Today, we round out the bottom five in our organizational rankings series. And, for those of you who haven’t seen the first four parts (which are linked below), keep in mind that this is a forward looking exercise – we are evaluating clubs on their overall ability to contend for a World Series title in the future. We are not evaluating how they have performed historically. This is about the health of each organization going forward.
Rankings So Far
#25: San Diego Padres
Thanks to a messy divorce, long time owner John Moores was forced to sell the team this winter to a group of investors led by Jeff Moorad, and the sale is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks. The Padres will almost certainly be run differently, but exactly how it looks, no one really knows. Moorad has already said that he’s going to be replacing Sandy Alderson as CEO, and Alderson will be leaving the organization. This is an ownership group in transition, and we just don’t have enough information to give them any kind of grade. I will, note, however, that it’s at least got the appearance of shadiness that Moorad was allowed to enter an agreement to buy the Padres while employed by the Diamondbacks. Even if there wasn’t a conflict of interest, it sure looks like there was. Seems to me that could have been handled better.
Front Office: B-
Kevin Towers is a smart, likable guy, and currently the longest tenured GM in the game. He’s done a pretty good job building the Padres into a solid team without significant capital, and overall, you’d have to describe his tenure as a success. However, there’s some serious question marks about how the team will be run going forward. With Alderson on the way out, does he take Asst. GM Paul DePodesta with him? Can Towers avoid being fired if the team struggles in 2009, especially with new ownership? This is not a baseball operations department built on pillars of stone.
Major League Talent: C-
PETCO Park skews a lot of the perceptions about the talent on the Padres roster – the pitchers aren’t as good as advertised, and the hitters are a bit better than everyone thinks. But even with the park adjustments, the Padres scored 637 runs last year while getting a career year from Jody Gerut and an excellent age-37 season from Brian Giles. Regression needs to be expected from both, and there just isn’t much in the way of run production for the Padres outside of those two and Adrian Gonzalez. Chase Headley is a solid enough young player, but when he represents the hopes of your future line-up, things aren’t great. The club really should have sold high on Jake Peavy this winter, as now they have to hope he stays healthy, pitches well, and they can get comparable offers at the deadline. Even in a mediocre NL West, it’s hard to see this team contending for a playoff spot, and it’s not a roster that’s going to get better.
Minor League Talent: C-
This is a system with a bunch of polarizing prospects. Some people see Matt Antonelli as a potential all-star second baseman, while others think he’s more of an average-at-everything kind of guy. Some people are in love with Kyle Blanks‘ power, while others wonder where an NL team is going to play him. There aren’t any position prospects here that everyone loves, and the ranks of the pitching prospects are full of guys who throw 87 MPH and try to get by on smarts. It isn’t a horrible farm system, but it’s not a very good one either, and for a team in need of a talent injection, that’s a problem.
The Padres are a tough team to judge because of the transition period they find themselves in. Without knowing what kind of owner Moorad will be, how the front office will shake out under his leadership, and whether they’re going to try to rebuild or take a last shot at winning with the Peavy-Giles combination makes this perhaps the most uncertain franchise in baseball. If you’re a glass half full guy, you can hold onto the fact that the D’Backs were very well ran while Moorad was in Arizona, and that the front office is full of guys who could run a team well. If you’re a glass half empty guy, then you see an organization that lacks talent, has only a couple of really valuable players (two of whom have full no-trade clauses), and who plays in a division with two teams that are better, younger, and have greater revenue steams. I have a feeling that San Diego is in for some tough times ahead.