The Padres have had another significant offseason, adding Xander Bogaerts on an 11-year megadeal and bringing in Matt Carpenter via two-year warranty. Those players lengthen a lineup that already had plenty of talent, with Bogaerts in particular building on an existing area of strength.
San Diego certainly didn’t need another infielder. Ha-Seong Kim and Jake Cronenworth would’ve made for an effective pairing up the middle, while Manny Machado has third base secured. Fernando Tatis Jr. will be back from his performance-enhancing drug suspension by the end of April and was already expected to see plenty of outfield work in deference to Kim and Cronenworth. As things stand, the Bogaerts signing pushes Kim to second base and Cronenworth over to first while keeping Tatis in the outfield on most days.
That overflow of up-the-middle talent is an enviable “problem” to have, as it affords them the ability to turn to the trade market. To that end, Dennis Lin of the Athletic reports the Padres are open to discussions on both Kim and center fielder Trent Grisham. Lin adds the organization isn’t interested in parting with Cronenworth and suggests a deal involving Grisham might be more likely than one that sends Kim elsewhere.
Grisham has spent the last three years in San Diego. Acquired from the Brewers in the deal that sent Luis Urías and Eric Lauer to Milwaukee over the 2019-20 offseason, he immediately stepped in as the Friars primary center fielder. Grisham had a great first season, collecting 10 home runs and stolen bases apiece with a .251/.352/.456 line while playing in 59 of the 60 games during the shortened 2020 campaign. He looked like a budding star, but his offense has regressed in the past couple of seasons.
The lefty hitter put up a .242/.327/.413 slash in 2021, with that production checking in right around league average. He took another step back this past season, posting a .184/.284/.341 mark through 524 trips to the plate. Grisham connected on 17 longballs and walked at a robust 10.9% clip but had the worst batting average of any hitter with at least 500 plate appearances. While there’s some amount of misfortune in the meager .231 average on balls in play he mustered, there were also plenty of worrisome underlying indicators.
Grisham struck out in 28.6% of his plate appearances, the worst clip of his career. Only Randall Grichuk had a lower line drive rate than Grisham’s 13.5% mark (minimum 500 PA’s) and his hard contact percentage was middle-of-the-pack. A left-handed pull hitter, Grisham could stand to benefit somewhat from the upcoming shift limitations, but it’s not likely to be all that significant a boost unless he trims his strikeouts and/or improves his contact profile.
To his credit, the 26-year-old remained a valuable part of the San Diego lineup even during a disappointing offensive year. Grisham played more than 1100 innings in center field and earned a second career Gold Glove for his work. Defensive Runs Saved credited him as eight runs better than average, while Statcast pegged him as 12 runs above par. Grisham’s glove has been a plus throughout his career, as he combines excellent speed with quality reads and solid arm strength.
Despite the career-worst offensive season, Grisham would have a decent amount of value on the trade market. His defense raises his floor and he’s shown prior glimpses of quality work at the plate. With three seasons of remaining arbitration control and projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz for a modest $2.6MM salary next year, he’d have plenty of appeal in a market starved for quality center field options. There are no remaining free agent center fielders who would likely play every day on a contender. The trade market is similarly without many obvious candidates. The Royals would listen to offers on Michael A. Taylor and the Twins are known to be open to dealing Max Kepler. Bryan Reynolds requested a trade from Pittsburgh, but the Pirates have maintained they won’t budge off a lofty asking price.
Teams like the Red Sox, Rockies, Rangers, Reds and Marlins are among the clubs that have sought center field help. That’s also true of the Dodgers, although it’s hard to imagine San Diego trading anyone to their chief competitors in the NL West. Lin relays that San Diego has interest in the Marlins starter Pablo López and speculates the Friars could look to market Grisham to Miami in a deal for rotation help, although there’s no indication the sides have actually had those discussions to this point.
Kim should have even stronger trade appeal, as he’s coming off a better offensive season. After struggling in his first MLB campaign, the former KBO star hit .251/.325/.383 across 582 plate appearances in year two. Kim picked up 11 homers and 29 doubles while striking out in only 17.2% of his plate appearances. He also stole 12 bases in 14 attempts.
Like Grisham, Kim provides sizable value on the defensive side. Pressed into primary shortstop duty by Tatis’ injuries and suspension, the 27-year-old looked like a Gold Glove-caliber middle infielder. DRS credited him as 10 runs above average in a little less than 1100 shortstop innings, while Statcast estimated him as five runs better than average. Kim also rated as a plus defender at second and third base during the 2021 campaign.
Upon making the jump from South Korea during the 2020-21 offseason, Kim landed a four-year, $25MM guarantee. He’s due a modest $17MM over the next two seasons (including a buyout on a 2025 mutual option) and is slated to head back to free agency following the ’24 campaign. That’s excellent value for a player coming off a season as strong as Kim’s and in his prime years.
As with center field, the middle infield market has dried up considerably at this stage of the offseason. Assuming Carlos Correa finalizes a deal with the Mets, the top remaining free agents are Elvis Andrus and players like Hanser Alberto and José Iglesias. Obvious trade possibilities are again sparse. Players like Amed Rosario, Jorge Mateo or Nick Madrigal could be dealt but aren’t necessarily likely to move. Boston, Atlanta, Minnesota, the Angels and the White Sox are among the teams that could seek out upgrades at one of the middle infield spots.
There’s no urgency for San Diego to deal either Grisham or Kim, of course. Both players are affordable and currently penciled into everyday roles. Padres president of baseball operations AJ Preller acknowledged as much last week, telling Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic the team’s “intention” was to retain their current position player group thanks to “the flexibility and the versatility it gives our team.” Lin’s report suggests they’re not completely committed to that course of action, though, at least if offered a chance to upgrade elsewhere on the roster.
The back of the rotation is something of a question mark, with Nick Martinez and Seth Lugo slated for the fourth and fifth spots behind Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell and Yu Darvish. Only Musgrove is guaranteed to be around beyond next season; Snell and Darvish will be free agents at the end of the year, and Martinez and Lugo could opt out of their multi-year deals (although only if the team first declines a two-year option in Martinez’s case). The club could also consider ways to upgrade at catcher or add another bat to the corner outfield/first base mix.
The organization’s farm system has thinned considerably in recent seasons as they’ve packaged a lot of their depth for impact trade acquisitions, perhaps leading them to be more amenable to deal from the MLB roster in the right circumstance. Young catcher Luis Campusano would seem to be a candidate for such a move on paper considering his strong prospect pedigree, but Lin relays that trade interest in the 24-year-old isn’t particularly strong at this point.