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2010 NL West Preview: San Diego Padres Pulling Up the Rear

Jeffrey BrownAnalyst IMarch 29, 2010

The Padres said goodbye to all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman last winter and then spent much of last spring trying to trade ace right-hander Jake Peavy, finally dealing their ace to the Chicago White Sox for a bevy of prospects.

This winter they have been at the center of a swirl of rumors centered around the likely trade of slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, a deal that some believe was made more likely by the arrival of new GM Jed Hoyer—the former assistant GM in Boston. Not only are the Red Sox one of the teams that are most interested in Gonzalez, they also have the cupboard full of prospects that the Padres will require if they are to make a deal.

The only thing that may stand in the way of the teacher and pupil making a deal is that Boston GM Theo Epstein and Hoyer know all of the prospects intimately and may feel vested in the same players (Casey Kelly and Ryan Westmoreland).

The Padres finished last season at 75-87, next to last in the National League West, and they are likely to finish in fifth place this season.

Key Additions: OF Aaron Cunningham, RHP Jon Garland, INF Jerry Hairston Jr, OF Scott Hairston, and C Yorvit Torrellaba

Key Subtractions: C Henry Blanco, OF Brian Giles, and 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff

Key Performer, 2010: Adrian Gonzalez

Starting Rotation

The departure of Peavy last year leaves a void atop the rotation. The manager and coaches will pick five starters from among Chris Young, Kevin Correia, Jon Garland, Mat Latos, Wade LeBlanc, Clayton Richard, and Tim Stauffer. It’s a group without a true “ace,” but it’s a group that has the potential to be deep. The consensus here is that Richard and Latos will step up and surprise a lot of people.

Bullpen

Heath Bell will close once again, but he may also be the center of trade rumors by midseason, and the relief corps behind him leaves a LOT to be desired.

Lineup

According to manager Bud Black, this is the lineup the Padres will trot out on Opening Day:

1. CF Tony Gwynn, Jr.
2. 2B David Eckstein
3. 1B Adrian Gonzalez
4. 3B Chase Headley
5. LF Kyle Blanks
6. RF Will Venable
7. C  Nick Hundley
8. SS Everth Cabrera

When Gonzalez gets traded, Kyle Blanks will move in from the outfield to take over at first base. Newly reacquired Scott Hairston will then almost assuredly take over in left left.

If you know baseball then you know this is not a strong lineup, even with Gonzalez. The club ranked 29th out of 30 teams in runs scored (638) in 2009, only two more than the Pittsburgh Pirates. When A-Gon gets traded, the club is in trouble—unless Blanks and Headley REALLY step it up.

Outlook

I’ll say the same thing I said last year: “In a word, bleak. It’s amazing how quickly the ballclub went from the penthouse to the outhouse.” Hoyer has his work cut out for him.

He cannot afford to pay Gonzalez what he will command on the open market, so he needs to trade his all-star first baseman. But the GM also knows that when he trades Gonzalez he will have trouble putting fans in the stands, so he had better score a major coup in the deal, because his team will have trouble scoring runs on the field.

He can’t afford to wait too long either, because contenders (e.g. the Red Sox) will pay less next winter in terms of prospects than they will during the early to middle part of the 2010 season.

As with everything in life, timing will be critical.

SOX1Forecast: 60-102, 5th place

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