Padres plan to groom young club around Myers

Padres plan to groom young club around Myers

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Padres squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the vision?

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' record might not justify it at season's end. But there's a palpable sense of optimism surrounding the club this spring, in stark contrast to the 2016 edition.

It's a vastly different roster from the one that broke camp last year. Gone are high-priced veterans like Matt Kemp and James Shields. In their place, youngsters like Hunter Renfroe and Luis Perdomo are set to take center stage.

Every club preparing for Spring Training with own vision

In a loaded National League West, the Padres face an uphill battle. But the roster -- specifically the offense -- is full of players who are expected to be part of the solution rather than stopgaps for the future.

"Our plan is to try to invest in guys that we feel like are going to be here for the future, guys that are going to be here long term," general manager A.J. Preller said. "Then when the time is right, go out and get some impact players we feel like can be a part of that as well."

Justifiably, the Padres have taken some heat for their payroll, which is expected to sit just below $60 million this season. About half of that number will go to players no longer on the roster, like Shields and Melvin Upton Jr.

But in the same vein, the club's ownership can be lauded for its investment in the future. Including penalties, the Padres have spent approximately $75 million on the amateur international market -- more than doubling the spending of the next highest club during this period. In doing so, Preller has taken advantage of the final year before a hard cap is instituted on international spending.

The Padres also boasted the most picks on Day 1 of last June's Draft. And they managed to turn those high-priced veterans into some highly touted prospects.

"It's not about getting to a certain payroll level this year," Preller said. "It's about building your system, growing your team so that it isn't going to be just average in the next few years. There's definitely going to have to be some patience. But in some ways it's going to be exciting. ... As the team grows in the next few years, so will the payroll level."

The Padres have already begun locking down that future. Last month, they gave star first baseman Wil Myers a six-year, $83 million contract extension with a team option for 2023. Myers is the linchpin of Preller's plan, and a few more of those pieces are set to arrive in '17, when Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Austin Hedges will finally see regular playing time.

On the mound, however, none of the Padres' top three prospects are expected to make an impact until 2019 at the earliest. As Myers said at his press conference, "These types of plans take some time."

But a year ago, the club was caught in limbo, ready to commit to its youth, but with a handful of veterans blocking the path. Entering 2017, the vision for the future has never been clearer.

"There's a lot of questions to answer," said manager Andy Green at the news conference to announce Myers' extension. "But there's a lot of interesting baseball players that are young and under team control for a long time, that have talent. ... We're getting closer to where we want to be. Finished? No, by no means. But we're getting closer."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.