NL West Notes: Tatis, Musgrove, Senzatela

The Padres currently have a record of 46-33, placing them in the top National League Wild Card spot and just 3 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. They’ve managed to do that without any contributions from their star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who has been on the injured list all year after hurting his wrist in an offseason motorcycle accident (or accidents). Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic asked Tatis if he would consider moving off shortstop in his return, to which he replied, “The plan so far is shortstop.” When Rosenthal suggested Tatis could make a good fit in center field, Tatis said, “If it means we’re going to win more ballgames like that, I’ll do it that way,” before adding that he has been taking some fly balls in the outfield recently and that the switch is “not out of the question.”

This wouldn’t be the first time Tatis moved to the outfield while returning from an injury. After dealing with shoulder issues for much of 2021, Tatis ended up playing seven games in center field and 20 in right field upon his return, before eventually returning to the dirt. The idea was that outfielders have to make full-effort throws less often than infielders, which would reduce the wear-and-tear on his arm. Rosenthal pitches a similar plan for the Padres this year, taking the production of Ha-Seong Kim and Trent Grisham into account.

Kim’s batting line of .223/.314/.339 is a few points below league average, amounting to a 91 wRC+. However, his strong defense has allowed him to produce 1.4 fWAR on the year already, despite that subpar offensive output. He’s tallied four Defensive Runs Saved at shortstop this year, along with two at third base. Outs Above Average has given him a six this year between the two positions, with UZR giving him 4.6 at short and 1.1 at the hot corner. Grisham, however, has a .192/.290/.332 batting line this year, which results in a wRC+ of 82. If playing outfield is more beneficial for Tatis’s return to health and there’s more room for improvement in center than at shortstop, perhaps the Padres will give some consideration to taking this route, though much will surely depend on how things play out between now and then. With the trade deadline a month away, there are many moving parts that could change the calculus, but it will be an interesting story to develop along the way.

More details from the NL West…

  • Elsewhere in the same article, Rosenthal says that extension talks between the Friars and starter Joe Musgrove have “fizzled.” In April, the club reportedly gave him an offer of eight years in the vicinity of $11MM per year. Talks apparently continued since then, though the club doesn’t seem to have done much to bridge the gap between their offer and Musgrove’s asking price. The fact that Musgrove turned down that offer isn’t terribly surprising, given his potential earning power. Back in April, MLBTR’s Anthony Franco noted that Musgrove is headed to free agency with similar numbers to both Robbie Ray and Kevin Gausman, both of whom just earned five-year deals worth $115MM and $110MM, respectively. Those amount to AAVs of $23MM and $22MM, double the type of contract the Friars were putting in front of Musgrove, though with different terms. Since that writing, Musgrove has done nothing to diminish his free agency outlook and may have even improved it. His 2.25 ERA is easily the best of his career, almost a full run better than his 3.18 from last year. His 25.6% strikeout rate is a few ticks below last season’s 27.1%, though he’s also reduced his walk rate from 7.2% to 5.3%. The Padres have reportedly considered trading from their rotation depth this year, though the equation will get tricky next year. Musgrove, Sean Manaea and Mike Clevinger are all slated to reach free agency this winter. Nick Martinez also has a series of player options that could allow him to choose another trip to the open market. That leaves Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and MacKenzie Gore as the three starters penciled into the staff for next year.
  • Antonio Senzatela left last night’s start after just 37 pitchers over two innings due to some shoulder tightness. Thomas Harding of spoke to the starter, who admitted that he’s a bit worried about it. “I’m worried because this has never happened to me,” Senzatela said. “I got scared a little bit. They said it’s nothing bad. Hopefully, it’s not bad. Hopefully, I’ll be better tomorrow and be ready for my next start.” His 4.95 season ERA won’t wow anyone, but it’s not awful for a guy whose home park is the most hitter-friendly venue in the league. Losing a rotation mainstay like Senzatela for any amount of time wouldn’t be great news for the Rockies, as their season is already in dire straits. Currently sporting a record of 33-44, they’re in the basement of the NL West and nine games behind the Cardinals for the final NL Wild Card spot.

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