San Diego Padres 2010 preview

The Padres’ back-to-back NL West titles in 2005-06 are distant memories. One franchise cornerstone is gone — ace Jake Peavy was dealt to the White Sox just prior to the nonwaiver trading deadline in 2009 — and another soon could follow. All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been the subject of plenty of trade speculation; every run he produces increases his value and decreases the franchise’s chances of being able to afford to keep him.

Will Adrian Gonzalez end 2010 in a Padres uniform?
Will Adrian Gonzalez end 2010 in a Padres uniform?

Three questions

1. Will Gonzalez finish the season with the Padres?
The two-time defending Gold Glove winner is under contract through 2011 at a very affordable price ($4.75 million this season, $5.5 million next season). In fact, Gonzalez isn’t even the highest-paid Padres player. However, he is in line for a monstrous deal (translation: nine figures) that San Diego most likely can’t offer. Members of the Padres’ front office even have hinted as much recently.

In the past three seasons, Gonzalez ranks seventh in the majors in homers (106) and 11th in RBIs (318) despite playing in cavernous Petco Park and without an All-Star supporting cast. In a more hitter-friendly park with better lineup support, Gonzalez, who will turn 28 in May, would be even more dangerous. Thus, he has intrigued big-market teams — Boston has been especially interested — that could spare a hundred million (or more) bucks. Chances are good that Gonzalez will be playing elsewhere in August, bringing San Diego a haul in young talent.

2. How’s the rotation sans Peavy?
For the first time since the 2001 season, Peavy won’t make a start for the Padres. That doesn’t bode well. Last season, San Diego’s rotation finished 24th in the majors with a 4.78 ERA — and that was with 13 starts from Peavy, who posted a 3.97 ERA. The oft-injured Chris Young will assume ace duties, and newcomer Jon Garland will provide a veteran innings-eater. "(Garland is) a guy who’s going to go out there and he’s going to give you innings and he’s gonna pitch and give you a chance to win some ballgames," Padres closer Heath Bell said. "If we put some runs up, we’re going to get him some W’s. And he’s another guy who’s got a lot of information for our young starters."

Kevin Correia, who led the team with 12 wins last season, is back, and youngsters Clayton Richard (acquired in the Peavy deal) and Mat Latos should round out the starting five.

3. Is there enough offense, even with Gonzalez?
San Diego scored 638 runs last season — just two more than the 30th-ranked Pirates. The Padres’ homer total was 26th, with Gonzalez’s 40 homers accounting for 28 percent of their 141 long balls. During the offseason, they cornered the market on Hairstons (trading for Scott and signing Jerry), but neither is expected to start. If the team’s developing young hitters don’t progress, San Diego very well could finish as the majors’ worst offensive team.

Projected lineup
1. SS Everth Cabrera: Team-best 25 SBs last season.
2. 2B David Eckstein: Career-worst .323 OBP in ’09.
3. 1B Adrian Gonzalez: At home in ’09: .244 AVG, 12 HRs, 36 RBIs; road: .306, 28 HRs, 63 RBIs.
4. 3B Chase Headley: .208 AVG, .300 OBP at home last season; .305, .377 on road.
5. LF Kyle Blanks: 10 HRs in only 148 at-bats in ’09.
6. RF Will Venable: 6 of 12 HRs, 17 of 38 RBIs came in August.
7. C Nick Hundley: .159 AVG vs. lefthanders last season.
8. CF Tony Gwynn Jr.: Leadoff option after career-best .350 OBP.

Projected rotation
1. RHP Chris Young: 11 wins, 31 starts in ’06; 11 wins, 32 starts from 2008-09.
2. RHP Kevin Correia: Career highs in ’09: 198 IP, 142 K’s.
3. RHP Jon Garland: At least 32 starts each of past 8 seasons.
4. LHP Clayton Richard: 5-2, 4.08 ERA in 12 starts with Padres in ’09.
5. RHP Mat Latos: Averaged 4.1 BB/9 as rookie last season.

Projected closer
RHP Heath Bell: 10.2 K/9 rate, NL-best 42 saves last season.

Grades

Offense: D. Not many major league teams feature a cleanup hitter who had 12 homers last season. That’s the case with Chase Headley, who will move to his natural third base to replace Kevin Kouzmanoff. It would help if he also can replace Kouzmanoff’s offense (18 homers, 88 RBIs). More will be expected of Kyle Blanks and Will Venable, too.

Pitching: C. Garland will provide the durability the rotation needs; only Correia made at least 20 starts for San Diego last season. It is imperative that Young stays healthy and resembles the All-Star who posted a 3.12 ERA in 2007. The bullpen is anchored by one of the game’s most underrated stoppers in Bell, though he also could be dealt.

Bench: C. Jerry Hairston can play outfield but will serve as the primary infield reserve; brother Scott should stay plenty busy in the outfield (he can serve as a righthanded platoon mate for Tony Gwynn and Venable). San Diego signed veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who had a career-best .291 batting average last season.

Manager: B. A former pitcher, Black has done a good job with this staff, especially the bullpen. The team improved by 12 wins (75 total) in 2009 and went 39-35 after the All-Star break. He gets the most out of the talent available, but this team still is rebuilding.

Sporting News prediction: The rebuilding Padres didn’t do enough this offseason to catch the division’s big three — or to hold off the improved Diamondbacks for fourth place.

Coming Friday: Diamondbacks preview.

Chris Bahr is a senior editor for Sporting News. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

The Padres’ back-to-back NL West titles in 2005-06 are distant memories. One franchise cornerstone is gone — ace Jake Peavy was dealt to the White Sox just prior to the nonwaiver trading deadline in 2009 — and another soon could follow. All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been the subject of plenty of trade speculation; every run he produces increases his value and decreases the franchise’s chances of being able to afford to keep him.

Will Adrian Gonzalez end 2010 in a Padres uniform?
Will Adrian Gonzalez end 2010 in a Padres uniform?

Three questions

1. Will Gonzalez finish the season with the Padres?
The two-time defending Gold Glove winner is under contract through 2011 at a very affordable price ($4.75 million this season, $5.5 million next season). In fact, Gonzalez isn’t even the highest-paid Padres player. However, he is in line for a monstrous deal (translation: nine figures) that San Diego most likely can’t offer. Members of the Padres’ front office even have hinted as much recently.

In the past three seasons, Gonzalez ranks seventh in the majors in homers (106) and 11th in RBIs (318) despite playing in cavernous Petco Park and without an All-Star supporting cast. In a more hitter-friendly park with better lineup support, Gonzalez, who will turn 28 in May, would be even more dangerous. Thus, he has intrigued big-market teams — Boston has been especially interested — that could spare a hundred million (or more) bucks. Chances are good that Gonzalez will be playing elsewhere in August, bringing San Diego a haul in young talent.

2. How’s the rotation sans Peavy?
For the first time since the 2001 season, Peavy won’t make a start for the Padres. That doesn’t bode well. Last season, San Diego’s rotation finished 24th in the majors with a 4.78 ERA — and that was with 13 starts from Peavy, who posted a 3.97 ERA. The oft-injured Chris Young will assume ace duties, and newcomer Jon Garland will provide a veteran innings-eater. "(Garland is) a guy who’s going to go out there and he’s going to give you innings and he’s gonna pitch and give you a chance to win some ballgames," Padres closer Heath Bell said. "If we put some runs up, we’re going to get him some W’s. And he’s another guy who’s got a lot of information for our young starters."

Kevin Correia, who led the team with 12 wins last season, is back, and youngsters Clayton Richard (acquired in the Peavy deal) and Mat Latos should round out the starting five.

3. Is there enough offense, even with Gonzalez?
San Diego scored 638 runs last season — just two more than the 30th-ranked Pirates. The Padres’ homer total was 26th, with Gonzalez’s 40 homers accounting for 28 percent of their 141 long balls. During the offseason, they cornered the market on Hairstons (trading for Scott and signing Jerry), but neither is expected to start. If the team’s developing young hitters don’t progress, San Diego very well could finish as the majors’ worst offensive team.

Projected lineup
1. SS Everth Cabrera: Team-best 25 SBs last season.
2. 2B David Eckstein: Career-worst .323 OBP in ’09.
3. 1B Adrian Gonzalez: At home in ’09: .244 AVG, 12 HRs, 36 RBIs; road: .306, 28 HRs, 63 RBIs.
4. 3B Chase Headley: .208 AVG, .300 OBP at home last season; .305, .377 on road.
5. LF Kyle Blanks: 10 HRs in only 148 at-bats in ’09.
6. RF Will Venable: 6 of 12 HRs, 17 of 38 RBIs came in August.
7. C Nick Hundley: .159 AVG vs. lefthanders last season.
8. CF Tony Gwynn Jr.: Leadoff option after career-best .350 OBP.

Projected rotation
1. RHP Chris Young: 11 wins, 31 starts in ’06; 11 wins, 32 starts from 2008-09.
2. RHP Kevin Correia: Career highs in ’09: 198 IP, 142 K’s.
3. RHP Jon Garland: At least 32 starts each of past 8 seasons.
4. LHP Clayton Richard: 5-2, 4.08 ERA in 12 starts with Padres in ’09.
5. RHP Mat Latos: Averaged 4.1 BB/9 as rookie last season.

Projected closer
RHP Heath Bell: 10.2 K/9 rate, NL-best 42 saves last season.

Grades

Offense: D. Not many major league teams feature a cleanup hitter who had 12 homers last season. That’s the case with Chase Headley, who will move to his natural third base to replace Kevin Kouzmanoff. It would help if he also can replace Kouzmanoff’s offense (18 homers, 88 RBIs). More will be expected of Kyle Blanks and Will Venable, too.

Pitching: C. Garland will provide the durability the rotation needs; only Correia made at least 20 starts for San Diego last season. It is imperative that Young stays healthy and resembles the All-Star who posted a 3.12 ERA in 2007. The bullpen is anchored by one of the game’s most underrated stoppers in Bell, though he also could be dealt.

Bench: C. Jerry Hairston can play outfield but will serve as the primary infield reserve; brother Scott should stay plenty busy in the outfield (he can serve as a righthanded platoon mate for Tony Gwynn and Venable). San Diego signed veteran catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who had a career-best .291 batting average last season.

Manager: B. A former pitcher, Black has done a good job with this staff, especially the bullpen. The team improved by 12 wins (75 total) in 2009 and went 39-35 after the All-Star break. He gets the most out of the talent available, but this team still is rebuilding.

Sporting News prediction: The rebuilding Padres didn’t do enough this offseason to catch the division’s big three — or to hold off the improved Diamondbacks for fourth place.

Coming Friday: Diamondbacks preview.

Chris Bahr is a senior editor for Sporting News. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

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