Is There Any Direction in San Diego?

It’s hard to be optimistic about the current direction of the San Diego Padres.  On the one hand they seem to be moving in the right direction by cutting ties with closer Trevor Hoffman.  On the other hand you have to wonder what the purpose of bringing back the aging Brian Giles has to do with a looming rebuilding process.  Lost somewhere between General Manager Kevin Towers’ poor execution of allowing Hoffman to walk, and the manic decision to pick up the option on Giles’ contract is the mess of Jake Peavy trade rumors.

Hoffman is baseball’s all-time saves leader and undisputed face of the Padres.  He recently turned 41 (109 in closer years) and his fastball was looking anything but fast by the end of the season.  Letting him go was the right move by Towers, but the divorce turned nasty when the Padres rescinded their offer to Hoffman and the two sides battled through the media.  Heath Bell is the leading candidate to takeover the closer’s role next season; one would have thought that the team was moving towards a youth movement… think again.

The club picked up a $9,000,000 option on Brian Giles and his increasingly disappearing power.  Here is a guy that seems to have very little interest in winning; he turned down a proposed trade to the playoff bound Boston Red Sox at last season’s trade deadline.  Most baseball players work their whole career to have a shot at the World Series, Giles was handed the opportunity and chose to stay in San Diego.  Giles will be 38 years old on opening day and his homerun totals have dropped for the past 5 seasons.  He still draws a lot of walks, but his once mighty swing is behind him.

Don’t discount the flurry of Jake Peavy trade rumors.  Peavy is apparently seeking a trade to a contender (don’t ask why the Atlanta Braves came up in discussions).  The other team whose name keeps coming up is the Chicago Cubs.  Their inclusion in the Peavy trade discussions was thought to be a roadblock in their ability to re-sign Ryan Dempster but Dempster was locked up last week.  According to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, the Cubs face a couple of complications in their quest to acquire Peavy.

Peavy is among the best arms in baseball, and could fetch a number of solid prospects in a trade.  The Padres’ outfield is a buffet of underachievers (Jody Gerut, Scott Hairston) and the gimpy Giles.  Chase Headley showed some promise last season, and may be best suited for the outfield.  Adrian Gonzalez emerged as a legitimate run producer (.279/36/119) and an excellent first baseman, and Kevin Kouzmanoff could be a solid complimentary bat if he improves his patience at the plate (he had a lacklustre .299 OBP).

Kevin Towers has his work cut out over the next few months of the offseason, some pieces are there including a great bullpen, but the impending departure of Peavy will be the telltale sign of this team’s true direction.

-SL

Photo courtesy of SI.com.