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Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on December 22, 2008
You can point to any number of moments as for when the San Diego Padres hit rock bottom. There was the 2007 play-in game for the postseason, when alltime saves leader Trevor Hoffman blew a three-run lead in the 13th inning. There was the entire 2008 season, when the Padres went 63-99, three games off the worst record in the major leagues.
Or you could look to this offseason. The Padres are in full salary-dump mode, needing to trim their payroll to about $40 million. Their payroll this season was about $72 million.
This has led San Diego to dump shortstop Khalil Greene onto the St. Louis Cardinals for next to nothing. Greene was due $6.5 million in 2009. Hoffman and his $7.5 million 2008 salary are also gone.
The Padres have handled the Hoffman situation terribly. Hoffman, the second-most revered Padre of alltime (behind Tony Gwynn), was offered a $4 million contract for next season. The Padres then pulled that offer, deciding to go with relief pitcher Heath Bell in the closer’s role next season. The team should have done more to accommodate one of its biggest stars and most loyal players.
The team has also been reticent about moving ace Jake Peavy. The Braves offered a package around shortstop Yunel Escobar and power-hitting catcher Tyler Flowers. This would have netted the Padres a good return for their ace, but the team declined. San Diego then declined a lesser package from the Chicago Cubs.
Now, the Padres have an unhappy ace on their hands, one legitimate threat on offense in first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and a fan base that cannot realistically expect a winning team next season. Oh, and team owner John Moores is searching for a buyer for his team while going through a divorce from his wife, Becky Moores.
The two own 45 percent of the team each, while their daughter owns another 5 percent and San Diego businessman Glenn Doshay owns the final 5 percent, according to MLB.com.
San Diego does have two high-caliber prospects coming through their farm system. The first is outfielder Chase Headley, who does not much experience in the outfield and should draw plenty of walks at the major league level. He does not have much power right now, but that could change as the 24-year-old continues to develop.
The other Padre farmhand to keep an eye on is second baseman Matt Antonelli. He has a strong arm and, like Headley, draws walks. His lack of power probably will restrict him to second base, but he should hit for a decent number of doubles.
Considering the quality of their major league product, the dearth of talent at the minor league level and the payroll restrictions placed on the team by ownership, now is the time for the Padres to rebuild. It only makes sense. Here are a few moves the ballclub should look into.
Trade SP Jake Peavy to the Milwaukee Brewers for SS Alcides Escobar and 3B Mat Gamel
If the Brewers want to contend with Prince Fielder on their roster, they need to go for it right now. That means pairing Peavy with Yovani Gallardo with CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets gone. The price is pretty high, but the Brewers have a logjam in the outfield (Gamel does not have the glove to play third, so he needs to pull a Ryan Braun) and have Brent Brewer right behind JJ Hardy at shortstop.
Trade 1B Adrian Gonzalez to the Atlanta Braves for OF Jordan Schafer, SP Jeff Locke, and 1B Casey Kotchman
This move would leave Atlanta lacking outfield depth for next season, but Jason Heyward is developing and should be ready sometime in 2009. Adding Adrian Gonzalez, a cost-effective slugger, should help the Braves regain the offense they expect to lose from the decline of Chipper Jones and the loss of Mark Teixeira over the course of an entire season.
The return package centers around Shafer, who should be a legitimate centerfielder sometime next season. Locke projects to be a No. 4 or 5 starting pitcher, while Kotchman should produce a few extra base hits.
Trade OF Brian Giles to the Tampa Bay Rays for C John Jaso
The Padres would likely have to send some cash, maybe $2-3 million or so, of Giles’ $9 million 2009 salary. They could easily do so. Giles put up a .306/.398/.456 line last season, making this the perfect time for them to sell high on him. This makes even more sense for the Padres because there is no reason to pay your best player this much money when your team is losing so much.
Jaso may be a little old at 25, but that should make him easier to obtain. He is an underrated catching prospect blocked by Dioner Navarro at the major league level. Jaso has a career .381 on-base percentage in the minor leagues, so it would be interesting to see what he can do at the major league level.
With any rebuilding project, there will be a few bad seasons to suffer through. However, they will have several top picks to spend on quality pitchers and they should use the money they save by dumping these contracts to boost their scouting departments. The future looks dim for the Padres right now, but with a few moves, things could turn around quickly.