One of the most active teams in this slow off-season has been the San Diego Padres. They have made three big trades to beef up their pitching rotation, picking up Blake Snell from the Rays, Yu Darvish from the Cubs and the newly completed pick-up of former Astro Joe Musgrove from the Pirates. They also signed one of the top players from the KBO (Korea) in infielder Ha-Seong Kim.
There are many parallels between the Astros (before 2015) and the Padres (before 2020). Both were Expansion Teams, the Astros with the Mets in 1962 and the Padres with the Expos in 1969. Both have had minimal post-season success.
The Padres before 2020 had only been to the post-season five times in their history and had two unsuccessful World Series appearances. In 1984, they beat the Cubs and almost unbeatable Rick Sutcliffe (16-1 after being traded from Cleveland) in a five-game NLCS series and then lost to the 104-58 juggernaut Detroit Tigers in five games. In 1998, the Padres beat the Randy Johnson led Astros on their way to the World Series. They were swept by the juggernaut 114-48 New York Yankees, though like what has happened to the Astros they lost a couple games late, losing a 5-2 lead in the seventh inning of the 1st game and a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning of the 3rd game.
Before 2020, the Padres had won three post-season series in their history. Before 2015, the Astros had won three postseason series in their history. Before last season, the Padres had been going through a 13 season playoff drought. Before their 2015 playoff appearance, the Astros had been in the depths of a 9 season playoff drought.
So what have the Padres done to follow the Astros blueprint:
- In the last decade, both teams have had new ownership groups, the Astros with the one led by Jim Crane in 2011 and the Padres with an ownership group of O’Malley heirs from the family that owned the Dodgers for many years taking over in 2012.
- Both teams went with younger general managers, both the Astros with Jeff Luhnow in 2011 and the Padres with A.J. Preller in 2014.
- The Astros went full out tank mode, slashing their payroll, resulting in three straight 100+ losses in 2011 – 2013 and a 90 loss 2014. The Padres dropped their approximate $100 MM payroll in 2015 to $32 MM by 2017. This resulted in four 90+ loss seasons in a row.
- Both the Padres (Fernando Tatis Jr. , Dinelson Lamet and others) and the Astros (Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel and others) have pulled in a lot of talent from the International market.
- The Astros brought in Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke by trading from their depth of wealth in prospects, just like the Padres have done to bring in Darvish, Snell and Musgrove.
- The Padres, like the Astros, bottomed out on salary and then started increasing their spending in conjunction with their teams improving.
Now there have been some differences in the rebuild. The Astros offense’s core was built around high draft picks like Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer. The Padres offensive core is built around that International signing (Tatis Jr.), big free agent signings (Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado) and trade (Wil Myers). The Astros under Luhnow have never offered long term contracts to outside free agents like the Padres have with Hosmer (8 seasons) and Machado (10 seasons).
But in the end, the key here is whether the Padres can take the next steps and truly follow the blueprint set forth by our Astros.
Note: This post was completed before the announcement on the George Springer signing. The next post will be about our good friend George.