The San Diego Padres were very busy this off-season and have three new outfielders to help them compete in the NL West in 2015. Last season, the main starting outfielders were Seth Smith, Cameron Maybin, and Will Venable. Chris Denorfia was also in the mix playing in 89 games.
There were three big trades made by the Padres to boost their roster, and all of them included deals for outfielders. Matt Kemp was the first big name acquired on December 18, as he was traded along with C Tim Federowicz for C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Joe Wieland, and RHP Zach Eflin.
One day later, the Padres traded 2B Jace Peterson, LHP Max Fried, 3B Dustin Peterson, and CF Mallex Smith to the Atlanta Braves for LF Justin Upton and RHP Aaron Northcraft. They also acquired the services of RF Wil Meyers, C Ryan Hanigan, LHP Jose Castillo, and RHP Gerardo Reyes from the Tampa Bay Rays for C Rene Rivera, RHP Burch Smith, and 1B Jake Bauers. The big pieces to these trades were obviously Kemp, Upton, and Meyers.
Last season, the old outfielders hit .266 (Smith), .235 (Maybin), .224 (Venable), and .242 (Denorfia), with a combined 22 home runs and 102 RBI. The new outfielders hit .287 (Kemp), .270 (Upton), and .222 (Meyers) with a total of 50 home runs and 226 RBI. Meyers only played in 87 games after missing time due to an injury.
The power numbers are upgrades right away and could be even greater with a change of scenery and a new chapter in these players’ careers. Kemp was once a dominating MVP candidate, Upton is in the prime of his career, and Meyers is still an up and coming young player with big potential and upside. The reason the San Diego Padres were able to acquire such stars from other team’s is unique to each trade.
San Diego Padres’ new outfielders
The Dodgers have other talented outfielders and were looking to get more value for their money. They felt that Kemp was no longer worth the large contract (8 years, $160 million) that he is singed to through 2019. Atlanta is in a rebuilding process and dealt Upton along with other members of their starting lineup from a year ago including RF Jason Heyward and C/OF Evan Gattis. The Rays have a new manager in Kevin Cash and have moved on from the Joe Maddon era. That included the injury plagued Meyers whom Tampa thought they could get better value by trading away.
San Diego is the beneficiary of these team’s agendas and have found players to hopefully stack in the middle of the lineup and help them get back to the post season for the first time since 2006. It will take more than three new outfielders, but it is a sign that the Padres are playing for this season and spending money to do so.
Kemp will take over in center field and rebounded last year from a 2013 seson in which he played in only 73 games. He is 30 years old but still has the ability to produce 20+ home runs. He will need to do more than that to warrant the Padres taking on his contract and hope he continues to surge upwards rather than show that he is past his prime.
Meyers is just 22 years of age and is by far the youngest star of the trio. A 3rd round pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2009, he was the key piece in the Kansas City-Tampa Bay trade that also involved James Shields (Shields also signed with the Padres to give them a playoff-experienced ace). Despite winning the ROY award with Tampa Bay, Meyers has only played in the equivalent of one full season. He might have the most to prove since he has so little service time under his belt and was dealt for a top prospect in Bauers.
Upton is probably the star of the bunch; at just 27, he has six straight 20+ home run seasons (three of which were 30+). He is always a big threat at the plate and knows the division as he played with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2007-2012. The downside with Upton is his strikeouts. Last season, he tallied 171 K’s and routinely has a 2-1 K-to-BB ratio. Most big league managers will take the strikeouts along with the power production, and San Diego is banking that there will be enough firepower to offset Upton’s walks back to the dugout.
Expect to see the Padres make some more roster moves by Opening Day. They have a new starting outfield and an old starting outfield that needs a place to play. Smith and Denorfia are with the Seattle Mariners. Maybin, Venable, and Carlos Quentin are still with San Diego. There are also a handful of other players who saw action in the outfield in 2014 who likely will not be counted on this season.
It takes an entire roster to play well over the course of a season, but the Padres’ new star-studded outfield is a great start at least on paper. Expect to see plenty of highlights from Petco Park and some potential playoff games held there come October. If things don’t work out, the San Diego Padres still have draft rights to Johnny Manziel.