Tag: Matt Kemp

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The Padres’ offseason moves may not guarantee the playoffs, but they certainly guarantee enthusiasm


The Padres had had a busy winter already, but the signing of James Shields last night pushes it toward the ridiculous. If they get Cole Hamels, everyone in San Diego may plotz. Heck, they may plotz anyway after acquiring Matt Kemp, Derek Norris, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Brandon Morrow Will Middlebrooks, Shawn Kelley, Brandon Maurer Josh Johnson and now Shields. It’s a totally different team than it was last year.

Is it a better team? Almost certainly. Even if Matt Kemp continues to have injury issues and Justin Upton remains the good-but-not-as-good-as-people-thought-he’d-one-day-be player from his early days in Arizona, the offense is improved. If Kemp looks like he did in the second half last year and Wil Myers rebounds to his rookie form, all bets are off. Shields provides them with a near-certain 200+ above average and, occasionally, excellent innings. The team is much stronger than it’s been.

That doesn’t mean Padres fans should start setting aside money for playoff ticket deposits yet, of course. There are a lot of uncertainties here. The new hitters conquering Petco Park is not a given, even if they are healthy. Shields has a lot of miles on the odometer. The Padres were just a 77-win team last year and, as history has shown, making 15-20 game improvements in a single season is not an easy trick. Ask the 2013 Blue Jays and 2012 Marlins how adding a bunch of big pieces in a single offseason can go.

But there is definitely reason for excitement in San Diego. For one thing, all of these additions came at a relatively limited cost. The Padres did not give up any of their top prospects to acquire the talent they got and, even if you include Shields’ deal, none of the financial outlays for the new players are particularly crazy. The future has not been mortgaged for a one-year improvement. Indeed, this could just be a year in which the Padres makes a nice little competitive surge that gets the fan base excited with a more traditional and sustained improvement on the horizon.

And that’s pretty key with this franchise. The fan base excitement. The Padres have had some successful seasons over the years, but they were somewhat isolated and never came by virtue of ownership opening up the safe and truly investing in the team. Before this offseason, their biggest-ever free agent deal was Joaquin Freakin’ Benoit, for crying out loud.

A lot of Padres fans I know — some I met as recently as back in December at the Winter Meetings — would’ve never believed that the team would be as active in the offseason as they have been this year. That Padres brass would do the sorts of things to stir up some excitement and get the Padres faithful to shell out for tickets and merch with the level of enthusiasm they are likely to this spring.

Maybe what the Padres did this winter is not enough to make the playoffs — the Giants and Dodgers aren’t going anywhere any time soon, after all — but they have certainly taken some much needed steps to kick up some excitement in San Diego.

Report: Padres sign James Shields to a four-year contract

James Shields

James Shields has finally signed a contract at long last. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports that the right-hander has signed a four-year deal in the $72-76 million range. There is a fifth-year club option as well, and the contract is pending a physical.

The Padres had been rumored to be the heavy favorite to land Shields. GM A.J. Preller has put what appears to be the finishing touch on an off-season overhaul in which he’s added Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Will Middlebrooks, Derek Norris, Brandon Morrow, Brandon Maurer, and Shawn Kelley.

Shields, 33, will jump atop the Padres’ rotation along with Andrew Cashner. He’ll be looking to build off of a solid campaign with the Royals in which he finished with a 3.21 ERA and a 180/44 K/BB ratio in 227 innings, helping the club reach the World Series for the first time since 1985.

UPDATE: Padres still favorites for James Shields, but several teams remain “heavily involved”

James Shields

UPDATE: Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Padres remain the favorites for Shields and “want him badly,” but several teams remain “heavily involved” in the bidding.

For what it’s worth, the Marlins, Cubs, and Blue Jays are among the other teams who have been linked to the free agent right-hander in recent days.

3:44 p.m. ET: This story isn’t over yet, apparently. According to Scott Miller of Bleacher Report, there is now an “impasse” in talks between the Padres and Shields following a “flurry” of talks over the past several hours. The “ball is in Shields’ court,” per Miller.

2:33 p.m. ET: Joe Frisaro of MLB.com confirms that the Padres are indeed the favorites, “if not a lock already,” to sign Shields.

12:08 p.m. ET: We’re less than two weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to their respective spring training camps and right-hander James Shields is still sitting out there in free agency. Is this saga finally reaching a conclusion? Well, maybe:

The market for Shields has been a mystery for most of the offseason, but the Padres have emerged as a realistic landing spot in recent days, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today writing on Thursday night that they “have to be considered favorites.” Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler indicated to Dennis Lin of UT-San Diego this week that the team still has wiggle room with their budget. New Padres general manager A.J. Preller has already upgraded the team’s offense in the big way this winter by acquiring Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, and Wil Myers, but adding Shields could vault them to frontrunner status for one of the Wild Card spots in the National League.

Shields once looked like a candidate for a $100 million contract, but it doesn’t appear that he will get it at this stage of the offseason. In fact, no free agent pitcher has ever received a $50 million after February 1. Shields should beat that, but the question is by how much.

Shields, who turned 33 in December, posted a 3.21 ERA (124 ERA+) and 180/44 K/BB ratio in 34 starts with the Royals last season. He has averaged 223 innings over the past eight seasons.

The Padres payroll could surpass $100 million this season

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The Padres had a club record $90.1 million payroll last season, but the team currently projects to be around $89 million for 2015 even after a very active offseason from new general manager A.J. Preller. Part of this is because the Dodgers are paying the great majority of Matt Kemp’s salary for this season. However, they might not be done making moves.

Team chairman Ron Fowler recently indicated to Dennis Lin of UT-San Diego that Preller still has some wiggle room with his budget, which could push the payroll over $100 million:

In an email to the U-T, Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler confirmed a general payroll range for 2015: It will open above last season’s figure and could top out at a little more than $100 million.

Fowler added an important disclaimer: “However, with A.J. in the GM seat, things could change quickly. He continues to look at options to strengthen the team.”

First-year general manager A.J. Preller has landed an unprecedented haul of right-handed power, remaking baseball’s worst offense while keeping the pitching staff largely intact. Yet his most resourceful maneuvering occurred within the financial parameters of those deals; as of Feb. 5, the Padres’ payroll projects to open at roughly $89 million, a tick under the 2014 figure. (If a trade partner is found for Carlos Quentin, the club could trim a couple million or so.)

As for what could push the Padres over $100 million, many have begun to consider them the favorites to land free agent right-hander James Shields. They have also expressed interest in a trade for Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels. One non-pitcher possibility is Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera, who Preller recently scouted while in the Dominican Republic.