The Padres Didn’t Just Win the Trade Deadline. They Demolished It.

The 2022 Padres had a decent lineup heading into Monday, but following these moves, their lineup looks like something from a fantasy team.

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 3: Juan Soto #22 of the San Diego Padres and GM A.J. Preller answer questions during a news conference held to introduce Soto to the team August 3, 2022 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

A thesaurus is a beautiful thing. After the Battle of Helm’s Deep that was the 2022 MLB Trade Deadline, the typical usage of “insane” or “THIS LEAGUE!” might not do it justice. There were plenty of moves made by plenty of teams — the second consecutive year with such volume — but it was the Padres, and the Padres alone, that will be remembered for years to come. In an age of teams clutching their pearls, the Padres ride a motorcycle to the nearest pawn shop to sell theirs, all for the sake of winning a championship right now.

And after trading for Juan Soto and Josh Bell the day of the trade deadline, they just might do it.

Even with all the many moves Padres General Manager A.J. Preller, warlock, has made during his tenure — many of which haven’t always panned out — he still managed to shock the baseball world yet again. Following the Padres over the last 72 hours was like watching a Michael Mann movie, with all of the build-up (trading for closer Josh Hader and extending pitcher Joe Musgrove), the huge action set-piece (Juan Soto and Josh Bell, somehow), and even a little twist at the end (Trent Grisham hitting a walk-off home run). Glory be to the San Diego Padres.

The moves are a reminder of how quickly the baseball landscape can shift. An amalgamation of ill-conceived trades, regrettable motorcycle-driving habits, arguably one of the worst contracts in recent sports history, and swag chains concluded with perhaps the greatest achievement in Padres history since the days of Trevor Hoffman and Tony Gwynn. The 2022 Padres had a decent lineup heading into Monday, but following these moves their potential lineup has gone from something like this:

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  1. Jurickson Profar (LF)
  2. Jake Cronenworth (2B)
  3. Manny Machado (3B)
  4. Luke Voit (DH)
  5. Eric Hosmer (1B)
  6. Nomar Mazara (RF)
  7. Jorge Alfaro (C)
  8. Ha-Seong Kim (SS)
  9. Trent Grisham (CF)

To something that feels like it was ripped straight out of a fantasy baseball team:

  1. Jurickson Profar (LF)
  2. Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS)
  3. Manny Machado (3B)
  4. Juan Soto (RF)
  5. Josh Bell (1B)
  6. Brandon Drury (DH)
  7. Jake Cronenworth (2B)
  8. Jorge Alfaro (C)
  9. Trent Grisham (CF)

That’s right, the Padres have undergone such a drastic metamorphosis that acquiring Brandon Drury — who’s currently in the midst of his breakout season (.274/.335/.520 with 20 HRs and a 132 wRC+) — somehow manages to become an afterthought. Of course it shouldn’t, especially with his positional versatility, but that’s what happens when you trade for Ted Williams reincarnated at the bedraggled old age of 23.

But it doesn’t end there. Even with all of the prospects sent over (CJ Abrams, Robert Hassell, James Wood, MacKenzie Gore, Jarlin Susana), an underrated aspect of the Padres trade deadline is how there’s still a modicum of depth present outside of the main lineup. Ha-seong Kim has morphed into an average Major League batter (101 wRC+ this season vs 70 in 2021) and is an excellent defender; Nomar Mazara has contributed a fair amount, and Wil Myers is simply chill. On the pitching side, the potential return of some bullpen arms down the line (Drew Pomeranz, Robert Suarez, Pierce Johnson, and Austin Adams) could help make Josh Hader’s job of anchoring the bullpen a lot less taxing.

And as a treat, the Padres managed to hold on to Luis Campusano, who assumedly becomes the overall top prospect in their system. It’s good to see the young catcher is still in the future plans of the team, as Jorge Alfaro’s solid season isn’t something that any wise team should entirely bank on continuing. Even a name like Kevin Kopps may be called up, should the need arise, and be a nice addition to their bullpen down the road.

Make no mistake, the Padres did push in all of their chips. But unlike the group of fools at the beginning of Ocean’s Eleven, there’s not exactly the odor of total recklessness present in the room.

Of course, there are still questions to be had. Josh Hader has been shaky of late, Fernando Tatis Jr.’s injury history remains, and it’s simply possible that the sheer amount of turnover within such a short time frame could cause some unforeseen change in mojo that stats can’t possibly predict.

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Heck, can the team count on getting the best from Sean Manaea and Blake Snell? Or is a repeat of last season’s rotation woes potentially in the cards? Can Yu Darvish, at his age, hold up for the entire season and be a reliable starter in a playoff series? Even with the Padres deadline being historically exciting, these are all fair questions!

But unlike years past — the Austin Nola and Adam Frazier trades and Eric Hosmer signing, in particular — they feel like questions for sake of devil’s advocate, not an emergency broadcast signal blaring throughout your house. The bottom line is that the Padres got about as good a set of players as you can in a short time frame, and there’s a level of control (remember, Soto still has two more years!) and vision here.

It’s very much possible that this seismic trade deadline effort by A.J. Preller and the Padres may not amount to championship success. By standing next to the Dodgers, perhaps they’re Jinx only punching away at a high score they can’t hope to reach no matter how desperately they try. But maybe that’s the biggest point of all this: the Padres are simply trying. They’re a franchise that hasn’t sniffed anything remotely close to eternal glory, so instead of hoping for prospect palooza to save them, they’re shooting their shot.

In an age of baseball that sees teams shipping off their best players even when they’re in first place and have a low payroll, it’s refreshing to see one club out there that’s ready flip the bird to that status quo and put it all on the line.