Cleat Geeks

Moves like…Preller?

With pitchers and catchers officially reporting, spring training is upon us. Today we take a look at a couple of teams that made a lot of headlines during a busy offseason, how they stack up against one another, and how I think those offseason moves will serve each team moving forward.

SD Padres  VSMiami Marlins

First, regarding the San Diego Padres, it seemed that GM A.J. Preller was in discussions for or with every single player that might have been available, turning over his entire 2014 Opening Day lineup – with the exception of the right side of their infield where Yonder Alonso and Jedd Gyorko somehow managed to weather the storm.  However, why we’ll be paying attention to this team in 2015 has as much to do with the number of moves made as it does with the stature attached to the players they acquired: MVP runner-up and (almost) 40-40 guy Matt Kemp, All-Star Justin Upton, 2013 ROY Wil Myers, and “Big Game” James Shields among others. Certainly, Shields will at least serve to eat some innings and stabilize a young rotation. But you can understand why fans of a team that finished at or near the bottom of pretty much every offensive statistical category last year might start to feel a little hopeful.

padres-kemp-baseball   Giancarlo Stanton

Next, we skip over to the other coast where the Miami Marlins made literally the biggest splash in sports history with the 13 year, $325 million contract that they handed out to Giancarlo Stanton. Add that to the notable additions of players like Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, Mat Latos, Dan Haren and Ichiro Suzuki, and the perception surrounding the Marlins are that of a team on the rise.

However, even with all of those additions, both teams are still looking at a number of challenges.

The Padres have certainly added a great deal of depth to their rotation, but will still be leaning on two guys, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner, to carry the bulk of the load. Both have gobs of potential; both, however, have also proven prone to the injury bug. Perhaps an offense that can score a few runs will take some of the pressure off. What won’t help them out is a defense that will be shaky at best. The Padres don’t have a true center fielder. Sure, Kemp was a fantastic fielder in his heyday, but injuries have slowed him to the point that patrolling the middle of the vast Petco outfield isn’t really a viable option. The only alternative appears to be trying Wil Myers in center, even though he played only one game there all of last season – and never projected as full time CF even in the minors. Unfortunately for the Friars, with no DH to fall back on, their improved offense may come at the cost of being able to stop the other team from scoring. And, while we’re envisioning that offense that has Padres fans in such an optimistic tizzy, let us not overlook the fact that they still play their home games at a park that tends to suck the life out of a fly ball faster than Dracula at a blood drive.

In fairness, the Marlins, while in a shiny, new park complete with an aquarium backstop, have to deal with the fact that the vast majority of their fans come to the games dressed as empty seats. This season, Miami will be banking on being able to plug in veteran guys alongside a core of talented young players. However, one major question is the return on investment they will get from some of those vets. Ichiro is 41 years old. Dan Haren was reportedly seriously mulling retirement before finally deciding to report. On the flipside, young players are just that, full of potential, but it remains to be seen if they can translate that potential into sustained success. (Case in point is the Padres Jedd Gyorko who followed up a fantastic rookie campaign with an abysmal sophomore slump.) Even still, the biggest unknown for the Marlins will be the health and wellbeing of Jose Fernandez. He is still recovering from elbow surgery that cost him most of his 2014 season. While he is reportedly shooting for a return after the All-Star break, there is no telling how effective he might be once he finally climbs the mound. If he is the dominant pitcher that we all know he can be, then he could provide a spark that ignites a push from the Marlins down the stretch. Yes, the Marlins tried to do right by Giancarlo by throwing some money around, but this team certainly doesn’t have the feel of the 1997 or 2003 spending sprees.

And so, in conclusion…

While both teams stand to be improved from last year, neither has a realistic shot at making much noise in October. The Padres are, I believe, still looking up in the NL West standings at the Dodgers and possibly even last year’s World Series Champion Giants, while the Nationals (especially with the addition of Max Scherzer) are clearly the team to beat in the East. Having said that, if I must choose the team that I would prefer to have this year and beyond – and I must or what is the point – then I would choose the…

mia

Yes, the Marlins have a certain reputation, and rightly so, as fire sale artists, though the long term deal with Stanton would seem to indicate a turning of the proverbial corner in that regard. But I like the young nucleus they have built, and think that they have the potential to be a threat out of the East for years to come. The Padres certainly have enough questions on their own, especially regarding their defense, to make me feel unsettled about them moving forward. This, of course, does not rule out the contingency that GM A.J. Preller couldn’t still make a move or three that would change my mind. But even so, my decision today, especially as it pertains to the 2015 season, is largely based on the fact that I think the Padres play in a much tougher division. With the money that Magic Johnson and his Guggenheim buddies are willing to throw around, the Dodgers don’t seem poised to be going anywhere, and, hey, the Giants have won 3 out of the last 5 World Series Championships. Meanwhile, the Marlins will be playing in a division that looks to field 2 truly awful teams: the Phillies, who are trying to sell off as many of their players as possible, and the Braves, who have apparently given up on even trying until their new stadium opens. Given that the Mets are a perennial dumpster fire waiting to happen, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Miami could challenge for a Wild Card spot as soon as this season.

Thank you for your time, talk to you soon!

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