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What's next for Padres after not acquiring Betts?

@AJCassavell
February 5, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about their future. Their young core is locked up long term, and their farm system is one of the best in baseball. But general manager A.J. Preller has spent the offseason trying to move the organization toward contention

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about their future. Their young core is locked up long term, and their farm system is one of the best in baseball.

But general manager A.J. Preller has spent the offseason trying to move the organization toward contention this year. That’s why, in his eyes, this one hurts.

The Padres will not acquire outfielder Mookie Betts from the Red Sox. The superstar right fielder is instead headed to the Dodgers -- a National League West rival who the Padres have spent years chasing in the standings. The deal -- a three-team, five-player swap that also involved the Twins -- has not yet been confirmed by any of the clubs.

In recent weeks, San Diego had emerged as the other front-runner for Betts. The Padres hoped to plug him into their outfield, injecting offense into a lineup with serious question marks. But Betts has only one season remaining before he hits free agency, thus Preller was unwilling to part with top prospects MacKenzie Gore, Luis Patiño and CJ Abrams.

Still, the parameters for a potential trade were in place. Boston would have received a package of second-tier prospects and young big leaguers, along with outfielder Wil Myers. The Padres would also have sent cash to cover a chunk of Myers' salary. However, the Dodgers' willingness to take on left-hander David Price's contract seemed to make the difference.

Now, the Padres are back where they started. So what’s next for San Diego?

The roster is probably set

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in less than a week. Don't expect much to change before then. Team sources indicated that the Padres are likely to stand pat with their current roster.

Preller wanted Betts because he's the type of elite bat who could've thrust the Padres into contention. The organization doesn't believe there are other pieces like him available. (Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, for instance, was on the trade block, but the asking price was too high for San Diego’s liking.)

That means the Padres move forward with an offense that should get a boost from the additions of Tommy Pham, Trent Grisham and Jurickson Profar. Plus, Fernando Tatis Jr. is slated to return from the lower-back injury that sidelined him for the final month and a half of last season.

If the Padres are in the postseason picture at the Trade Deadline, Preller will probably make a splash then. For now, the team's big-picture plans hardly change. Betts would've hit the free-agent market after the season anyway.

An outfield battle looms

Even without Betts, the Padres could field a productive outfield in 2020. Pham is expected to anchor left field, and six other candidates will fight for two starting jobs and four roster spots this spring.

Myers and Manuel Margot presumably have two of those roster spots. They could serve as the righty-hitting pieces in a platoon. That leaves lefties Trent Grisham, Franchy Cordero, Josh Naylor and prospect Taylor Trammell vying for two spots.

There's plenty of upside in that outfield, but just as many questions -- about Myers' consistency, about Cordero's health, about whether Grisham and Naylor will break out in their second years.

Betts, of course, would've been a quick fix for some of those questions. But the Padres have internal solutions as well, and those solutions are around for the long haul.

Plenty of long-term implications

As negotiations evolved this month, multiple Padres sources began to believe the Dodgers had the upper hand. That didn't make Tuesday's news any easier to swallow. But it's worth noting how things might change over the next few years.

The Padres were hesitant to include catcher Luis Campusano in a deal with Boston. Campusano is MLB Pipeline's No. 50 overall prospect and No. 4 catching prospect. A well-rounded, two-way catcher, Campusano might become the franchise's backstop of the future. Yet, he almost certainly would've been included in a deal for Betts.

Let’s say Campusano reaches his ceiling as a quality Major League regular behind the plate (where the Padres have a long-term opening). Is it worth parting with that kind of production for a singular season of Betts? That's not to mention the other pieces the Padres might have traded -- perhaps Naylor, or a young starting pitcher like Joey Lucchesi or Cal Quantrill.

There's a decent chance the Padres will be better off with Campusano and Co. in the long run. Still, after seeing Betts head to a division rival, that doesn't make the short-term effects sting any less.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.