Padres likely to be quiet at Winter Meetings
Roster largely constructed, with lefty reliever biggest remaining need
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' front-office contingent, led by general manager Josh Byrnes, heads to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Sunday for the Winter Meetings, which begin the next day.
There might not be much for them to do, unless someone gets a wild hair and opts for a visit to any one of the rides at nearby Walt Disney World.
Yes, it could be that quiet for the Padres, who already have made two moves to address needs in the offseason -- signing free-agent pitcher Josh Johnson and, on Tuesday, making a deal with the A's to land outfielder Seth Smith.
Since becoming the general manager of the Padres, Byrnes has traded for closer Huston Street (2011) and then, a year ago, re-signed free-agent pitcher Jason Marquis while at the Winter Meetings.
At this point, the Padres are close to being a finished product in terms of roster construction. They will add a left-handed reliever at some point and likely another bullpen arm.
Here is a quick glance at the Padres' situation heading into the Winter Meetings:
Left-handed reliever: Even before moving Luke Gregerson to the A's last week, the Padres were going to add to their relief corps, signing or likely trading for a left-hander to balance the bullpen. And don't be at all surprised if they add another reliever, though prospects Leonel Campos and Kevin Quackenbush are two young arms the organization is excited about.
Bench bodies: The addition of Smith not only gives manager Bud Black flexibility but he offers a left-handed bat off the bench on those days when he's not starting. It's not clear if the Padres will look to add a bench player to the roster before Spring Training. And adding an infielder, specifically someone capable of playing shortstop, could be a priority.
Who they can trade if necessary
Young pitching: We know, you can never have too much pitching. But the Padres currently have more arms than they have vacant spots in the rotation. Could they hang on to all of them? Sure. But the team could also look to move or pair young arms like left-hander Robbie Erlin and righties Burch Smith or Keyvius Sampson in the right deal if it means a clear upgrade for the roster.
Outfielder/first basemen Kyle Blanks and Jesus Guzman: With the addition of Smith and with the team set with Yonder Alonso at first base, Blanks and Guzman are not only redundant but they're also two pieces the organization might be able to move in a deal, perhaps pairing with a pitcher. As it stands, Guzman is the better pinch-hitter of the two for those late-game at-bats.
Third baseman Chase Headley: Chances are good the Padres hang on to Headley and take him into the regular season as opposed to selling low on him after he struggled for the first five months of the season before a fast September finish. There's still a lot to like about him: a switch-hitter with pop from each side, he's durable and he's won a Gold Glove. Hard to say how this all ends, but it would be surprising if the team moved him this winter.
The Padres' Top 10 prospects, per MLB.com, are left-handed pitcher Max Fried, catcher Austin Hedges, right-handed pitcher Casey Kelly, outfielder Rymer Liriano, right-handed pitcher Matthew Wisler, outfielder Hunter Renfroe, right-handed pitchers Joe Wieland, Adys Portillo and Burch Smith and shortstop Jace Peterson.
The Padres have worked hard to rebuild their Minor League system, mostly through the Draft under Chad MacDonald and Billy Gasparino and the scouting department, and also trades. The coaches and roving instructors on the player development side have helped greatly to get many of these players close to being ready for the Major Leagues. That said, the team would move some of the players if the right deal presents itself, though Fried, Hedges and Wisler are about as close to untouchable as they come.
Rule 5 Draft
The Padres currently have 40 players on their 40-man roster and faced some very tough decisions to get to that number. Bumping a player if the right trade comes along is one thing, but figuring out who goes if the team opts to pick a player in the Rule 5 Draft, that could be a very tricky proposition. There's a remote possibility the Padres could lose speedy Minor League outfielder Rico Noel and right-handed pitcher Matt Lollis, who found success in 2013 after the organization lowered his arm slot, if they are chosen.
Big contracts they might unload
Headley, who is arbitration-eligible for the last time, figures to be the highest-paid Padres player, as he is projected to earn around $10 million. But, again, the team doesn't seem interested in trading him at this point and would prefer to let him rebuild his value before determining if it wants to pursue a trade or extension. Outfielder Carlos Quentin, who is coming off knee surgery, will make $9.5 million in 2014 but has a full no-trade clause and is from San Diego. Street will make $7 million in 2014, but the team has no interest in moving him. Outfielder Cameron Maybin is still owed over $21 million, though he's coming off wrist surgery in September.
The Padres could have their highest payroll since 2008 ($73 million) when Opening Day rolls around, as it figures to surpass the $80 million mark, up from the $68 million it was a year ago. New ownership of the team has vowed to raise payroll and, with arbitration raises and the $8 million deal they gave Johnson, have done so. There's a chance they'll have to spend more to land a left-handed reliever if a deal can't be made with another team to address that need.