Not Your Father's Padres
July 3, 2005

There is a sense of urgency in the Padres front office this summer.  The team is in first place despite some obvious flaws.  While it would be safe to ignore most of the trade rumors swirling through the media, with Bonds and Gagne out, the Padres may not have a better opportunity to secure the division title early and enter the playoffs well-rested.   Team president Sandy Alderson is a man of few words who prefers to let bold actions speak for him.  He will not be content with GM Kevin Towers usual shuffling of fringe players to better position the team for their playoff run.  However, the rumored deal of Brian Lawrence and Phil Nevin to the Red Sox as part of a package for Trot Nixon, David Wells and Kevin Millar probably isn't worth considering because it doesn't address either team's problems.  Still, any deal that they do consummate will likely involve either or both Nevin and Lawrence. 

Phil Nevin is entering a phase in his contract where his limited no trade clause will become full blown carte blanche to negate any trade.  Several other factors - he's not a particularly good fielder, he doesn't possess strong fundamentals, isn't particularly coachable and he has been outspoken in the media - makes him a likely target to trade.  Additionally, trading him would not create much of a hole in the field as the Pads could move Ryan Klesko to first.  This could solve two problems if the Pads acquired a solid fielder in left. 

Brian Lawrence also appears to have more value as a trade bait than he does as a starter.  While he has had some very good starts this season, he has not developed into the reliable control artist the team envisioned would counter-balance hard throwing Jake Peavy and Adam Eaton.  Like Nevin, Lawrence is also entering a phase in his contract where is his cost will increase significantly if he stays with the team. 

Sean Burroughs could be moved as well.  The fact that he's still a couple years from free agency makes him an attractive target for other teams.  It appears that he will never develop the confidence to become the power hitter scouts projected while playing at Petco, so the thought that a change to a more favorable hitting environment freeing him to develop adds to his value in trade.

The Padres biggest obstacle this season has been injuries.  The are currently playing without their starting second baseman (Mark Loretta), catcher (Ramon Hernandez), center fielder (Dave Roberts) and first baseman (Phil Nevin).  All of those guys should be healthy and playing regularly by the end of this month.  however, they would still need to address their biggest weakness, which is a lack of fundamentally sound play.  Being able to play small ball - bunting, hitting behind runners, taking extra bases - is not something the Padres do well and is frequently the difference between winning and losing at crunch time.  Their loss on Friday to the Giants can be entirely attributed to the inability to do the little things.  The Giants turned three modest opportunities into three runs, while the Padres were only able to net one run from two seperate bases loaded situations.  Their other run came on a solo homer.  Several times in the last several years manager Bruce Bochy announced that the team would focus on fundamentals entering spring training, yet the team has yet to demonstrate reliable competence when the need called for it.  Bochy has many strengths as a manager that make him worth keeping, but teaching is not one of them.  Therefore the best option for the Pads is to acquire players who are fundamanteally sound while preferrably ridding the team of ones who aren't.

Another need that could be addressed is better outfield range at the corners.  Neither Klesko nor Brian Giles have good range, although Giles does do a solid job of making plays on balls he can get to.  But in a park like Petco, outfield range is paramount.

Seattle's release of Bret Boone creates an opportunity for the Padres to get an excellent defensive replacement for Loretta until he returns and a decent power bat off the bench.  Maybe hitting coach Dave Magadan can help him recapture some magic, too; he's done wonders with lesser talents.  Joe Randa is another player that is often mentioned.  He was rumored to be part of a Carlos Beltran deal to San Diego last year that obviously didn't materialize, but the interest has not waned.  Cincinnati is desperate for a groundball starter and Randa's contract is reasonable so the teams do have a natural fit for deal that involves Lawrence.

The Padres already traded two fifth starters - Darrell May and Tim Redding for Paul Quantrill for help in the bullpen.  Quantrill wasn't nearly as effective in the AL as he was in LA, so a return to a spacious park in the NL West might be the tonic to get him back on track.  Newly signed Pedro Astacio will get his chance to take over the fifth spot in the rotation, and if gopheritis was the only thing holding him back in Texas, he could be a solid addition in Petco.  If he doesn't pan out, the Padres, in Alderson's own words, are "keeping some powder dry" to address that need.  Those words also indicate that if Astacio does work out, that the Padres will continue to be active in the trading market up until and perhaps even after the trade deadline.  While it's unusual for a first place team to remake their roster, it won't be much of a surprise to see many new faces in San Diego over the next few weeks.