clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Padres are not contenders

San Diego has made a plethora of moves recently, and while they're all at least solid, they won't amount to anything in the coming year.

Petco Park won't see October baseball in the near future.
Petco Park won't see October baseball in the near future.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

In recent days, the Padres have transformed their team. They traded for Dodgers star Matt Kemp last week, brought in Rays up-and-comer Wil Myers on Wednesday, made a move for Braves phenom Justin Upton yesterday, and dealt for Oakland backstop Derek Norris. (Oh, plus Will Middlebrooks came to San Diego.) In the meantime, they signed intriguing wild card Brandon Morrow to a one-year deal. Josh Johnson, whom they inked for largely the same reason last year, will return as well. All of this action, coupled with some solid young players, could take them to the playoffs next year. Right?

Well, no. Despite what many pundits will have you believe, the Padres will not vie for a playoff spot in 2015. In his nascent tenure as GM, A.J. Preller has done his best, but this team just doesn't have the talent to contend.

Let's look at the numbers. As you'd suspect, the aforementioned acquisitions did improve their team: Whereas earlier in the week, FanGraphs projected San Diego to accrue 21.4 total WAR, now it presages a formidable...25.9. That translates to 73.6 wins — not exactly contending level. Indeed, it ranks fourth-worst in the majors, ahead of only the Phillies, Braves, Diamondbacks, and Astros.

How is this possible? Easy: The new pieces are overrated, and the existing ones, well, suck. Kemp has the reputation (and the contract) of a star, but with 2.0 projected WAR in 555 plate appearances, he can't back it up. While he can certainly play very well, Upton doesn't possess the same glimmer he once did; he'll fall short of three wins in 595 trips to the dish. Myers struggled with injuries this year, and some of those will dissipate, but he, too, won't blow anyone away (560 PAs, 2.4 WAR). Projected for 2.2 WAR in 416 plate appearances, Norris should actually maintain his 2014 production; nevertheless, he can't compensate for his new teammates' relative shortcomings.

Nor will they receive any assistance from the Friars' 2014 contributors. Seth Smith's offensive explosion — one of the few positive storylines this year — will become more of a controlled burn, and he'll consequently put up a one-win season in limited time. Yonder Alonso will stay mediocre (560 PAs, 1.9 WAR), and while Jedd Gyorko will bounce back from his hideous sophomore campaign — to the tune of two wins in 581 plate appearances — he can't carry the team. No one else will do anything significant; overall, the squad's 18.5 WAR, topping a mere six other clubs, seems about right.

Meanwhile, their rotation, untouched during the spending spree, will remain subpar. Padres starters racked up 8.2 WAR (27th in baseball) in 2014, and they'll accumulate 7.0 WAR (25th in baseball) in 2015. Ian Kennedy's mini-breakout will regress, as will Andrew Cashner's; Tyson Rossthrowing an ungodly amount of sliders, will succumb to injuries and ineffectiveness from that dastardly pitch; and Morrow and Johnson will pitch like the injured veterans they are. Together with a marginally-better-than-replacement bullpen, this gives their staff 7.4 WAR in all.

But hey, what if the Padres add a few more players? That probably won't happen. Per Baseball Prospectus, their 2015 payroll currently sits at $77.375 million. Factor in the arbitration of Kennedy, Ross, and Cashner, and they have $97.675 million in obligations — and that's only for 15 players. Preller has some flexibility here, but he probably won't increase beyond the low nine figures, especially since San Diego only spent about $90 million in 2014.

And don't think they'll have some kind of huge breakout, either. At FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan wrote about team WAR projections on Thursday. He included this graph:

Does it feature a fair amount of variance (as reflected by the .43 R2)? Well, yeah. But note that, of the teams with 25 foreseen WAR or less, none accrued enough to top .500. The teams that are supposed to lose, lose. That's just how this sport works.

Preller has jacked shaken things up in San Diego. Considering how poorly things have gone there in recent years, I'd say he has good reason to do so. I'd also say that, for the most part, his transactions make sense. But this team won't do anything in 2015. The facts can hurt sometimes, but so does failure following overestimation; in this case, the former allows us to see the latter coming.

. . .

All data courtesy of FanGraphsBaseball Prospectus, and MLB Trade Rumors.

Ryan Romano is an editor for Beyond the Box Score. He also writes about the Orioles on Camden Depot and on Camden Chat that one time. Follow him on Twitter at @triple_r_ if you enjoy angry tweets about Maryland sports.