The Padres’ sleeper status in the NL West has already taken a hit: center fielder Cameron Maybin will miss 2-3 months with a ruptured biceps tendon he suffered making a diving catch in Sunday’s game.
The injury comes after Maybin was limited to 14 games last season with wrist and knee injuries. So, the Padres are used to playing without him. Nevertheless, he is easily their best defensive center fielder and he’s had his moments offensively, too, though his chronic wrist troubles have taken away from his game there.
With Maybin out last year, the Padres divided up playing time in center between Alexi Amarista (53 starts), Will Venable (52 starts) and Chris Denorfia (36 starts), with prospect Reymond Fuentes (seven starts) getting a look in September. Fuentes is the only one from that group who can hang with Maybin defensively. Amarista has the most range, but also the weakest bat, of the veterans.
The Padres will likely now give Fuentes a chance to make the team this spring. He had been ear-marked for Triple-A after spending most of last year in Double-A and hitting .330/.413/.448 in 400 minor league at-bats. If Fuentes makes the team, he could start in center against right-handers. If not, then it could be Venable in center and Denorfia in right most of the time. The Padres also have Seth Smith and Kyle Blanks as right-field options with Venable sliding over, but an outfield that starts Carlos Quentin in left, Venable in center and either Smith or Blanks in right would be pretty brutal defensively.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.