- The Padres were buyers at the 2023 MLB Trade Deadline, despite their win percentage staying under .500 since May 11.
- As of Aug. 4, they are four games back from a Wild Card spot.
At the start of the 2023 season, almost all MLB Power Rankings had the San Diego Padres firmly in a top-three position. From their aggressive moves at last year’s trade deadline, to their megadeals in the offseason, the Padres had seemingly put together a roster to watch, with the online sportsbook putting their Opening Day World Series odds at a respectable +1400.
Unfortunately, things have changed since then.
As of Aug. 4, San Diego is fourth in the NL West with a record of 54-55, and that’s actually one of the better positions the team has been in this season. Despite the highest of hopes to start the year, the Padres have consistently underperformed, and now looking at the final 50 games of the season, their World Series odds have leveled out at a mediocre +3500.
It’s only natural to wonder if it’s time for the team to cut its losses and turn focus to a strategic comeback in 2024 and beyond. Regardless, the Padres stood firm in their status as buyers at the trade deadline, proving the front office seemingly has far more optimism in the remainder of the season than most fans can still manage.
So, should the Padres have been sellers at the trade deadline, and if their instinct to buy was correct, do they actually still have a shot at making the 2023 postseason?
San Diego Padres Trade Deadline: Should The Padres Have Sold?
There’s certainly a case to be made that selling at the trade deadline would’ve been the smartest move for the Padres. Just ask the New York Mets, who were only three games worse than San Diego and practically held a fire sale on their top names.
When the clock struck 6 p.m. ET on Aug. 1, San Diego was fourth in the NL West with a record of 53-55, and a month before the deadline, the situation was even more dire. On July 1, the Padres were 38-45 with a win percentage of just .458, so other than slightly misplaced pride, one has to question why the team thought they shouldn’t sell. In fact, the Padres haven’t been at .500 since May 11, and even then, it was only for the briefest of moments.
San Diego made three moves at the deadline, acquiring pitcher Rich Hill and Ji Man Choi from the Pittsburgh Pirates, pitcher Scott Barlow from the Kansas City Royals, and first baseman Garrett Cooper and a prospect from the Miami Marlins. The biggest name they gave up in return was first baseman Alfonso Rivas, keeping rumored star trade chips Blake Snell, Josh Hader, Juan Soto, and Xander Bogaerts safely in San Diego.
The Padres’ buying efforts at the deadline prove one thing — the front office still believes the 2023 season can be salvaged. Their optimism is admirable, but it also means they’ve put a lot of eggs in a single basket, and not for the first time. The Padres’ “win-now” attitude has cleared their farm system for the second trade deadline in a row, and it’s yet to pay off for them.
Without extensions, Hader and Snell will become free agents at the end of 2023, and both would’ve made great rental players to a contending team. Soto still has a season of club control left after this one, and as it stands, Bogaerts’ extremely questionable 11-year, $280 million contract keeps him in San Diego through 2033. In my opinion, all four of these players should’ve been on the market.
Still, credit where credit is due — the trades the Padres made were good ones. Looking at it from a buyer’s perspective, the team needed bats for the bottom of the lineup, another arm in the starting rotation, and a backup in the bullpen. They secured all of that, and they didn’t even have to sacrifice a marquee name.
The Padres went into the trade deadline in a precarious position that could’ve gone either way, and I expect pride played a huge role in swaying them to stick to their guns as buyers. Still, the three moves they made were solid, so only time will tell if the front office’s optimism is inspiring or delusional.
San Diego Padres World Series Odds: Can the Padres Still Make the 2023 Postseason?
While it’s not impossible, the Padres have a huge amount of work to do before contention is a serious conversation this season. As of Aug. 4, they’re four games back from an NL Wild Card spot, and with the Los Angeles Dodgers already nine games ahead to lead the division, the MLB Wild Card Series is the Padres’ only realistic shot at advancing to the playoffs.
To be fair, perhaps the idea of a dramatic comeback this season isn’t entirely divorced from reality. In the first half of the season, the Padres went 43-47, but through the first 19 games of the second half, they’ve turned it around to go 11-8. It’s hardly an incredible win streak, but it’s a marked improvement that could signify bigger and better things to come.
Still, it’s San Diego’s almost impressive inconsistency that makes them hard to throw any real weight behind. Just last week, they swept the Texas Rangers in a three-game series, turning on a remarkable display of offense to take down the third-best team in MLB. The very next day, they lost 4-3 to the Colorado Rockies, effectively giving the game away in extra innings to their last-place division rival.
It’s frustrating, and it’s understandable that fans are sick of watching their top players cycle between brief glimpses of stardom and proving they couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat.
The Padres’ 0-10 record this season when a game goes beyond nine innings also can’t be ignored. Unfortunately, it also can’t really be explained. It’d be easy to point fingers at the bullpen, but after 109 games, the Padres have the best team ERA in MLB (3.66) and the seventh-best reliever ERA (3.76). While the team’s offense is seemingly more to blame — especially since they’re 20th in MLB in batting average (.240), 12th in slugging (.415), and 11th in OPS (.743) — none of those stats are horrific enough to justify a 0-10 record in extra innings.
So maybe the Padres have just been struck with a terrifying case of bad luck, and if so, maybe they can still turn it around. With a reshuffle of the batting lineup and some newly-acquired players to bring power on both offense and defense, I certainly don’t think a San Diego playoff berth is off the table this season.
Don’t call it a comeback.
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