Three free agents the Padres must sign to compete with the Dodgers

The Padres are expected to spend big again in free agency. Photo from CBS Sports.

The San Diego Padres are once again a relevant team in MLB. After spending several years floundering near the bottom of the NL West, the Padres are on the up. In the truncated 2020 season, San Diego posted a 37-23 record as the team bagged a playoff berth through the wildcard spot. San Diego thrilled fans on both the west and east coast. This young group of players played an exhilarating brand of baseball.

Young shortstop Fernando Tatis jr. burst onto the big league scene; he played at an MVP level with both bat and glove. Veterans Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer brought some much-needed experience to the clubhouse. With this perfect blend of youth and experience, San Diego rode a magic carpet ride to the NLDS.

And that was when the fairy tale season got hit by the sledgehammer of reality. The San Diego Padres got clinically swept by the Dodgers. The Padres were competitive through large parts of the series. But, the Dodgers prevailed as they won the crucial moments. The two-out moments that you need to succeed in playoff baseball. Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts came up big with both bat and glove.  Those two combined to wrestle the series away from the San Diego Padres. Ultimately, LA was too strong for this young side.

Free agency help for San Diego

But Padres fans still can be optimistic. Jayce Tingler is a fantastic manager. He managed his young team superbly. However, this current squad will need help. The Padres play in the NL West: Home to the juggernaut World Champion Dodgers.

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The Giants are a proud club who will be wanting to bounceback with a vengeance. San Francisco has been linked to George Springer, so we know they are looking to rebuild. Colorado and Arizona are always competitive; they play tough baseball; one can never write those two teams off.

In summary, the San Diego Padres play in a hellacious division. This young team will want help in the form of players coming through the offseason. Let’s take a look at three free agents that could help this Padres club inordinately.

Trevor Bauer

Mike Clevinger will miss the 2021 season due to undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Padres acquired Clevinger at the trade deadline to be the leader of the rotation. He is now out for the year; San Diego will need to replace him.

Who better than the reigning Cy Young award winner? Trevor Bauer was outstanding at Cincinnati; the big pitcher posted an ERA of 1.73. That is an absurd number. Bauer’s WHIP was incredibly low too. It was the best year of his career. Working out of a four-pitch mix, Bauer overpowered batters at the plate. Bauer’s career ERA is 3.90; this is higher than the healthy San Diego Padres pitchers.

With Zach Davies, Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet, Bauer would not have to be the ace of the rotation; he could slot in at third or fourth in the order. An experienced pitcher coming off a Cy Young year should be a no brainer for the San Diego Padres front office. It would give them a four-man rotation which can bring diversity, power and leadership. Bauer does not shrink when he is on the mound; he relishes the battle. In a division with Betts, Seager, Bellinger etc. that could be invaluable. Oh, and he’s from California too.

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Michael Brantley

Veteran Michael Brantley could be an incredibly smart pickup for the Padres. The 33-year-old lefty batted at .300 last year. That batting average was considerably higher than current left fielder Tommy Pham. Brantley also displayed good patience in the batters’ box. His on-base percentage was .364. Good patience in the box could be a valuable trait to add to this lineup. The Padres possess players who slug very well. Signing Brantley is something that should be thought about; adding a lefty who is patient, works the count well and can put the ball in play could be a super signing for San Diego.

Brantley also brings depth to a position on the field where San Diego is light. Pham is the only real left fielder on the depth chart, adding Brantley, as a veteran voice to the clubhouse, would be a smart move. They could platoon him or use him in matchup specific scenarios. It brings another tactical edge to the Padres lineup.

Kike Hernandez

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The Dodgers have still not re-signed Kike Hernandez. Hernandez does it all on the field. He is a superb infielder when he has played at second for LA; he has demonstrated magnificent anticipation and a bullet arm.

Hernandez is smooth when addressing a ground ball plus he has the excellent ability at making catches and stops on those line drive shots. He is a utility player who also plays impressively in the outfield. He tracks the ball well; he also communicates powerfully with his fellow outfielders. The Dodgers displayed that elite fielding is crucial to being successful. LA’s fielders made vital plays at critical times that turned the NLDS and NLCS on its head.

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Also, Hernandez is a clubhouse guy. Just like Nick Swisher was for the 2009 Yankees, Hernandez can corral people around. He can stay positive and is mentally very strong. These intangibles are essential over a 162 game season as well as the playoffs. Again, the San Diego Padres can platoon Hernandez depending on what pitching matchup you like. We saw this in game 6 of the NLCS as he crushed a crucial home run to keep LA alive. The other reason I’d sign him: He knows the division, he knows the Dodgers and what makes them tick. If the San Diego Padres want to be World Champions, at some point, they will have to beat the LA Dodgers.

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