The Padres’ Next First Baseman

first baseman

Looking ahead to Opening Day 2023, the San Diego Padres currently do not have an everyday first baseman on their roster. At the moment, the team’s everyday first baseman is Josh Bell, who will be a free agent at season’s end. Looking at the roster as is, Austin Nola looks to be the only option, with a duo of Luis Campusano and Jorge Alfaro sharing time behind the plate. The first base free agent market this winter won’t be so selective, but general manager AJ Preller has a few options if he prefers that route. Or, the solution could be found on his roster. 

 

First Baseman Free Agents

Josh Bell 

The Padres acquired Bell just ahead of the trade deadline with Juan Soto from the Washington Nationals. Preller acquired his new everyday first baseman with high hopes that he would add some much-needed power to his lineup. 

That optimism has yet to become reality. Bell has a 74 wRC+ since being acquired by the Padres. His OPS is well below replacement level (.707), as his slash line while with the team is .192/.301/.275/.576. To sum it up in one sentence, he has performed far below expectations at the plate. Moving into his age 30 season, Bell doesn’t appear to have much of a case to remain with the Padres. It’s more likely that they would prefer to move on. 

 

Trey Mancini 

Trey Mancini is another player hitting the free agent market this winter. His profile alone will make him a target by several teams. He has an inconceivable comeback story. He was a fan favorite while with the Baltimore Orioles, the team that drafted him in 2013. That alone makes him an attractive acquisition. He already has shown he can connect with fans. 

The Houston Astros acquired Mancini ahead of the trade deadline. His time in Houston can be described with one word — unlucky. He has a .198 BABIP while with Houston. Despite being just as hitter-friendly as Camden Yards, it could be that he has yet to adjust to the dimensions at Minute Maid Park. A potential downside of this — Petco Park is not as hitter-friendly as either of those venues. On the other hand, it could just be Mancini is working through a case of bad luck. 

Mancini has experience in the outfield, as well. His versatility would give manager Bob Melvin options for his lineup from day to day with the added depth Mancini provides. A San Diego signing signals the Padres have their new everyday first baseman.

 

Internal First Baseman Solutions 

Jake Cronenworth 

Jake Cronenworth is the Padres’ everyday second baseman for the moment. Changing his situation to becoming the everyday first baseman is not a bad idea. 

Looking ahead, the plan takes time to come to fruition, with shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. serving an 80-game suspension that will stretch into next season. Nevertheless, it’s a good long-term plan. Move Cronenworth to first base, and slide current everyday shortstop Ha-Seoung Kim over to second. Once he returns, Tatis most likely goes back to short. 

Cronenworth has a .333 OBP (on-base percentage), and is nearing 100 RBI (85) and 100 runs scored (87) on the season. He and Kim both are producing 4-WAR (wins above replacement level) in 2022. Even with Tatis returning, a strong case can be made to keep both players in the everyday lineup. 

Wil Myers  

Looking back, only one player has been through nearly the entirety of the Preller era — Wil Myers. He spent all of the 2017 season as the everyday first baseman. He moved back to the outfield in 2018, the year the Padres signed then-free agent Eric Hosmer

Myers has dealt with a myriad of injuries over his tenure, yet his aloof attitude and connection with local media and fans have not wavered. Beloved by fans, he’ll be missed by the San Diego fanbase if he does not return in 2023. Myers is playing out the final year of the six-year, $83 million contract he signed in 2017. Myers’ contract has a $20 million team option for 2023. The Padres instantly have their everyday first baseman by picking up his option. 

 

The Next First Baseman?

From a fiscal standpoint, waiting out Tatis’s suspension and then moving Cronenworth makes the most sense. Padres owner Peter Seidler would not have to spend a significant amount of money for a new first baseman. On the flip side, Seidler has shown almost no hesitancy to spend. 

He is paying $30 million annually to Manny Machado and gave a mega deal to Tatis. He boldly said after acquiring Soto that he would “never” be hesitant to retain the right fielder. After hearing him say that word, it doesn’t appear he would have an issue with keeping Myers if Preller wants him back at first base. The same goes for giving a deal for Mancini, in the right situation.

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Players/Managers Mentioned:

Josh Bell, Austin Nola, Luis Campusano, Jorge Alfaro, Juan Soto, Trey Mancini, Bob Melvin, Jake Cronenworth, Fernando Tatis Jr., Ha-Seoung Kim, Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado