A flurry of moves on Thanksgiving eve signaled that the prospect-hoarding San Diego Padres can afford to be impatient.
Late Wednesday morning, a number of Milwaukee Brewers turned Padres and vice versa. First, San Diego dealt infielder Luis Urías and left-hander Eric Lauer to Milwaukee for righty Zach Davies and outfielder Trent Grisham.
The Padres also reportedly signed lefty Drew Pomeranz, who was lights out as a reliever for the Brewers down the stretch this year, on a free-agent contract.
Adding Pomeranz, 31, and Davies, 26, provides a veteran presence to a bullpen and rotation littered with some names that currently occupy top prospect lists. And Grisham, who filled in nicely for Christian Yelich but could’ve potentially been haunted by a game-changing error in the wild card game, bolsters the depth of a veteran outfield. Lauer was quickly replaced and didn’t do much to separate himself from the next wave of San Diego’s very talented pitching prospects.
But giving up on Urías so quickly means that the Padres are exiting the rebuild stage and fine-tuning their major league roster to win now. Which makes sense because a team 13 years removed from their last National League West title and hasn’t finished better than fourth in the division since 2014 should be moving with urgency.
San Diego graduated a number of the game’s best prospects the past few seasons. The most notable among them being Rookie of the Year finalist Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack, the fireballing right-hander who went from Class A Advanced to ace of the staff within a year. The Padres still entered the season with nearly a dozen players listed among the top prospects in baseball and traded for more at the deadline.
Urías, 22, was part of that group when the year began. A natural second baseman with experience at shortstop, he was considered among baseball’s best 30 prospects after he batted no lower than .296 in five minor league seasons.
But at this time last year, Urías entered his first offseason as a major leaguer whose debut didn’t come close to approaching his minor-league success. He compiled a .221 batting average and .649 OPS in 83 total games in the majors.
Urías was young enough and had the past success to earn a little extra patience. Especially from a team that’s building around young talent. The slow start was easy to understand, but it wasn’t the only thing working against him.
San Diego has already proved willing to buck convention to reward success and move on quickly from what’s not working.
The long-term, big-money deals with Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado were signs the Padres’ rebuild wouldn’t rely solely on prospects. They also showed a willingness to skip the line in development should a player earn their spot, considering neither Tatis nor Paddack played a game at Triple-A.
They still also have one of baseball’s best farm systems with a number of players in the pipeline that can play Urías’ position.
The two best, CJ Abrams and Xavier Edwards, are still a couple of years from the big leagues. Edwards made it to the California League and batted .322 overall in his first full season. Abrams, a regular shortstop and the sixth overall pick in June, batted .393 in his first 34 pro games.
There’s a fair chance the Padres look outside the organization to add the final piece to what could potentially be the best infield in baseball. Mike Moustakas, Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro, Jonathan Schoop and Howie Kendrick are veteran free agents that should be attainable on short-term deals. But the Padres proved they probably want more than a player that could bridge the gap to Edwards or Abrams.
The move to Milwaukee joins Urías with another former top second base prospect, Keston Hiura. Orlando Arcia’s disappointing offensive production —1.2 oWAR over the past four seasons — will likely place the versatile Urías at shortstop in Milwaukee.
Davies went 10-7 last year and led the Brewers, who did not produce a single pitcher that qualified for an ERA title, with 159 1/3 innings pitched. His 3.55 ERA was a career-best and the lowest among Milwaukee’s regular group of starters.
The Brewers don’t possess much pitching depth, and Davies’ third year of arbitration eligibility comes in 2021. Urías is the prize for Milwaukee in the deal, and acquiring him came at the price of arguably their most reliable starter.
There are a lot of moving pieces still left to pin down for a Brewers team that booked consecutive playoff appearances. San Diego earned their Thanksgiving relevance Wednesday, but there’s still a lot of work to do before they’ll be a topic of conversation around Halloween.
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