We might not see AJ Preller for a while.
The Padres president of baseball operations was already going to be busy with the next three days’ draft and then two weeks of wrangling as he tried to improve the Padres’ offense before the Aug. 2 trade deadline.
Now, he won’t just be trying to sell teenage infielders and pitchers to the Cubs for Willson Contreras.
He’ll try to figure out how to beat the Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Yankees and everyone else for Juan Soto to hit between Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado.
Soto, who still has two years of team control after 2022, would be purchased by the Nationals.
Will Preller get the incredibly gifted 23-year-old right fielder?
No way to know.
Can Preller have it?
That would almost certainly require not only a prospect for Soto that would make it look like the young talent the Padres sent to Cleveland for Mike Clevinger in 2020 was shopping at Dollar Tree, but also move the salaries of Eric Hosmer and/or Blake Snell and/or Wil Myers.
It should be easy.
Not really. Almost impossible, in fact.
But remember the Padres were the first to approach the Nationals to wrap Max Scherzer and Trea Turner and thought they had a way to a deal before the Dodgers rushed to get the two at last year’s deadline.
The Padres believe their starting pitcher brings them closer to a legitimate championship contender this season. They know they need to improve the lineup to be truly competitive in October – and maybe even get there in October.
They have prospects and are looking to negotiate. There was no convincing word yesterday on how strongly they will pursue Soto, but they went too far not to try and achieve the biggest goal of this summer. And they have the ability to do it.
The folks at the organization gasp, roll their eyes, and end up scoffing at the idea that they emptied their minor league cupboard in the big splurges of 20 and 21.
A limited solicitation of people in the league — scouts and a National League general manager — this week produced a consensus that the Padres’ farming system puts them well positioned when it comes to being a buyer ahead of the game. August 2 deadline. This could be especially the case with teams looking for younger prospects.
The men were questioned before news of Soto’s rejection of a 15-year, $440 million contract offer meant the Nationals were listening to Soto’s offers.
It’s unclear what the Nationals will be looking for in return, but here’s a guess: It will be a lot.
Multiple sources confirmed that the Padres had essentially reached a deal to acquire Jose Ramirez from Cleveland in April had Ramirez not agreed to a heavily discounted long-term contract with the Guardians.
This agreement did not require the Padres to give up CJ Abrams. This one might, plus Robert Hassell and James Wood. And Michel Baez and Kevin Kopps and/or maybe a few young players with major league experience. (Those are guesses just to give an idea of Soto’s insane cost.)
It can be argued that Soto has been over the course of 4 and a half seasons one of the top two or three players in the major leagues. Even if you want to argue that, it’s close enough that everyone can agree that the price to acquire it will be astronomical.
And the Nationals are just one business partner among many.
The Padres should also pack prospects to offload parts of a contract or two elsewhere. They would like to avoid the penalties (financial and draft) that come with exceeding the competitive equilibrium tax threshold a second year in a row and do not expect their payroll to increase significantly (if at all) next year. . It’s an even tougher goal if they acquire Soto and the $30 million-plus he could average in officiating each of the next two seasons.
With that as reality and with the Dodgers (with their virtually infinitely deep pockets and deep farm system) as their arch-enemy, it seems highly unlikely that the Padres will land in Soto.
But they will try.
Yes, the Padres plan to add a bat before the trade deadline.
But Luke Voit’s three-run homer last night demonstrated the validity of Preller’s assertion that the team is also looking for help from within.
No matter who the Padres add, they will be much better served by Voit who is also closer to what he has been in previous seasons.
“They brought me here to smash,” he said, quoted in my Game Story (here) of last night’s win over the Diamondbacks.
Voit is an interesting case.
He came in last night leading the Padres in barrel percentage and is now second with 11 homers this season. But he also leads in strikeout percentage and swing-and-miss percentage. All of those numbers are at least slightly worse than those he’s posted in 2021 and most of his previous six major league campaigns.
“It’s obviously the worst start to a season I’ve ever had,” said Voit, who is batting .219 with a .713 OPS. “I just feel like the ball doesn’t carry as much for me, and I just feel like I had to go back to the drawing board.”
Voit said he spent about 90 minutes hitting the machine in the batting cage on Friday. During this time, he changed his batting stance similar to a change he made earlier in the year.
“I squatted more, just trying to stay on my back more and not move my head too much,” he said. “I feel like my pitch recognition has been a lot better. … Sometimes you just have to go back to work and try new things and try stuff. before the break.
Voit was hitless in 19 at bats before just one Friday night. His circuit last night had an exit speed of 110 mph, and he also lined up at 102.7 mph.
“In the middle of command power, that’s why we brought him in,” manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s something we’ve been missing all year when it comes to a game-changing three-run homer in a close game. And it came big. That’s what the guys in power do. They tend to hit a few sometimes and the next thing you know is an innings and that’s three runs on the board.
If you’re interested in Voit talking about his growing chest hair fame, here is a video shot after the match by Annie Heilbrunn.
What’s up with Grish?
This is becoming a regular section of the newsletter.
Trent Grisham made a clumsy try on a fly ball hit to center field that went past him and became a triple. It was the third time in 11 games that this had happened. And while the circumstances of those have varied, including at least one line practice ball that joined at the last moment, he’s clearly into a defensive funk. Also last night he took a twisty, circuitous route back to what became a one-two finish.
“He comes and goes a bit,” Melvin said of Grisham, who won a Gold Glove in 2020. “He’s played very well sometimes and sometimes not. … He’s a quality center player. There have been a few games recently that I think he expects to make.
ready for it
Matthew Batten was called up June 30 and made his major league debut as a pinch runner that night. He struck the next day and then again two days later, landing his first hit. He made his first major league start (at left field) on July 8 and his second (at third base) on July 10. Last night, after five days without an appearance in a game, he started at second base.
His fifth-inning brace led to Grisham for the Padres’ first inning.
Batten was basically an everyday player the past two Triple-A seasons, but he was mostly a part-time player in his first three minor league seasons.
“It’s good to have that experience to draw on now to know what I need to do to stay ready,” Batten said ahead of yesterday’s game. “Because there is no excuse. I don’t get a single at bat to try and get my timing back. Just do it.
- Jake Cronenworth hit his 23rd double of the season, tied for fifth in the National League, and scored his 59e race, tied for sixth in the NL. Cronenworth’s 117 extra hits since entering the league in 2020 is 24e most in the majors of this period. His 179 races rank 21st in MLB since the start of the 2020 season. Read Cronenworth’s thoughts on his nomination as an alternate to the NL All-Star Team in Jeff Sanders’ notebook (here).
- Last night’s crowd of 42,384 was the 17e sellouts of the season at Petco Park, second in franchise history behind 24 in 2004.
- The Padres’ 23 comeback wins are tied for fourth in the majors. But last night was only the seventh time they won a game in which they trailed after five innings.
- Ha-Seong Kim’s stolen base last night was the Padres’ fourth in three games. Their 30 interceptions are fourth fewer in the majors.
- Sure, that’s a little low on the list compared to his 2.42 ERA and 14 quality starts. But Joe Musgrove’s ability to connect with teammates and fans — and the desire he has to do so to such a great extent — is part of why it’s virtually inevitable that he and the Padres will come to an agreement on a long-term contract to keep him pitching for his hometown team.
Alright, that’s it for me. Game day today.
Speak to you tomorrow.