Padres begin deep rebuilding behind Myers, Hedges, rookies
SAN DIEGO (AP) — There’s no pretending anymore with the San Diego Padres.
They still shy away from using the word “rebuilding,” but that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Their crazy, expensive shopping spree of two offseasons ago is a faded memory, with only All-Star first baseman Wil Myers remaining from a failed win-now attempt that saw them shed several propsects for established major leaguers who couldn’t even deliver a winning season.
Now general manager A.J. Preller has flipped his game plan and loaded up on some pricey prospects from Cuba and elsewhere in Latin America. That and an increased emphasis on the draft means the Padres are building for the future, not the present. Executive chairman Ron Fowler said as much last season, when he indicated during a radio interview that he was “looking to get to .500 in hopefully two years.”
Here are some things to look for with the Padres, who have had six straight losing seasons and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006:
THE ROTATION: The Padres have been largely ridiculed for putting together a rotation that will include journeymen such as Jholys Chacin, Clayton Richard, Jered Weaver and Trevor Cahill, as well as a youngster or two, including Luis Perdomo. Perdomo made the move just last year from Single-A to the big leagues, moving from the bullpen into the rotation and finishing 9-10 with a 5.71 ERA. It’s a group that `’I think people have low expectations for but we obviously signed them so we have higher expectations for them,” Fowler said. “If we can get through starting pitching without the injuries we had last year and the performances are where we expect them to be, I think we’re going to have fun. But it’s all about playing hard and developing. If I had to use a term, I’d say this is a season of development for a lot of players on this team.”
THE FACE: A first-time All-Star last year, Myers was rewarded with an $83 million contract that, for the time being, makes him the face of the franchise. And he didn’t shy away from saying the club is rebuilding. “I’m excited about this process here, the young players we have, rebuilding this organization,” Myers said. “I’m excited just to have a part in that, to have a hand in helping lead this team into championship seasons and to have playoff baseball come here to San Diego.” Myers could be deep into his six-year contract before the Padres make it back to the postseason. Myers hit 28 homers and drove in 94 runs while stealing 28 bases last year.
THE CORE FOUR: Fans got a glimpse of what the future holds when the Padres promoted catcher Austin Hedges, outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot, and second baseman Carlos Asuaje after they helped lead Triple-A El Paso to the Pacific Coast League title. Renfroe, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2013, immediately excited the fans with four home runs in 11 games, including the first long ball to ever land on the roof of the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in the left-field corner of Petco Park. Hedges, who made his big league debut with the Padres in 2015, has a strong arm.
THE EXPERIMENT: Backup catcher Christian Bethancourt made two relief appearances last year, which got the brain trust thinking. Why not turn him into a hybrid player who can pitch, catch and play the outfield? “They came to me and asked me if I would agree to it,” Bethancourt said. “I kind of liked the idea and we’ll see how everything goes this year.” Said manager Andy Green: “It’s a steep learning curve. It’s a lot to do for one man. He’s taken to it very well.” Bethancourt had some fun with it. On the day pitchers and catchers reported, he said. “I might have to report in three days again as an outfielder.”
THE PAYROLL: The Padres are expected to have a payroll of between $55 million and $60 million. At least half of that will be going to help pay the contracts of players who were traded during last season, including James Shields, Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr.