It’s been a tough couple of years for the Padres. The divorce of their former owner led to an unexpected need to sell, and in the transition to a new ownership group, the front office was mostly rebooted. During this time, payroll was slashed, the team got bad, and the farm system continued to suffer from years of drafting kids with 86 MPH fastballs. They watched franchise icon Trevor Hoffman leave, then traded Jake Peavy to kick start a rebuild and get out from under his contract. Now, they face the prospect of trading Adrian Gonzalez, with the question being when he will be dealt, not if.
It’s not exactly the kind of situation you want to inherit, but new GM Jed Hoyer has the pedigree to offer hope for Padre fans that this will eventually get turned around. It’s just going to take a while. The 2010 version of the Padres don’t look like contenders, and unfortunately, the roster isn’t filled with much upside. There are some decent role players and guys with enough ability to not be terrible, but there’s just a staggering lack of star power once you get past Gonzalez. Besides the soon-to-be-traded first baseman, not a single player on the team put up a +3 win season in 2009.
It’s really tough to contend when your best players are just average or a bit above. Replenishing that kind of premium talent is one of the tougher tasks in baseball, and it generally doesn’t happen overnight. Hoyer’s going to have to hit a home run on the Gonzalez trade and make a few shrewd acquisitions, because otherwise, the Padres are going to get caught in a situation where the team is good enough to win 75 to 85 games but never really contend.
In many ways, you’d almost rather start with a worse roster like Kansas City has, because at least there are easy upgrades to make with the numerous holes on the team. The Padres were run well enough that they don’t have too many disaster positions, but it eliminates the ability to make cheap, easy upgrades by grabbing undervalued role players and nifty waiver claims. The Padres don’t need any more solid part-time guys. They need stars, and those take a while to develop.
By all accounts, Hoyer has the ability to turn the franchise around, but Padre fans can’t be looking for a quick fix, because there’s no shortcuts to fixing the problems with the current roster, and the farm system isn’t about to spit out a core that the team can build around. There’s a lot of work to be done. With Petco and the promise of potential higher payrolls when the team gets good again, along with a front office that gets it, there are some building blocks in place, but this is not going to be a quick turnaround. Patience will be the key for Padre fans.