New San Diego Padres GM A.J. Preller has been wheeling and dealing this offseason in a most uncharacteristic manner for San Diego, which has many long-time San Francisco Giants fans worried. Specifically, the Padres have always had a bad attitude when it comes to playing the Giants, seemingly plaguing them with inferior teams featuring excellent pitching, and the thought that the Padres are about to field a much-improved team, with the same nasty attitude, is disconcerting.
I want to look at the new arrivals in terms of the starting lineup only, and take a quick glimpse as to how they stack up against the San Francisco Giants. Chris Cotillo, of MLB Daily Dish, wrote a piece entitled “Sleepless in San Diego: A breakdown of the Padres’ offseason moves,” in which he detailed the following transactions by the new GM of San Diego Padres. Preller:
Agreed to acquire Will Middlebrooks from the Red Sox for Ryan Hannigan
Signed free-agent Clint Barmes to a one-year deal
Any time a team replaces five of eight lineup positions, it is a risky business.
Derek Norris will replace Yasmani Grandal behind the dish, with Joe Federowicz backing him up, while incumbents Yonder Alonso,Jedd Gyorko
team up with newly acquired Will Middlebrooks to form the infield. Veteran utility man Clint Barmes is capable of stepping into any of the infield slots should the need arise.
Jun 17, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Diego Padres right fielder Will Venable (25) congratulates right fielder Chris Denorfia (13) after he scored during the thirteenth inning at AT
Injuries have limited first baseman Yonder Alonso to an average of ninety games the past two years, but he is the incumbent first baseman. In 84 games last season (.240/.285/.397), he hit seven home runs, 19 doubles and knocked in 27 runs.
Second baseamn Jedd Gyorko signed a five-year extension with the Padres worth $35 million, which was the third most for a player with only one year in the majors. He missed 44 games in 2014 with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, hitting .210, with ten home runs, seventeen doubles and 51 RBIs.
Shortstop Alexi Amarista played in 148 games, batting .239 with five home runs, thirteen doubles and forty RBIs. He played 73 games at shortstop, 22 at third base, 21 at second base and 47 games in the outfield, but is slated for shortstop with all of the moves filling in the other positions Amarista has played.
Will Middlebrooks, a member of the 2013 World Championship Boston Red Sox, attempts to accomplish for the Padres at third base, what Casey McGehee does for the Giants. In the Padres’ case, it is still Chase Headley who is being replaced, but Middlebrooks needs to prove he can play more than 75 (2012), 93 (2013) or 64 games (2014) in one season. 150 would be more like it.
Cameron Maybin, Seth Smith, Will Venable and Carlos Quentin comprise the outfielders who made the most starts last season for the Pads, and all are still on the team. That means that Preller is not done. Meanwhile, Matt Kemp adds power and legitimacy to the lineup while 2013 American League Rookie of the Year Wil Myers should add some flash to a trio which includes Juston Upton. All Upton did last season was hit .270, hammering 29 home runs and 34 doubles and knocking in a career-high 102 runs.
There is still too much uncertainty to do a definitive comparison between the newly revamped Padres and the Giants, who have remained far less involved in offseason machinations than San Diego, but here is a cursory glance.
The Padres’ outfield configuration is still under discussion. Bud Black has reportedly told media that he will start Wil Myers in center field, to allow Matt Kemp to play right field and Justin Upton to play left. Myers has only eight games’ experience in center field so that must factor into the equation but ultimately, if the season started with the Padres’ outfield set the way it is and the Giants going with Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence, San Diego would have a sizable edge on San Francisco.
Buster Posey behind the dish helps even things up and Brandon Belt clearly has the edge over Yonder Alonso, but things get a little murkier beyond that. Joe Panik has the tools but not the experience to get the nod over Jedd Gyorko, who plays a solid second base and will help facilitate the lineup makeover with his steady presence up the middle.
Brandon Crawford has the edge over Alexi Amarista, who only just settled into the shortstop position in the latter half of 2014, but if Will Middlebrooks can stay healthy in 2015, he will give Casey McGehee a run for his money at third base.
In conclusion, San Diego has the edge when it comes to the lineup but it must also be said that any time an organization replaces five of its starting lineup in one fell swoop, risk is involved. The Giants have an advantage when it comes to continuity and that may factor in, and they may also acquire a player such as Allen Craig which would enhance their position, but unless something of that nature occurs, San Francisco will have to hope that their pitching dominates.
Otherwise, the Giants will not have to worry about “settling” for a wild card slot because they will be settling onto their couches to watch the playoffs as the Dodgers and Padres represent the National League West.