Coming into Tuesday’s trade deadline, the San Diego Padres were in a bit of a precarious situation. The Padres sat at 52-55 and five games out of a wild card spot. While the team made big splashes last year in acquiring Juan Soto and Josh Hader near the deadline, this year the club focused on adding players to serve in a more complementary role, as opposed to trading for another well-compensated star.
“We looked at a lot of different scenarios the last few weeks,” said Padres president of baseball operations and general manager A.J. Preller on a Zoom call with local media. “Getting to the bullpen, getting a left-handed bat that could be part of our lineup, another professional hitter in Garrett Cooper, and a guy with [pitcher] Sean Reynolds from an upside pitching standpoint who has a chance to help out this year or down the road. We checked some boxes in the last few days.”
In total, the Padres made three trades on Wednesday, dipping into their farm system to add five players to the organization. Here is a breakdown of all the trades that transpired at the deadline.
What the Padres added: The first deal of the day saw the Padres add a veteran starter who could serve as a swingman or perhaps slot into the rotation as the club awaits the return of Michael Wacha. Hill, 43, is 7-10 with a 4.76 ERA in 119 innings. When he makes his first appearance for the Padres, they will become the 13th big league team that Hill has suited up for.
Ji-Man Choi, 32, missed eight weeks this season with an Achilles strain. In 14 games, since returning, Choi is hitting .268/.294/.634 with four homers. Throughout his career, Choi has been quite effective against right-handed pitching. He has a career 124 wRC+ against righties and due to his struggles against lefthanded pitching, he is probably best used as a platoon bat.
What the Padres gave away: The most recognizable name the Padres traded to the Pirates was lefthanded starter Jackson Wolf. Wolf, 24, was ranked as our #14 prospect in our preseason top-20 list. After struggling in a brief cameo in San Antonio last season, Wolf returned to the Texas League and pitched well. In 18 starts with the Missions, Wolf pitched to a 4.08 ERA. He racked up 105 strikeouts in 88 innings. He made one start with the Padres on July 22 and pitched five innings to earn his first major league victory. As we noted in July, Wolf has shown improved velocity on his fastball and that has led to more encouraging results. Even with the uptick, the 24-year-old lefty relies more on movement and long levers in his delivery than high-octane stuff. He’ll get plenty of opportunities to show he can stick in the rotation with the Pirates.
Estuar Suero, 17, signed with the Padres as part of their international signing class in 2022. After spending last season in the DSL, Suero came stateside and showed some impressive raw tools, including loud contact to all fields. While complex numbers aren’t the best gauge to judge a prospect, Suero was hitting .216/.306/.345 with four homers and 23 RBI. The young outfielder is a long way from contributing at the big league level but his athleticism and raw tools are intriguing.
Alfonso Rivas, 26, was signed by the Padres as a minor league free agent last year after spending the previous two seasons with the Cubs. After impressing with El Paso, the Padres added the Chula Vista native to the 40-man roster. He got into eight games with the Padres and hit .200/.294/.333.
Deal #2: Padres receive RHP Scott Barlow from the Kansas City Royals.
The Padres added to the back end of their bullpen by nabbing Scott Barlow from the Royals. The righthander has experience working as a closer, as he has 56 career saves, including 13 this year for a terrible Kansas City club. His 5.36 ERA this year looks a little ugly, but his 3.64 FIP is nearly identical to the 3.62 mark he posted in 2022. Last season, his ERA was 2.18. Barlow has seen his walk rate nearly double while his fastball velocity has dipped to 92.7 mph – down from 93.7 last year.
On top of the experience he brings, Barlow will also come with control for 2024. Barlow is arbitration-eligible. He gives the Padres options for this year and beyond.
Henry Williams is the top prize going back to Kansas City, as they add a high-upside righthander who was drafted in the third round last year. Williams, 21, was our 10th-ranked prospect coming into the year before he had ever thrown a professional pitch. He threw just 37.2 innings in his college career and had Tommy John surgery during the 2022 season. This season, after tuning up in the ACL, Williams joined the Lake Elsinore Storm to mixed results. In 12 starts, Williams pitched to a 5.74 ERA in 42.1 innings. His fastball velocity in our looks topped out at 93, mostly sitting in the low-90s. He also throws a curve and a changeup. He’s an upside gamble for the Royals who will need plenty of development time.
Righty Jesus Rios is a bit more of an unknown. He signed with the Padres last winter after pitching with Mazatlan in the Mexican League. Baseball America noted that Rios can touch 95 mph with his fastball. However, at 21 years old, he has only worked in relief across 16 games in relief in the Dominican Summer League. Overall, he had a 6.38 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 18.1 innings.
Deal #3: Padres receive: 1B/DH Garrett Cooper, RHP Sean Reynolds
Marlins receive: LHP Ryan Weathers
The Padres added another bat – this one a former all-star – to add to their first base and DH platoon in 32-year-old Garrett Cooper. Cooper has been just below league average offensively with a slash-line of .256/.296/.426 with 13 homers this year. Last season, Cooper made the National League All-Star team, although he hit just .210 with two homers in the second half of the season. He should form a capable tandem with Choi that will help lengthen the Padres’ lineup and bench.
Righty Sean Reynolds is an intriguing prospect who should slot prominently into the organizational depth chart. Reynolds, 25, was drafted in the fourth round by the Marlins in the 2016 MLB Draft as a position player. Listed at 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, Reynolds showed massive raw power, but equally massive swing-and-miss issues.
In 2021, the Southern California native converted to pitcher and the results have been encouraging. In 38 games this year between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A, Reynolds has a 2.35 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 48.2 innings. Reynolds has shown a fastball that can sit in the upper-90s and the Baseball America team likes the high-80s curve and changeup he can pair with it.
Departing San Diego is lefty Ryan Weathers, who was the Padres’ first-round pick in 2018. Weathers rose through the Padres system fast, seeing action in the 2020 playoffs against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made 30 appearances, including 18 starts with the 2021 Padres, and showed flashes but he finished the season with a 5.32 ERA. He spent the 2022 and 2023 seasons bouncing back and forth between El Paso and San Diego. Last season he pitched to a 6.73 ERA in El Paso while positing the lowest strikeout numbers among qualifying pitchers.
This season, he showed some improvement in his second stint with El Paso, posting a solid 4.20 ERA in eight starts with 52 strikeouts in 40.2 innings. Weathers saw action in 12 games (10 starts) with the Padres, pitching to a 6.25 ERA. He will look to continue his big-league career with the Marlins.