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Know your enemy: San Diego Padres

Is this the year the Padres break out and contend?

Peoria Stadium, spring home of the Padres
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

EDITOR’S NOTE: I have been running these by division, in alphabetical order by city. But since the Cubs are playing the Padres tonight, I switched this one with the Dodgers preview. The L.A. “Know your enemy” article will run tomorrow.

In the winter of 2018-19, the Padres signed top free agent Manny Machado, beating out several other suitors for his services. Most of the other teams were contenders; the Padres weren’t. Would Machado alone be enough to send San Diego to contention in 2019?

He wasn’t. The 2018 Padres lost 96 games. The 2019 Padres lost 92. Machado hit 32 home runs, but otherwise his numbers were pedestrian (.256/.334/.462). The 3.1 bWAR he posted is very close to the four-win improvement in San Diego.

It wasn’t enough to save manager Andy Green’s job. Green landed on his feet as the bench coach with the Cubs, and Jayce Tingler, who held various coaching and front-office jobs for the Rangers, is now the manager in San Diego.

Tingler inherits a team that made a few changes in its lineup. The Padres made a major trade with the Brewers, acquiring Trent Grisham and Zach Davies for Eric Lauer and Luis Urias. Grisham is best-known for the error he made in the N.L. Wild Card game last year that sent the Nationals on to the division series and eventual World Series title. He’s got talent, though. Davies is a minor upgrade over Lauer. He’ll start tonight’s game against the Cubs.

Other than that the Padres’ major acquisition is Jurickson Profar, who will become the second baseman in San Diego. Profar is 27, yet already will be in his seventh big-league season. He was probably brought to the majors too soon (age 19) in Texas; he’s had good numbers the last two years in Texas and Oakland.

I honestly don’t know what to think about this team. They have one of the most dynamic young players in the game in Fernando Tatis Jr., who hit 22 home runs in just 84 games last year before his season ended in August with an injury. Despite the addition of the veteran Davies, the San Diego rotation still has holes. If they can get the game to the late innings, though, they do have the N.L.’s best closer in Kirby Yates and have bolstered their setup crew with the additions of Drew Pomeranz and the pitcher whose name is pronounced “Bear-claw.”

Former Cubs prospect Pierce Johnson is an intriguing addition. He couldn’t make it with the Cubs or Giants, but utterly dominated for Hanshin in NPB in 2019 (1.38 ERA, 91 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 58⅔ innings). Whether that translates back to MLB remains to be seen.

KEY ADDITIONS: Tommy Pham, Trent Grisham, Zach Davies, Pierce Johnson, Jerad Eickhoff, Jurickson Profar, Drew Pomeranz, Kyle Barraclough

KEY SUBTRACTIONS: Ian Kinsler, Hunter Renfroe, Carl Edwards Jr., Eric Lauer, Luis Urias

The Cubs will face the Padres April 21-22-23 at Wrigley Field and May 14-15-16-17 in San Diego.