San Diego Padres (71-91), 4th in NL West
Free agents: Erick Aybar, Jhoulys Chacin, Craig Stammen, Jordan Lyles
While their final record wasn’t much better than the 68-94 mark they finished with in 2016, the rebuilding Padres took some noticeable steps forward in 2017, finishing seven games ahead of the last-place Giants and upping their winning percentage from .432 in the first half to .446 after the All-Star break. In all likelihood, they’re still at least a year away from being competitive, but at least it looks like they’ve got some solid pieces to build around moving forward.
It’d be a good idea for the Padres to try to re-sign Chacin, who anchored their rotation with a 3.89 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 180.1 innings in 2017, though he’s bound to draw interest from other clubs looking to add experienced starters. Stammen also had a solid bounce-back season in his first action since April 2015, posting a 3.14 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 80.1 innings, and the Padres could probably bring him back at an affordable rate if they’re so inclined. Aybar and Lyles may have to settle for minor-league deals after struggling in 2017.
It will be up to GM A.J. Prefer and his staff to make an honest assessment of how close the Padres are to reaching a window of competitiveness, but on the surface it doesn’t seem logical for them to make any major additions via the free-agent or trade markets this offseason. They got some mileage out of utility infielder Yangervis Solarte as their shortstop down the stretch, but they’ll want to look for a more natural shortstop this offseason, even if it’s just a guy who bridges the gap to one of their star shortstop prospects, Luis Urias or Fernando Tatis Jr., both of whom ended the season in Double-A. That could be a veteran non-roster invitee in the mold of Aybar, who won the starting job in spring training.
The Padres’ two biggest potential trade chips this offseason will be Solarte and lefty reliever Brad Hand. The Padres surprisingly kept Hand, 27, at the trade deadline despite the fact that he was one of baseball’s most dominant relievers for a second straight season and could have provided a major boost to a contender’s bullpen. As he heads into his second year of arbitration coming off a 2017 campaign in which he made 72 appearances and posted a 2.16 ERA and 0.93 WHIP, Hand’s value should still be sky-high.
Solarte’s value is perhaps a bit lower than it was last offseason, when he was coming off a season in which he had posted a career-best 118 OPS+. Though his 94 OPS+ in 2017 was a career-worst, he hit a career-high 18 homers, and his ability to play all four infield positions should be attractive to clubs that are looking to boost their infield depth while creating more flexibility. If they’re going to trade Solarte, the winter would be the most humane time for the Padres to do so. The 30-year-old infielder is raising three young daughters by himself after his wife lost her battle with cancer in September of 2016, so giving him a winter to get situated would seem to make more sense than dealing him in-season.
It should also be interesting to see if the Padres are active in the Rule 5 Draft once again this offseason. They’ve added seven Rule 5 draftees over the past two offseasons, with five making it through a full season on the big-league roster and remaining in the Padres organization. But as San Diego gets closer to competing again, the front office may be less willing to give major-league roster spots to inexperienced rookies who are learning on the job.