Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres is congratulated by Mark Kotsay after hitting a home run against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
The San Diego Padres are handing out extensions like they're trying to keep a good team together. What are they thinking?
Welcome. You do know you clicked on an article about the Padres, right? I mean, good, good. Glad to have you.
The San Diego Padres aren't the worst team in baseball. They're just the last team you think of. That's true even in San Diego, where about 40 percent of the population can't get the Padres on TV. It's fitting that interleague play pairs the Padres up with the Mariners as natural rivals. If those two teams took an extra week and played some games on the moon, I'm not sure anyone would notice.
The Padres are in fourth place in the NL West -- 51-65 entering Monday's series against the Braves -- and they've lost a half-dozen starting pitchers to injury this season, which is how you get a rotation with Jason Marquis, Kip Wells, and Ross Ohlendorf. It's been a miserable season for the most part, and the Padres are right to be thinking about next year already. Exactly how they're thinking about next year is kind of odd, though. They want to keep the band together, and they're handing out all sorts of extensions.
The deal that makes the most sense is the three-year deal given to Carlos Quentin, who falls within the Padres' price range only because he's oft-injured. Think of him as a sweater at an outlet store, marked down 50 percent because of a slight irregularity. In just over 200 at-bats this year, he hasn't shown any signs that Petco Park is a problem for him -- he's hitting .261/.376/.502, all marks over his career averages. His numbers are down in Petco, of course, but still better than numbers from anyone else the Padres could likely find.
The deal that makes a little less sense is the deal to Huston Street. Although Street is having a fantastic season, the Padres have always done well developing internal bullpen options. An established closer is supposed to be the hood ornament on a luxury car, not something a struggling team needs right away. Considering the paucity of relievers on the trade market, it's not unlikely that the Padres could have netted at least one decent prospect for Street -- more than they gave up to acquire him, at least. Instead, he's around for the next couple of years.
The deal that is all kinds of bizarre is the extension to Mark Kotsay. He's been useful this year. It's just bizarre to think of the words "Mark Kotsay" and "extension" in the same sentence. There's a decent chance that you were completely unaware that Kotsay was still in the league. It's not an expensive or crippling extension. It's just a "huh"-extension. Huh.
Add the three up, and you've got a team that isn't planning on rebuilding. They're planning on resetting, trying it again. They don't think the 2012 Padres were especially flawed; they were just unfortunate and injury-prone. It seems like an insane thing for a last-place, low-budget team to think.
But they might be right.
For one thing, the Padres have been playing much better in the second half -- 17-12, with a good run differential. They recently took two out of three in Pittsburgh, which means something this year. As funny as it is to think about Wells and Ohlendorf in a major-league rotation, the Padres have no choice. There are better options -- a lot of them -- in the organization. They're just all hurt.
Imagine what the team would look like if Cory Luebke, Anthony Bass, Tim Stauffer, Joe Wieland, Andrew Cashner, and Dustin Moseley were all healthy, allowing the Padres to mix and match their rotation cogs based on talent and performance. They'd have a pretty good idea of who'd be a part of next year's team. They'd also have a pretty good rotation.
So while it looks like the team is locking up hood ornaments for a broken car, it's not that far away from being a fully operational machine that can zip around town. Something perfectly acceptable, like a five-year-old Civic with a missing hubcap. Luebke and Wieland will still miss at least part of 2013, but they should still contribute. The rest of the pitchers should be back. And the Padres will be back where they started, which is with a lineup that's mostly filled with decent-to-good players. They're figuring out what Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal can offer. They didn't turn Chase Headley into a gaggle of prospects. They're figuring out if Logan Forsythe can play second base in the majors. They're hoping something clicks for Cameron Maybin.
And they're going to try it all again. They're spending a decent amount of change to keep the team together, and it's not a bad idea. The Padres should have been better. The difference between them and the A's isn't as great as you'd think -- the A's have a 92 team OPS+, and the Padres have a 93. The difference is that the A's haven't been so decimated that they have to rely on Jeff Suppan and Kip Wells to make their starts. A Padres rotation with Luebke, Stauffer, and Cashner could have been doing the same things.
They'll get a chance to try again. It's odd to see a team retry an idea that didn't work the first time. But in this case, it's also kind of refreshing. The Padres should have been better.