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The San Diego Padres’ collapse has been well-documented, but is there an easy offseason fix for A.J. Preller?
The Padres sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals was the culmination of what’s been a disastrous second half of the season. San Diego was a popular playoff pick to begin the year, with some (me included) even going as far as to suggest they might be a World Series team. Instead, the Dodgers and Giants have taken over that role in their very own division.
San Diego’s slump isn’t all on Preller, nor Jayce Tinger, Fernando Tatis, Jr., or any singular member of this team. It’s a combined effort from said pieces that, despite being incredible All-Star talents, don’t add up as currently constructed. Rotation injuries, a beleaguered bullpen and a woefully under-performing offense all played a role.
That lack of team camaraderie came to a head on Saturday night, when Tatis, Jr. was caught on camera screaming in the direction of Manny Machado. The two franchise figureheads had to be separated by teammates and coaches.
Per a report from The Athletic, Machado has tried to employ some of the lessons learned from his Baltimore days onto this team, with varying degrees of success. Considering Manny a leadership figure is…bold to say the least, but he’s trying to take on that role considering the Padres could desperately use a true captain.
Tatis, Jr. hasn’t necessarily latched on to Machado. The two are friends, but Tatis is one of the faces of the league for a reason, and this season is his first real taste of failure in professional baseball. The Padres are likely to miss the playoffs, and with it the 22-year-old’s MVP campaign is slipping away. It’s a stunning disappointment considering the players on the roster.
Per ZiPS, an analytical tool which predicts a team’s win-loss record before the regular season, the Padres were supposed to win 98 games. Instead, they might not even finish above .500 given the contenders they have to face down the stretch (Giants, Braves, etc.).
Someone will pay, and it won’t be Tatis, Jr. (signed through 2034) or Machado (signed through 2029).
San Diego Padres: What moves will A.J. Preller make this offseason?
Preller is bold, and with his seat warming heading into next season, his tendencies won’t change.
Tingler will be the first to go, barring a magical turnaround in the season’s final week. Tingler never played major-league baseball, and was a controversial hire to begin with. Analytical mind or not, Tingler hasn’t held the Padres young stars accountable or maintained any sort of leadership role down the stretch. He’s lost his team.
San Diego’s core of Tatis, Jr. and Machado is solid, but they need to be liable for their own mistakes. On-camera confrontations and dropped pop-ups in the biggest series of the season simply won’t play.
Buck Showalter, a stable, veteran baseball mind who has experience with Machado in Baltimore makes a lot of sense if available. In 2019, Machado let it be known he wanted the Padres to bring in Showalter, but they instead went with Tingler.
Another potential Tingler replacement to watch for, per FanSided’s Robert Murray, is Bruce Bochy.
“The Padres entered the season as a World Series or bust. Instead, they are on the verge of missing the playoffs, and significant changes are likely soon on the way. They appear primed to part ways with manager Jayce Tingler, with three-time World Series winning manager Bruce Bochy drawing buzz in league circles as a potential replacement, and he would offer something Tingler and the other first-time managers that general manager A.J. Preller has hired have not: credibility.”
An experienced hand seems to be the answer for this Padres team, which is an extreme role reversal from Tingler.
Beyond appointing the right manager, small structural changes could make a big difference, as they lack significant depth at several key positions.
Getting some team — any team — to take on Eric Hosmer’s contract without attaching significant prospect capital would be ideal. Doing so opens up a world of possibilities for the Padres’ financial flexibility.
Replacing Tommy Pham, who is on an expiring contract, with a more capable, steady bat would be appreciated, as would making sure they fill out their rotation beyond the likes of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove. Jake Arrieta should not be starting games in September, injuries or not.
A major free agent target, per Murray, could be Nelson Cruz, who the Padres tried to acquire at the trade deadline this July. Unfortunately for Preller, that deal did not go through, but he may have a second chance.
“But the Padres’ issues stem beyond Tingler and extend to the clubhouse, where the lack of leadership revealed itself during a confrontation between Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Manny Machado. It is part of the reason why they targeted Nelson Cruz at the trade deadline. They can pursue him again in the offseason when he’s a free agent and when his fit on the roster becomes more clear with MLB likely to implement the universal DH in 2022. But would Cruz, who will be in his age-42 season, be enough to solve that leadership void?”
San Diego is top-heavy, and while every team deals with injuries at some point during the season, the Padres haven’t had answers to said problems.
Odds are, the Padres will not make the postseason and must face a cold Winter. The good news, however, is that the Giants and Dodgers have questions of their own. Three-fifths of San Francisco’s rotation, which has been instrumental in their success, hits free agency soon. The Dodgers have similar issues, and could possibly lose any of Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Kenley Jansen, Corey Seager and more.
A team so young has plenty of optimism. Consider this a bump in the road, assuming the Padres do some reconstruction in the Winter.