MLB: How the Padres, Rockies, Giants get to the postseason in 2024

October 24, 2023

At the end of each regular season in Major League Baseball, there are always teams that had playoff, or even World Series, aspirations which failed to reach the postseason. Reasons range from significant injuries, to underwhelming performance, or a combination of many. Then, there are teams who had little chance to begin the season to reach the playoffs.

In this series, we will go division by division. Dissecting each team that missed the playoffs in each division, discussing their 2023 campaigns and answering questions such as: How close are they to the postseason? Who are some key free agents they could add? What does their current payroll situation mean?

(All estimated payrolls are credited to fangraphs and do not include salaries for arbitration eligible players, AAVs for players with guaranteed contracts no longer on the 40-man roster, estimated salaries for players not yet eligible for arbitration and other players with non-guaranteed contracts, or sums of other payments.)

San Diego Padres

What happened in 2023?

The San Diego Padres finished two games out of a Wildcard spot and 18 games back of the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West division with a final record of 82-80 (.506). The starting rotation finished No. 1 in the majors in ERA (3.69), the bullpen No. 9 in ERA (3.80) and the offense No. 13 in runs per game (4.64). That all seems more than reasonable, until we dissect a little further.

It is well documented that the Padres finished the season going 9-21 in one-run contests. The bullpen accounted for 28 blown saves (tied for third-worst in the majors) and closer Josh Hader (impending free agent) accounted for five of them. At home, the pitching staff as a whole pitched to a 3.43 ERA, but on the road weren’t nearly as good (4.05 ERA). That might help explain part of the reason why they played to a 44-37 record at home, but just 38-43 away from Petco Park. Issuing walks usually comes back to bite, and the Padres ranked No. 21 at limiting walks, tallying 3.48 BB per nine innings.

The offense finished No. 7 in wRC+ (107) in MLB and produced runs at a top-15 rate, but there’s more here to look at. With runners in scoring position, they finished No. 19 in hits, No. 21 in wRC+ and to compound the issue, in high leverage situations had a batting average of .195. That is second worst in the big leagues only to Kansas City. At the plate, San Diego was far less successful against right-handed pitching than left-handed pitching. Just a 101 wRC+ against RHP in 2023, 123 wRC+ against LHP. With a lineup that features mostly right-handed batting with the exception of OF Juan Soto, OF Jurickson Profar, OF Trent Grisham and C Brett Sullivan, this doesn’t come as a surprise. Only two of those LHB had over 150 plate appearances (Soto, Grisham) and Grisham hit just .178 against RHP this year.

What’s the fix?

The Padres probably hope to extend Juan Soto but it would be a surprise if he didn’t reach free agency with Scott Boras as his agent. However, the Padres badly need to generate more balance in their lineup to create a better counter for right-handed pitching. The route that seems to make the most sense for 2024 is finding a left-handed hitting outfielder and/or first baseman to help anchor the bottom half the lineup against right-handed pitching. That, plus shoring up a bullpen that likely loses Josh Hader should be the two priorities. I would envision at Soto trade isn’t prospect loaded and instead is more MLB ready talent heavy.

The Padres don’t have glaring holes, and some of the high-leverage situation failures can be chalked up to bad luck. Stay the course, add diligently and look forward to 2024.

Key free agent possibilities:

San Francisco Giants

What happened in 2023?

On the season, the offense ranked No. 21 in team wRC+ (93), which wasn’t enough production to support a pitching staff that held a team FIP of 3.78 (good for No. 3 in MLB). That resulted in a 3rd place finish in the NL West with a final record four games under .500 (79-83). It didn’t help that key free agent add Mitch Haniger was oft-injured and in the 229 plate appearances he was able to put together, he ran a slash line of .209/.266/.365 for a 73 wRC+. The other bat added in Free Agency — Michael Conforto — held an exactly average 100 wRC+ in 470 plate appearances. Those underwhelming performances combined with dismal offensive seasons from Patrick Bailey and Brandon Crawford meant they were still missing the middle-of-the-order thump they were looking for last offseason.

What’s the fix?

With Alex Cobb, Logan Webb and Sean Manaea (player option) and Camilo Doval likely returning, the top half of the rotation should be set, though it wouldn’t hurt the Giants to find another top to middle of the rotation arm. However, without adding significant impact to the lineup it may be for nothing. The well documented chase to land Aaron Judge last year came up short, but I would expect the Giants to be after other big name bats such as Juan Soto in trade and Shohei Ohtani. Obviously, those would take massive resource commitments, but not completely out of reach for an organization that hasn’t gone more than three seasons without making the playoffs since the  2004-2009 seasons. While there is a shortage of free agent bats in the 2023-24 class, there is plenty of opportunity to add for those willing to spend, and in trade.

Key free agent possibilities:

Colorado Rockies

What happened in 2023?

With an offense that ranked dead last in team fWAR in majors in 2023 (0.6) and a pitching staff that was also dead last in ERA (5.68) its tough to see a road ahead for Colorado to get into the postseason in 2024. The likely path here is another rebuild or reboot. The Rockies traded away C.J. Cron and Randal Grichuk for some solid prospect capital at the deadline to likely start the process. There are but a few bright spots here. Nolan Jones looks to be a worthy bat to build upon, the rookie hit for a 135 wRC+ in 424 plate appearances. Charlie Blackmon signed a one year deal to come back in September.  Rotation arm German Marquez should be back next year and my guess is the Rockies hope he turns himself into a solid trade piece.

The bullpen pitched to a league worst 5.41 ERA and likely needs on overhaul. I would imagine the likes of Justin Lawrence and Daniel Bard are traded between now and the 2024 trade deadline for prospect packages, along with anything of value to contending teams, such as Charlie Blackmon. Coors field does put pitchers at a bit of a disadvantage, but with that league-worst offense it really doesn’t matter.

What’s the fix?

It would take a miracle for the Colorado Rockies to compete for a playoff spot in the next three to four years. It has to be time to hit the reset button. They may do well to try and find a taker for the Kris Bryant contract, but without paying for a significant part of his deal its hard to see any takers at this point with his inability to stay on the field. If the Rockies plan on attempting to compete in 2024, they’ll need to Bryant to stay healthy, Nolan Jones to rake again and to re-haul their pitching staff. Again, the likely route here is a rebuild.

Key free agent possibilities:

Casey Bellon

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