Apparently the world is going to end in 2012. Something about calendars, and Mayans, and maybe giant Arks. Could be a John Cusak movie, I'm not sure, but hopefully it doesn't happen before we get to see the results of the Padres off-season.
With the news from Padres brass that they intend to increase payroll and hope to operate at a consistent average of $70 million within a couple years, it's easy to get excited about what might be. Regardless of General Manager Jed Hoyer's mantra of "building within," the Padres will be active in the off-season and should be pulling in talent from outside their minor league system. With that said, I thought I'd take a look at the team and address some of the most important moves that need to be made.
1) Cameron Maybin
Currently making $429,000 and signed through the end if this year, the Padres are in a perfect position to extend Maybin's contract, throw a little money at him, and lock him into a long-term deal. My suggestion: 5 years, $20 million. A tiered contract would work best with the Padres plan. For example, offer Maybin $2 million for 2012, $3.5 million for 2013, $4.5 million for 2014, $4.5 million for 2015, and $5.5 million for 2016.
Maybin's mix of speed and defense will serve him well for years to come at Petco Park. He has the makings of a constant .280/.350/.400 hitter.
2) First Base
If Anthony Rizzo is the first baseman of the future, bring him up and leave him in the show for long enough to evaluate him as a Major League talent. Though his numbers at Triple-A Tucson should be largely discredited due to the hitter-friendly nature of the Pacific Coast League. If he's not the guy for the Padres, they need to go out and get someone. The problem is, the only viable free-agent candidate at first base would be Xavier Nady. With him making only $1.75 million during this injury-shortened 2011 season, the Padres may be able to scoop him up in a short-term, discounted deal. I'd imagine something like two years, $3.5 million could get the deal done. A second time in a Padres uniform may do both the Pads and Nady well.
To have a chance at contention, the Padres pitching staff will need to continue on the path carved the last few years, and will likely need to improve even more. Tim Stauffer is a quality start machine, so I expect the Padres to offer arbitration or sign him to a long-term deal this off-season. But they will still need to grab a free agent arm this off-season.
After reading a suggestion on Fangraphs.com about Edwin Jackson to the Padres, I began analyzing the possible move. Jackson has decent stuff and would benefit from pitching in the pitcher-friendly Petco Park, but he is making $6.275 million in 2011 with Scott Boras as his agent. I don't see Jackson and Boras taking a pay-cut, so if the Padres went this route, they'd need to shell out anywhere from $6.275 million to $7 million a year for him. Still, the move could be worth it. Jackson, even when his control was way off, managed a no-hitter with Detroit.
Then there's Heath Bell. Understandably, the team doesn't want to lock up a large percentage of payroll on a reliever. But to have any chance at competing in the near future, the club needs to maintain their shut down bullpen. Bell brings a number one closer talent to the park every game. He's willing to take a discount to stay with the club. I'm not sure what that discount is, but if we are talking $10 million a year, it's worth consideration. Bell can groom Gregerson, who I think is the heir apparent for the closer role. While doing so, he will provide that much needed insurance for the onslaught of close games the Padres will surely be in if they are competing for first.
That's about $20 million out of the supposed $50 million the Padres plan to spend next year. And those are the big ones. I'll leave the smaller contracts up to Jed Hoyer.
Regardless of what happens, this should be one of the most active off-seasons for the Padres in a long time.