SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres’ deep rebuild is starting to come into focus, even if contending for a playoff berth is still a few seasons away.
With their farm system fully stocked via the draft, international signings and various deals, the Padres made a bold move by signing 28-year-old first baseman Eric Hosmer to a $144 million, eight-year contract early in spring training.
The Padres, who haven’t had a winning record since 2010 or been to the playoffs since 2006, figured it was time to start building a culture and an identity, and give their young players someone to look up to.
Hosmer was the perfect fit because of his work ethic and what he accomplished in helping the Kansas City Royals win the World Series three seasons ago.
Padres owners Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler considered the signing a “significant moment” for a franchise that has had woefully few big moments.
“Speaking for Ron and myself, when you have to sign a check like that you better have a smile on your face, and we do,” Seidler said.
After losing 91 and 94 games the last two seasons, the Padres should at least be more entertaining as they try to start closing the gap in the otherwise competitive NL West. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who reached the World Series before losing in seven games to Houston, have won the division five straight years and finished 33 games ahead of San Diego last season. The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies were the NL’s wild card teams.
Besides Hosmer taking over at first base, the acquisition of Freddy Galvis will elevate play at shortstop, even if he is just a placeholder until 19-year-old phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. is deemed ready to take over.
While waiting for the next waves of talent to come up from the minors, the Padres will look for the young players already up, including center fielder Manuel Margot, second baseman Carlos Asuaje and catcher Austin Hedges, to continue to develop.
Here are some things to look for with the Padres:
BEST CASE: The Padres don’t finish last in the NL West and continue to slowly crawl toward .500. They were 71-91 last season, seven games better than San Francisco.
WORST CASE: The Padres finish last in the NL West and somehow regress in their rebuild.
HOSMER EFFECT: Hosmer played in all 162 games last year after playing in 158 games in each of the two previous seasons.
“It’s big,” he said. “It’s one of the things we have somewhat control of. Obviously there are freak injuries in this game that you can’t really do anything about, but other than that it says a lot about coming in every day and being ready to play and being ready to go. There’s a couple times in my career, one time in Kansas City, we missed a division by one game. So you don’t know when that game can come, whether it’s April or late in the season. I think it’s something that all position players take pride in, showing up and being ready to go every day.”
CHANGE OF SCENERY: To make room for Hosmer, Wil Myers moves back to the outfield, mostly likely in left. Chase Headley is back at third base after 3 ½ seasons with the New York Yankees. The Padres were willing to take on Headley’s $13 million salary in order to get right-handed starter Bryan Mitchell. Christian Villanueva can back up at several infield positions and Jose Pirela can play either corner outfield spot or second base.
ROTATION: 34-year-old left-hander Clayton Richard is scheduled to start opening day, anchoring a rotation that includes Mitchell (26), Dinelson Lamet (25), Luis Perdomo (24) and Tyson Ross (30). Richard, the oldest player on the squad, signed a two-year contract extension through 2019 but isn’t guaranteed to keep his spot in the rotation.
THE NEXT WAVES: Tatis, 19, and Luis Urias, a 20-year-old second baseman, were impressive in their first spring training with the big league club. It wouldn’t be surprising to see either make their big league debuts sometime this season, even if it’s in September. Padres fans also are eager to eventually see a young crop of pitchers that includes MacKenzie Gore, Joey Lucchesi, Cal Quantrill and Jacob Nix.
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