The lack of offensive pop for the Padres has become so glaring at this point, it hardly needs stated. Let’s do it anyway: They need to trade for or promote an impact bat.
They’ve spent too much money to muscle their way into a competitive window, only to be undercut by spotty to nonexistent power and timely hitting. They’re at risk of wasting elite starting pitching in a season when Joe Musgrove, Mike Clevinger and Sean Manaea face free agency on a staff considered baseball’s Kings of the Quality Start.
They own the second fewest errors in baseball and the Fielding Bible ranks them third in defensive runs saved. Base-running has improved immensely.
Clubhouse chemistry under manager Bob Melvin seems fully FDA approved.
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Just one thing only seems capable of threatening the late-season prospects of a team that has enough talent to be truly ascendant. The 5-2 loss Wednesday at St. Louis that broomed away the Padres in a sweep — San Diego’s first three-game losing streak of the season — offered another glimpse at the macro concern.
The Padres managed just six hits, with two of those coming in a ninth inning that began with a four-run deficit. After Manny Machado drove in a run two hitters into the game, the team finished 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position the rest of the way. Outside of Machado and Eric Hosmer, the rest of the lineup at Busch Stadium is hitting a combined .216.
The Padres stand 30-20, but that is solely because of their ability to do all the other things in baseball so remarkably well.
A house built on the health of starting pitching, in today’s game with its unending attrition, is held aloft by cards. The offense needs another proven bat. It’s difficult to believe the Padres can make a significant splash in October without one — even with the pending addition of Fernando Tatis Jr. — given the number of lineup holes.
Nearly a third of the season is in the books. This is no longer short-sample-size theater. It’s not early anymore.
Then again, has the Padres’ baseball operations department proved it can push the right offensive buttons in recent-season trades? The move to land Tatis has the earmarks of a steal of historic proportions, though injuries and durability in the spring of his career cause unease.
Beyond Tatis, what’s the report card?
Infielder Jake Cronenworth, an All-Star a season ago, seems the most likely to bounce back and recapture his track record, but he remains an offensive question mark. Tommy Pham, the focus of that trade, was chased down because of his on-base percentage, which forgot to pack its bags and stayed in Tampa.
Throw in Austin Nola, Trent Grisham, Jurickson Profar and Jorge Alfaro — all acquired in trades — and the unpredictable run-scoring support runs alarmingly deep.
How did some other bat-gathering swaps go?
Mitch Moreland’s coffee break in San Diego watched his .251 and .764 OPS numbers wilt to .203 and .609. Luke Voit, though showing encouraging signs of recent life, has yet to reach the same zip code for his career marks of .263 and .849. Adam Frazier arrived with the most hits in baseball to that point in 2021, only to fizzle and be shipped off to Seattle after 57 games.
Left-handed bench bat Matt Beaty collected just four hits in 37 at-bats this season before being sidelined with a shoulder injury.
In addition to the iffy bat-chasing track record, options seem far from guaranteed. The Nationals vow to hold onto Juan Soto, a transcendent 23-year-old outfielder. That seemed like a pipe dream, though, considering how the Padres tip-toed around a deal with the Twins for closer Taylor Rogers to stay under the luxury tax.
In fact, President of Baseball Operations and GM A.J. Preller massaged things to receive $6.6 million in the deal.
Still, the offensive need is real and growing.
In a recent game against the Pirates at Petco Park, the Padres’ lineup and the numbers behind the names resembled a split-squad game at spring training. No Machado. No Wil Myers. Still no Tatis. At quick glance, it seemed as if the group jogging out of the dugout might climb on a bus headed for Mesa or Goodyear.
This team is starved for home runs, standing No. 26 in baseball despite a sprinkling of long flies in recent games. This isn’t Ned Yost’s Royals or Tony LaRussa’s Cardinals that survived on producing piecemeal runs.
A chance to power up the outfield might exist inside the organization.
Nomar Mazara is hitting .367 with a 1.095 OPS for Triple-A El Paso. Utility option Esteury Ruiz, at Double-A San Antonio, is fourth in the Texas League in average (.343), OPS (1.078) and RBIs (36). He leads the league in runs (50) and his 33 stolen bases rank No. 2 in professional baseball.
Neither, however, is on the 40-man roster, meaning the Padres would need to designate a player for assignment (Robinson Cano?) or place someone on the 60-day injured list. Plus, the Trayce Thompson experiment yielded no offensive fruit.
The worst decision, though, would be to do nothing.
The Padres have invested too much money. They’ve assembled too much starting pitching. Landing Melvin remains a flat-out coup.
Go get a bat.