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Know your enemy: San Diego Padres

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One big signing has the Padres much improved.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres looked headed toward another last-place finish in the N.L. West in 2019. They haven’t finished higher than third since 2010, when they blew what looked like a sure division title in the season’s final week (partly thanks to the Cubs, who took three of four from them in San Diego that week). They’ve got eight straight losing seasons.

Their signing of Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million contract changed all that. Now, the Padres are coming off a 96-loss season and one player like this isn’t instantly going to make them a divisional title contender.

But the Padres do have some other decent hitters. Ian Kinsler was signed as a free agent and he’ll complement veterans Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers, both of whom can hit. And, speaking of Hosmer and Myers:

This year, the Padres’ payroll will stand at about $118 million after signing Machado, which will still put them in the bottom half of MLB payrolls. The Padres scored 617 runs last year, which ranked 13th in the National League. The addition of Machado could put them in the middle of the pack in runs, which might make them a marginal wild-card contender.

But.

Oh, dear, that pitching staff. The Padres were also 13th in the N.L. in fewest runs allowed in 2018 (meaning, third-most) with 767. Only the Marlins and Reds were worse. Quick, name anyone in the Padres’ starting rotation this year. I’ll wait.

No, not Clayton Richard. He was traded to the Blue Jays in December. No, not Tyson Ross. He left as a free agent and signed with the Tigers.

As of now, the Padres’ depth chart shows their rotation as being Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, Robbie Erlin, Jacob Nix and Bryan Mitchell.

Those five pitchers combined to make 94 starts for the Padres last year and combined, those five had a 4.42 ERA in 547⅓ innings with 79 home runs allowed. Yikes. Kirby Yates is their closer and he’s pretty good, but how often will the Padres even get to a closer situation?

Like I said, Machado won’t singlehandedly deliver the Padres to the postseason, not this year and not in this division. But he puts them back in the conversation and they do have some prospects about ready, including Fernando Tatis Jr., who the Padres acquired from the White Sox in the James Shields trade (wow, talk about a bad deal).

They will, at the very least, become more interesting to watch.

The Cubs won’t see the Padres until after the All-Star break. They’ll host them at Wrigley Field July 19-20-21, and then play them in a four-game series in San Diego September 9-10-11-12, by which time we’ll likely see some of those Padres prospects playing in the big leagues.