It’s all-in as Padres move on without Gonzalez
How do the San Diego Padres replace three-time All-Star Adrian
”You don’t,” quipped outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
While Brad Hawpe takes over at first base, the Padres will look
to a number of players to help replace the offense lost when
Gonzalez, the slugger who had been the face of the franchise, was
traded to the Boston Red Sox in December.
The company line this spring is that the Padres, who were
offensively challenged last year even with Gonzalez, are more
complete throughout the lineup. An offseason shuffle brought in
Hawpe, second baseman Orlando Hudson, shortstop Jason Bartlett and
center fielder Cameron Maybin to go along with holdovers Ludwick,
third baseman Chase Headley, outfielder Will Venable and catcher
”Obviously you lose the big guy in the middle of the lineup,
it’s hard to replace that, and you don’t replace him with one
guy,” Headley said. ”From one through nine in the lineup and one
through 25 in our entire roster, I think we’re a better team. I
think that’s valuable to have, rather than having to rely on one
guy. I think that we’re better overall.”
Gonzalez hit .298 with 31 homers and 101 RBIs last season, all
team-highs. Over the last four seasons, he averaged 34 homers and
The overachieving Padres won 90 games in 2010 before being
eliminated from postseason contention on the final day.
”I think we’re a little deeper as a team as a whole, so we have
more guys who can contribute,” Ludwick said. ”As far as the
numbers coming from one person, I mean, the guy last year had an
MVP-caliber season. It’s just going to be a team effort.”
The Padres know a lot of players have to hit better if they’re
going to contend again.
Venable batted .245 with 13 homers and 58 RBIs last year while
Headley hit .264 with 11 homers and 58 RBIs. Hundley had eight
homers and 43 RBIs while batting .249.
Ludwick struggled after coming over in a trade with St. Louis,
hitting just .211 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 209 at-bats. He’s
now three seasons removed from his All-Star season of 2008, when he
had career-highs with a .299 average, 37 homers and 113 RBIs.
”I don’t think it’s so much about home runs,” Ludwick said.
”I just think we need to put good at-bats together. If each guy
goes up there and puts a good at-bat together, we’ll get it
Ludwick hopes to put the last two months of 2010 behind him.
”Obviously last year I got loopy,” Ludwick said. ”You want to
be flat through the zone and hit line drives.”
The Padres traded Gonzalez with a year left on his contract
because they knew they wouldn’t be able to afford to keep him once
he became a free agent. They received three of Boston’s top
prospects plus outfielder Eric Patterson.
”I don’t think you ever replace a guy like that, an elite,
middle-of-the-order bat,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. ”It’s
the hardest thing to find besides a No. 1 starter in this sport.
There’s a reason why that kind of player gets $150-plus million,
because they’re hard to replace. You don’t replace them with one
guy, you replace them with a group.”
Long-term, the challenge is to find another Gonzalez-type
player. They signed Hawpe because Kyle Blanks is rehabbing from
reconstructive elbow surgery and Anthony Rizzo, one of the
prospects acquired from Boston, could be two years away from
reaching the majors.
Short-term, Hoyer strengthened the club up the middle and by
And there’s the expectation that several players are due to
”There are a number of players, both players who were here last
year and players we brought in here, who need to bounce back from
seasons that even they would deem disappointing,” Hoyer said.
”Chase, Will, Nick, they’re at the stage of their careers where
they can take a big step forward. Hawpe, (Jorge) Cantu, Bartlett,
had a lesser year than they had the year before. Hudson, Maybin. We
have some guys who have something to prove. I think that’s a good
Hawpe, one of the cornerstones of Colorado’s 2007 NL
championship team and a first-time All-Star in 2009, had four
straight 20-homer seasons with the Rockies, including 29 in ’07. He
had nine last year between Colorado and Tampa Bay. Hawpe’s natural
position is first base. With Todd Helton playing first for
Colorado, Hawpe became an outfielder when he came up to the big
”I don’t know if any one guy is going to replicate what Adrian
can do,” Venable said. ”Obviously he’s irreplaceable in that
sense. But I think collectively that we’re going to improve
offensively from last year. That’s no doubt from top to bottom our
lineup is capable of scoring some runs.
”We didn’t get the real Ludwick last year,” Venable added. ”I
think he’ll be the first person to tell you that. I think between
myself and Chase and Nick, there’s room for improvement there.
We’re all expecting to have bigger years. Overall, we’re very
capable of picking up the slack that Adrian left us.”