It seems like the Padres kick off every phase of transactions now. They started the offseason when they went after Blake Snell and Yu Darvish. And now they’re just about the first to move before Friday’s MLB trade deadline, as they moved to save Adam Frazier from baseball irrelevance in Pittsburgh. They might actually give up actual prospects this time, which they didn’t have to do for Darvish because the Cubs are intent on being the perfect representation of all that’s wrong with baseball. No, I’m not still bitter. Kindly swallow your tongue.
Everything about the Padres from the offseason through this season has been them grabbing things by the throat, though it hasn’t quite worked out that way on the field. Not that things have gone badly, and they’re still within touching distance of the Dodgers which was always the plan, but the Giants have thrown something of a wrench in the blueprints (which I know would only tear or crinkle blueprints and you’d always have copies but let’s just leave it). The Padres are basically guaranteed a coin-flip game spot, as they have a sizable lead on the Reds, who also happen to be thoroughly mediocre. They’re not going to catch San Diego without some act of God.
Moving for Frazier merely to lock down a wild-card berth seems overkill, though Frazier has another year left on his deal so they get another season out of him. Maybe they think they can crawl back the gap to the Giants, who even with their five-game lead still have a tough schedule in the last two months, seeing the Dodgers six more times, the Padres 10, and encounters with the Mets, A’s, Braves, Astros, Brewers left as well (and even the Braves, should they snap out of their malaise). That’s just about the entire list of teams that would be considered trouble.
What perhaps is most refreshing about the Padres, and this Frazier deal in particular, is that they’re not letting one previous mistake or bad contract keep them from trying to get better. It is likely that Frazier will bump Jake Cronenworth to first most nights, sitting Eric Hosmer down. Hosmer still has five years left on his deal that pays him $18 million a year. Hosmer put up a good season-in-a-can last year, but his full seasons in San Diego have been the definition of average. The Padres can improve on that. Or it might keep them from having to use Jurickson Profar or Ha-Seong Kim too much in utility rolls, as both have been going up to the plate with a rancid mackerel most nights.
Still, we’ve seen teams that should have limitless payrolls, or close to it, use bad contracts handed out previously as a way to not improve their team. The Cubs have needed to reduce Jason Heyward’s role from the moment he showed up, but ownership has used it as an excuse to not even bolster the bench at all. The Yankees have gone without two-thirds of an outfield for longer than can be believed, partially because of what they’re paying Giancarlo Stanton and others, and Stanton has been good despite what people tell you. How many players did the Angels let go by because they were paying Albert Pujols? And Hosmer hasn’t even been as bad as any of those guys!
And they’re probably not done. Given the way the NL has shaped up, if they can escape the wild-card roulette, they have just as good a case to get to the World Series as anyone, especially if Jacob deGrom’s arm never comes back from vacation.
It would be a healthy league if more than five or six teams were acting like the Padres. But that’s been our lament since November.
By this point you know how I am about true Thunderbastard goals, so let’s end proceedings this morning with New England’s Gustavo Bou’s contribution yesterday evening:
You know you’ve leathered the crossbar when the ball bounces back up to touch it again just to make sure it’s OK.