transitioning him to a relief role -- and they’re very eager to see what his fastball/slider combo looks like out of the 'pen.

So, how’s this for a potential playoff bullpen?

Mark Melancon
Daniel Hudson
Drew Pomeranz
Austin Adams
Emilio Pagán
Dinelson Lamet
Matt Strahm
Tim Hill
Pierce Johnson
Craig Stammen
Ryan Weathers

There’s an argument to be made to let Darvish and Musgrove start their games, and -- if Paddack or Snell haven’t earned it -- let the bullpen cover the other big-time innings down the stretch. No matter what the Padres settle on, they’re clearly expecting their relievers to do some heavy lifting come September/October.

“There’s a lot of different ways to win,” Preller said.

How does Marisnick fit?
Marisnick is hitting .227/.294/.438 this season and should serve as useful outfield depth, capable of backing up in center field. He joins what figures to be a fairly complete Padres bench, with the addition of Frazier pushing Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer into a pseudo-platoon.

“It’s a more complete roster, and hopefully that results in wins here over the next couple months,” Preller said.

With Trent Grisham struggling at the plate, Marisnick might also find himself starting against lefties, considering he owns an .872 OPS against left-handed pitching. He’s an excellent outfield defender at all three positions, and he could also serve as a defensive replacement in the corners, if needed in that role.

Marisnick also brings loads of postseason experience, having played in seven playoff series with Houston, and posting a .333 average in that span.

“He can do it in center, he can do it on both corners, he can run the bases,” Tingler said. “The last two years, he’s really done a good job of hitting left-handed pitching. [He’s] able to fill in at all those spots -- whether it’s on the corners or in center field, or if it’s able to come in late, whether to pinch-run or pinch-hit. He also gives us some flexibility, too, being able to double-switch. The biggest thing he gives is just a ton of options and a ton of flexibility.”

Marisnick is under contract through this season with a mutual option for 2022.

So what now in the NL West?
The Deadline is over, and so are the incessant rumors.

“Now we can put all that stuff behind us and just go play the games,” said Hosmer, the subject of much speculation.

But the most frustrating aspect of the Deadline for the Padres isn’t the moves they didn’t make. It was the moves their rivals did make. San Diego currently sits 5 1/2 games back of the Giants in the NL West and 2 1/2 behind the Dodgers entering Friday. San Francisco added Kris Bryant. Los Angeles added Scherzer, shortstop Trea Turner and left-hander Danny Duffy.

“Big moves,” Hosmer said. “But you know it’s never going to be easy, especially when you’re talking about winning a world championship.”