San Diego Padres: Chris Young, Heath Bell, and Other Off Season Questions
That's all the San Diego Padres can afford before their off season officially begins a lot sooner than they thought it would.
Looking back to the end of August, the Padres had what most would consider a big lead in the National League West over the San Francisco Giants. Fast forward one month, and not only is their lead gone but the deficit has reached its breaking point after losing 22 of their last 34 games.
They face the Giants on Friday night in what will be a three game set in San Francisco. The situation has gotten so bleak for San Diego that they not only need to sweep the three-game set, but they need the Philadelphia Phillies to sweep the Atlanta Braves over the next three days. Something that's not likely to happen, especially with the Phillies having already wrapped up the National League's Eastern Division.
Whether that loss comes tonight, Saturday, or Sunday, the Padres front office knows that there are decisions that will need to be made to improve this team for the 2011 season to keep this kind of collapse from happening again.
Sure they've exceeded everyone's expectations, but you won't be remembered for how you played the first five months of the season, you'll be remembered for how you finished. The Padres couldn't do that, and they could be watching October baseball from home.
With that in mind, here are some issues facing the front office, and where I think the Padres will go with each one.
There's no doubt that when the San Diego Padres needed right-hander Kevin Correia the most during the 2009 season, he gave them everything he had.
He was the team's ace while Chris Young and Jake Peavy sat on the sidelines with injuries.
This season, he's had his usual up and down season. He's had his tremendous starts, his good starts, and his absolutely terrible starts.
The Padres will need to decide if they're going to bring him back or they're going to say goodbye and wish him well.
Decision: The San Diego Padres can do better in free agency, or via trade, to replace Correia. He's been solid for awhile, but he's not the kind of guy this team needs going forward.
Time to wish him well and try to rebuild this pitching staff.
David Eckstein has been a leader on and off the field, but his injury that sidelined him for more than a month really hurt the Padres.
Not only that, but he's struggled through the last month of the season and hasn't been the catalyst their used to seeing. That being said, Jed Hoyer is a fan of Eckstein so it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him re-signed.
However, Eckstein may be chasing one more World Series ring and I don't know if he thinks he can get it in San Diego.
Decision: I would love to see David Eckstein back in a Padres uniform, but since this is his decision, I think he'll end up signing elsewhere.
Jerry Hairston Jr.
Jerry Hairston Jr. has been a surprising addition for the San Diego Padres, which is why his injury really put a damper on their offense.
He made a return for a few games but was sidelined again for the remainder of the season.
The Padres would love to have Hairston Jr. back in their uniform for the 2011 season and beyond, but they will most likely wait to see how he recovers from off season surgery.
Decision: The Padres have a choice to make on their depth chart and there's no question, in my mind at least, that he would be a solid candidate to return to San Diego next season.
Old Man River has shown that he still has a little left in the tank. So much so that Stairs, after contemplating retirement after the 2010 season a few months ago, now says he wants to play another year or maybe two.
Stairs has provided some good defense off the bench and flashed a little power with the stick. He's not going to be an every day player, but he still brings veteran leadership and a solid bat coming off the bench.
Decision: Something tells me the Padres could consider bringing Stairs back, but I don't believe they'd give him a two-year deal. If he accepts a one-year deal that fits in the Padres price range, we could see Matt Stairs back in 2011.
Yorvit Torrealba has been more than the Padres thought they would get behind the plate and he's been a good veteran for young catcher Nick Hundley to learn from.
Torrealba and the Padres hold a mutual option for next season which, as I described with Jon Garland, it's rare to see both sides excercise these options.
Decision: Hundley and Torrealba worked well together and it gave the Padres the option to go with either guy and not lose much in the translation. I think the Padres would be foolish not to bring him back.
Instead of writing a long analysis about each player, I'll give you the arbitration eligible players and if I believe the team will offer it to them.
Mike Adams - Absolutely. He's been a solid set up man for the Padres. Maybe the team's future closer depending on what happens with Heath Bell. It's his second trip to arbitration.
Tony Gwynn Jr - His injury happened at the exact wrong time but I think he's played well enough for the Padres to offer him arbitration for his first go 'round.
Edward Mujica - This will be Mujica's second trip to arbitration and while he has his good outings, he was also prone to giving up the long ball. I don't see a reason why the Padres wouldn't bring him back.
Tim Stauffer - What more can you say about this young right-hander? The kid that disappointed over the last few years came up to San Diego and made some huge starts for the Padres down the stretch. He'll be back.
Scott Hairston - This is a little bit of a stickier situation. Hairston's struggles never came back around over the last few months of the season and that had to weigh on him. It wouldn't surprise me if the Padres declined arbitration. It will be Hairston's third trip.
When Chris Young went on the disabled list after just one start for San Diego, most thought he wouldn't be there for long.
Well, "not for long" turned into most of the season with the right-hander finally returning to the Padres rotation in late September, but it was too little too late.
The team holds a $8.5 million club option on the 6'10" right-hander for the 2011 season and after the injury problems that Young has had over the past two seasons, he's going to need to prove he's completely healthy before the team invests that much in him for next year.
Decision: That's a lot of money to invest on a guy that hasn't been able to prove that he can stay healthy over the past two seasons. Not only that, but that $8.5 million can be used on other players that will be needed for next season.
Nothing personal against Chris, just don't think it's smart to invest that much in him.
In what has been a frustrating final month for the San Diego Padres, Jon Garland's start on Thursday night against the Cubs told the entire story.
The left-hander pitched six and a third shutout innings giving up just four hits and striking out eight. His team gave him the same number of runs Garland gave up. Zero.
That's the way things have gone for this team down the stretch. The offense has sputtered. Unable to move runners, unable to get that timely hit, unable to win. A 180 degree difference from the first five months of the season.
Garland, and the Padres, hold a mutual option for next season and it's rare that both sides excercise those options.
Decision: Jon Garland has been solid for most of the season, coming up with some big starts when the Padres needed him. He's a veteran starter, a guy that young right-hander Mat Latos has learned from, so it would benefit the Padres to bring him back for at least two years.
There were a lot of people that weren't sure about the Padres trading for Miguel Tejada when the deal was made. However, those skeptics have been turned into believers with the way Tejada has played since coming over from Baltimore.
He's provided a leadership in the clubhouse, a good attitude, and even timely hitting on the field. He's everything the Padres didn't realize they were going to get, especially with young shortstop Everth Cabrera struggling mightily.
Decision: Tejada has made it known that he wouldn't mind returning and I don't imagine the Padres wouldn't feel the same about bringing him back. I think the Padres will get a deal done for him in the off season and bring him back for at least another two years.
This will be Heath Bell's third trip to arbitration as a member of the San Diego Padres and already there are rumors that they may entertain offers for their closer during the off season.
If the front office wants to compete and wants to become a contender again in not only the NL West, but in the entire National League, Bell needs to be the guy in the back end of their bullpen.
If they're going to rebuild their pitching staff as well as their bullpen, than there's no question Bell will be on the trading block.
Decision: The Padres aren't going to have an easy time going through arbitration with their closer, especially since it's his third time. While he's making $4 million this season, that number could almost double for next season. Are they willing to invest at or above $8 million for him next season?
He's shown that he's worth the money and he's shown he's a shut down closer. It seems the right price to pay to keep him around and give yourself some time to work out a long term deal to keep him in San Diego.
This is the one name that is going to be on the rumor sheets as soon as the World Series comes to a close.
Adrian Gonzalez is a guy that is coveted by more than half a dozen teams and you better believe that they'll be calling the San Diego Padres about his availability. However, Padres' general manager Jed Hoyer is already on the record as saying they are committed to hanging on to their All-Star first baseman.
He's never tested free agency before and I have a hard time believing that he and the Padres will come to some sort of an agreement on a long term deal. They will exercise his $5.5 million club option after the season and keep him around for at least half of the 2011 season.
When July rolls around, the front office will have a decision to make.
Decision: There's no question in my mind that Adrian Gonzalez should be in a Padres uniform. There's no question that the fans want him but there is, however, a question in my mind about whether Gonzalez really wants to spend his entire career in San Diego.
When it comes right down to it, what means more to him? Playing in San Diego or chasing a World Series ring? When, not if, he hits free agency, the Padres won't be able to compete money wise with a lot of the teams that will be jockeying for his services.