What a strange MLB season. The Padres are all in. The Angels are sellers (Long-time Angels fan here – I hate this team so much, except for David “King” Fletcher and Mike “Fish Man” Trout). The Marlins, somehow, were buyers. The deadline always sparks an obsession with team control, service time, prospects, and so on, and this one was no different. The big trade this year was Mike Clevinger going to San Diego for various parts and pieces; just one of the pieces going back to Cleveland was in MLB’s top 100 prospects. A shrewd move by the Padres, as Clevinger is under team control for 2.5 more years before he hits free agency. The Padres got rid of some solid prospects, sure, but they have more waiting and these ones were going to have trouble finding a spot at the major league level. The tradeoff is that Clevinger is not even remotely sorry for breaking all of the bubble rules and appears to have learned nothing from that.
But the larger narrative here is that the Padres have absolutely nailed their rebuild, playing it almost to perfection. They are graduating incredible talent (Fernando Tatis Jr., Jake Cronenworth) to the major league level and have more waiting the wings. The #1 pitching prospect in the MLB, Mackenzie Gore, is almost ready to play in the majors. They have four other prospects in the MLB Top 100 and possess one of the deepest farm systems in the MLB. The rotation, with the addition of Clevinger, is now much deeper. Clevinger, along with Dinelson Lamet, will form a strong 1-2 punch for years. Add in MacKenzie Gore to that and it becomes a fearsome trio.
On the offensive side, the Padres lead the league in slugging percentage and wRC+ and their hitters have the highest combined WAR in the league…which is pretty good. The best part is their four best hitters by WAR have an average age of about 24 years old, indicating a sustainable core that has room to grow. It is also soon to be supplemented by even more young talent in the minor leagues, ensuring that they can build around their talented core and compete for years to come.
As an outsider looking at the Padres, there is only one big mistake the Padres have made during their rebuild, which was handing Eric Hosmer a massive contract. Hosmer is 30 years old right now (arguably reaching the last of his peak years as a player) and the Padres are still on the hook for his salary through 2025. It becomes especially bad when you see that Hosmer has produced 2 total WAR in 2.5 seasons with the Padres, yet his contract requires that he be paid $21 million per year. 2 WAR in one season is just barely above average in the MLB and can be easily generated in 1 season by a decent player. If the Padres wanted veteran leadership, they could have gotten it at less than half of the cost of Hosmer. That deal could potentially hamstring them in their search for top-tier talent down the line. Trust me, I know from watching the Angels (Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Vernon Wells…).
I strongly believe that the Padres executed their rebuild even better than the Astros did from 2013 onwards. The Padres are even deeper with talent than the Astros ever were, with talent in the majors and more to come in the minors. Granted, the Astros still have some talent waiting, but their system doesn’t appear ready to bear much more major league fruit for a while. The Padres, meanwhile, have made their “Gerrit Cole trade” and have homegrown, young aces to supplement him, as opposed to the Astros, who acquired two pitchers who appear to have Father Time catching up to them (Greinke, Verlander). I am almost certain we will see the Padres in the playoffs soon, if not this year, and they will be a force to be reckoned with in the NL for years to come. They might even win a World Series or two eventually (*cries in Mike Trout*).