X-factor: How Bogaerts' signing shakes up Padres' D

December 10th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The offseason is young. More than two months remain until pitchers and catchers report -- more than two months for general manager A.J. Preller to further shake things up in San Diego.

As such, team officials aren't quite ready to make declarative statements about which players might switch positions next season.

But this much is clear: The Xander Bogaerts signing changes things in a big way.

The Padres' roster was loaded with shortstops before Bogaerts put pen to paper on an 11-year, $280 million deal on Friday morning. The ripple effects are numerous. Fernando Tatis Jr. now seems destined for a move to the outfield. Ha-Seong Kim is likely to slide to second base. Jake Cronenworth should see time at first. There's a possibility Juan Soto moves from right to left.

At a Friday afternoon press conference to introduce Bogaerts, Preller was adamant that the puzzle pieces will fit -- even if it means position changes are expected for a handful of superstars.

"It's not haphazard," said Preller, who confirmed Bogaerts will play shortstop in 2023. "We've talked about it. We have a general sense of what we're going to try to do. … The common theme with all the guys we've talked to so far is we want to win. We have some really talented, versatile players, and we're going to use that here as we go into next year."

Those conversations have begun. Preller and manager Bob Melvin spent the past couple of days chatting with their players about the impact of the Bogaerts signing. (They even had a Zoom call with Kim slated for shortly after Bogaerts’ presser.)

But the biggest positional domino to fall is Tatis, who, two offseasons ago, signed a record-setting 14-year deal to be the Padres' shortstop of the future. That's no longer the case. Suddenly, it appears Tatis could be set for a full-time shift to the outfield.

"He could play anywhere," Melvin said. "I mean, I'm not going to put him behind the plate. But he could play anywhere, in probably any sport. He's as athletic and talented a guy as there is in the game. He's the type of guy that's going to fill any hole."

Still, Tatis has always made it clear he views himself as a shortstop. Even Bogaerts noted that his presence in San Diego came as something of a surprise.

“San Diego was my first All-Star Game back in 2016,” Bogaerts said. “So I definitely envisioned myself maybe being here one day. But after they got Tatis, I was a little unsure. I was like, 'That doesn’t fit.' But here I am. It’s crazy how the world works.”

Tatis has evidently softened his shortstop-or-bust stance. Last year, before his suspension, the Padres were expecting Tatis to play both shortstop and outfield, allowing them to platoon Kim and center fielder Trent Grisham. Now Tatis won’t return until mid-April, after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

"He just wants to play, and he wants to win," said Melvin. "We'll figure out what the team looks like on the field as we go along. Like I said, the offseason is still going on."

Indeed, the remainder of the offseason will dictate the Padres' exact plans for Tatis. Were they to add a corner outfielder, Tatis could get the bulk of his reps in center. Grisham is a two-time Gold Glover but struggled last season at the plate.

Otherwise, Tatis would presumably shift to right. Soto has spent the bulk of his career there. But right field at Petco Park is far more spacious than left, and Tatis' elite athleticism could play nicely. As for Soto?

"Either right or left field, he's played both," Preller said. "That's another piece, a guy that's had experience playing either corner. He'll know where he's going to play and lock in at one spot. We'll see how the rest of the offseason goes before we have that conversation."

The infield dynamic is equally tricky. Kim was a Gold Glove finalist at shortstop. Cronenworth was a Gold Glove finalist at second. Both will be asked to play elsewhere.

But Kim has already proven himself an outstanding defensive second baseman. Same for Cronenworth at first. Were the Padres to sign a first baseman -- still a distinct possibility -- there will be further positional questions to ask. But the vacancy at designated hitter helps mitigate that infield logjam.

"Croney has the ability obviously at second and first," Preller said. "… Ha-Seong playing any of the infield spots, Tati infield or outfield -- we're going to see how the next couple weeks go, from a roster standpoint, and see what we're left with."