The Padres are going to be a fun team in 2009. Yes, I said "fun" in reference to the 2009 Padres and I'm serious. They're unlikely to win too many games, and Jake Peavy and/or Brian Giles eventually being traded is disappointing for the long-time Padres fans, but here's the thing: the team is essentially giving Sandy Alderson, Kevin Towers, and Paul DePodesta a throwaway season. Anything goes next year.
Imagine you were just crowned General Manager of a replacement level team that won 50 games last season. There's very little you could do that would be worse, and the team is so cheap that getting rid of the broken parts isn't too worrisome on a cash-strapped owner's checkbook. The Pads aren't quite that bad off, but that doesn't mean they can't take some chances that in previous years were off limits. Such as...
Keeping their Rule 5 selections.
Meet Everth Cabrera and Ivan Nova. If you don't know about them, Cabrera is a 22-year-old switch-hitting shortstop whose highest level of completion is High-A. Cabrera has walked a little, but the statistic that jumps off the page is 73 steals in 89 attempts last season. Nova is 21 and, similar to Cabrera, has yet to reach Double-A. Nova features good stuff, even if the strikeout totals don't reflect such, and unlike most of his 21-year-old counterparts Nova, doesn't walk the world. Both have to be on the 25-man roster in order to remain Padres property after 2009, the Padres have zero incentive against making Cabrera their utility infielder and Nova their mop-up man.
Chris Britton has already been signed by the Padres, and could begin the season as their set-up man. Britton's outstanding minor league success has yet to equate to major league success, but what do the Padres have to lose here? Britton is a heavy flyball pitcher, which makes him perfect for Petco. The Padres should take a flier on a number of these types just to see if they can't find a few who click.
Emptying the farm
Is Nick Hundley a legitimate major league catcher? Can Wade LeBlanc make it in the majors? Perhaps not, but the Padres can find the answers to these questions this season. Will Venable, Chase Headley, Matt Antonelli, Sean Kazmar, and Drew Macias hardly form an a-list of positional prospects - if you can even call a few of them prospects - but Venable has the makings of a good defensive centerfielder, and Headley along with Antonelli could break into the Padres infield for the long-term.
Okay, so maybe that's not your typical definition of "fun", but that won't stop me from following the Padres in 2009.