The Padres had another huge offseason, signing Matt Carpenter to a two-year guarantee and bringing in Xander Bogaerts on an 11-year megadeal. These guys add depth to a team that already has a lot of quality, with Bogaerts in particular enhancing a current strength.
There was no way San Diego needed another infielder. While Manny Machado has a third base covered, Ha-Seong Kim and Jake Cronenworth would have created a strong middle-infield combination. By the end of April, Fernando Tatis Jr. will be eligible to return from his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, and due to Kim and Cronenworth, it was already anticipated that he would play a lot of outfields. Currently, the Bogaerts acquisition keeps Tatis in the outfield most of the time while moving Kim to second base and Cronenworth to first.
Having an abundance of talent in the upper middle is a desirable “issue,” as it gives them access to the trade market. According to Dennis Lin of the Athletic, the Padres are willing to talk about both Kim and center fielder Trent Grisham in this regard. Lin clarifies that the company is unwilling to break ways with Cronenworth and speculates that a deal including Grisham could be more possible than one that relocates Kim.
Grisham has resided in San Diego for the past three years. He was acquired from the Brewers as part of the 2019–20 offseason trade that brought Luis Uras and Eric Lauer to Milwaukee, and he assumed the role of the Friars’ primary center fielder right away. Grisham had a fantastic debut season, appearing in 59 of the 60 games during the abbreviated 2020 season, hitting.251/.353/.456 with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases combined. He appeared to be a rising star, but during the last few seasons, his offense has declined.
In 2021, the left-handed hitter’s slash line of.242/.327/.413 was exactly around the league average. This past season, he made another mistake, recording a.184/.284/.341 line through 524 at-bats. Although Grisham hit 17 home runs and walked frequently (10.9% of the time), he had the lowest batting average of all players with at least 500 plate appearances. Even though he only managed a meager.231 average on balls in play, there were still a lot of unsettling underlying indicators.
At the worst rate in his career, Grisham struck out in 28.6% of his plate appearances. Only Randal Grichuk (minimum 500 PAs) had a worse line drive rate than Grisham’s 13.5%, yet his hard contact percentage was in the center of the pack. Grisham, a left-handed pull hitter, could benefit a little from the upcoming shift limitations, but it’s unlikely to be a big help until he reduces his strikeouts and/or increases his contact rate.
To his credit, despite a lackluster offensive season, the 26-year-old still contributed significantly to the San Diego squad. Grisham played center field for more than 1100 innings and was rewarded with a second Gold Glove of his career for his efforts. He was rated eight runs above average by Defensive Runs Saved and twelve runs above average by Statcast. Grisham’s glove has been advantageous throughout his career as he mixes strong arm strength, quick speed, and good readings. have said that they won’t lower their high asking price.
The Red Sox, Rockies, Rangers, Reds, and Marlins are just a few of the teams that have requested assistance in center field. That applies to the Dodgers as well, although it’s difficult to imagine San Diego selling anyone to one of their main NL West rivals. In addition to speculating that the Friars would try to trade Grisham to Miami in exchange for rotation help, Lin reports that San Diego is interested in Marlins starter Pablo López. However, there is currently no evidence that the two sides have had any negotiations.
Since Kim just had a terrific offensive season, he should have even more trade value. The former KBO standout had a difficult first MLB season but improved in year two, batting.251/.325/.383 in 582 plate appearances. Kim struck out just 17.2% of the time while accumulating 11 home runs and 29 doubles. In 14 tries, he also managed to steal 12 bases.
Kim offers significant value on the defensive side, similar to Grisham. Tatis’ injuries and suspension forced him into primary shortstop duty, and the 27-year-old appeared to be a middle infielder of Gold Glove-caliber. In little fewer than 1100 shortstop innings, DRS rated him as 10 runs above average, while Statcast pegged him as five runs above average. During the 2021 season, Kim had also been graded as a plus defender at second and third base.
Kim obtained a four-year, $25MM guarantee after leaving South Korea in the 2020–21 offseason. He will receive a paltry $17MM over the course of the following two seasons (including a buyout on a mutual option for 2025) and is expected to return to the open market after the 24th season. For a guy in the prime of his career coming off a successful season like Kim’s, that represents a tremendous value.
At this point in the offseason, the middle infield market has significantly decreased, just like it has for centre field. Elvis Andrus and guys like Hanser Alberto and José Iglesias are among the top unsigned free agents, assuming Carlos Correa successfully negotiates a deal with the Mets. Again, there are few obvious trade opportunities. Though they may not go, players like Amed Rosario, Jorge Mateo, or Nick Madrigal could be dealt. Some of the teams that might look to upgrade at one of the middle infield positions include Boston, Atlanta, Minnesota, the Angels, and the White Sox.
Of course, dealing with either Grisham or Kim is not urgent for San Diego. Both players are in demand and have jobs that they can afford. A.J. Preller, the Padres’ president of baseball operations, made this clear last week when he told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic that the organization’s “intention” was to keep its existing collection of position players because of “the flexibility and adaptability it affords our team.” However, according to Lin’s report, they may not be fully committed to that strategy, at least if an opportunity to improve elsewhere on the squad is presented.
With Nick Martinez and Seth Lugo scheduled for the fourth and fifth positions in the rotation after Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell, and Yu Darvish, the rear of the rotation is a bit of a mystery. Snell and Darvish will become free agents at the end of the year, while Martinez and Lugo could choose to leave their multi-year contracts (though only if the organization first declines a two-year option in Martinez’s case). Only Musgrove is guaranteed to be around beyond next season. The team might also think about improving the catcher position or adding another bat to the corner outfield/first base combination.
As a result of packaging most of their depth for big trade acquisitions, the organization’s farm system has significantly shrunk in recent seasons, which may make them more willing to sell from the MLB roster under the appropriate circumstances. In light of his impressive prospect background, young catcher Luis Campusano would appear to be a potential for such a transfer, but Lin reports that trade interest in the 24-year-old isn’t particularly great at this time.