Times have changed in San Diego, and at 6:30 pm eastern, the signing of James Shields to a four-year, $75 million deal became official. Shields' signing almost surely wraps up what appears to be the Padres' greatest offseason ever, after they acquired a brand-new outfield in Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, and Wil Myers from the Braves, Dodgers, and Rays, respectively, while also adding a catcher and a third baseman in Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks.
I have heard and seen people, Padres fans and non-Padres fans, call the team "World Series contenders." Hold on a second there. Let's take a step back, shall we? I'm not sure the Padres are even division contenders, playoff contenders, or even 90 win contenders in 2015. FanGraphs projects the team to finish 80-82. While that may be a bit on the conservative side, I would not be surprised if they finished between 80 and 89 wins in the new campaign.
A lot of questions remain in San Diego, even after adding Shields, Upton, Kemp, Myers, Norris, and Middlebrooks. First is outfield defense. The Padres are planning on playing Upton in left, Myers in center, and Kemp in right. That outfield as a whole might just be the worst defensive outfield in baseball. The three outfielders are projected to post a combined -18.9 Fielding Rating (Fielding and Positional Adjustment Above Average) in 2015. That would have put them in the bottom 10 in baseball last year.
I'm also not convinced that Myers will hit. After posting a 131 OPS+ in 373 plate appearances in 2013 while winning the Rookie of the Year award, Myers has been almost exactly as far below average as a hitter in 2014 as he was above average in 2013. He posted a 77 OPS+ in 361 plate appearances last year. Myers' on-base percentage dropped 60 points from 2013 to 2014, while his average dropped over 70 and his slugging percentage dropped almost 160.
Myers' production, or lack thereof, could be attributed to a wrist fracture suffered in May. However, even when he came back in August, he was worse. From August 20 through the end of the season, Myers hit .213/.263/.268/.530 in 137 plate appearances. That's why I'm not convinced he is a big league hitter. It will take a full, healthy season to really see which Wil Myers he is, the emerging star or prospect bust.
I'm also worried about the chemistry of this team. The best baseball clubs are the ones that came through the minors together, that worked together, and that would do anything for each other. The 2013 World Series Champion Red Sox had great players in the clubhouse, ones that would worry about benefitting the team ahead of themselves. The 2008 World Series Champion Phillies, behind a core of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, and Cole Hamels, had great chemistry.
The Padres are a team full of players from different teams. In their starting lineup, only three players, Alexi Amarista, Jedd Gyorko, and Yonder Alonso, were with the team last year. What type of chemistry will this bunch form? It's hard to know, but history tells us that they won't mesh. The 2012 Miami Marlins and 2013 Toronto Blue Jays, both considered to be the "winner" of their respective offseason, went a combined 143-181 (.441) in those two years. If the Padres post a .441 winning percentage this season, they would go 71-91, a complete failure.
While it's nice to have James Shields, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, and Will Middlebrooks join a team in an offseason, does it really mean contention? And for the Padres, I'm not so sure. They will have their chance to prove it to me in the coming months.