Offseason Outlook: San Diego Padres

Next up in our Offseason Outlook series, the Padres.  Their likely commitments for 2010:

C – Nick Hundley – $404K
C – Eliezer Alfonzo – $400K
1B – Adrian Gonzalez – $4.75MM
2B – David Eckstein – $1MM
SS – Everth Cabrera – $400K
3B – Kevin Kouzmanoff – $432K+
IF – Luis Rodriguez – $675K+
IF – Edgar Gonzalez – $407K
LF – Kyle Blanks – $400K
CF – Tony Gwynn Jr. – $405K
RF – Will Venable – $402K
OF – Chase Headley – $412K
OF – Drew Macias – $401K

SP – Kevin Correia – $750K+
SP – Chris Young – $6.25MM
SP – Mat Latos – $400K
SP – Clayton Richard – $405K
SP – Tim Stauffer – $400K

Other candidates: Aaron Poreda – $400K, Sean Gallagher – $410K, Cesar Ramos – $400K, Wade LeBlanc – $402K, Cesar Carrillo – $400K, Josh Geer – $402K

RP – Heath Bell – $1.255MM+
RP – Luke Gregerson
RP – Mike Adams – $415K
RP – Joe Thatcher – $404K
RP – Greg Burke – $400K
RP – Luis Perdomo – $400K
RP – Edward Mujica – $410K

Other candidates: Adam Russell – $405K, Ryan Webb – $400K

Non-tender candidates: Shawn Hill, Cha Seung Baek, Luis Rodriguez

The Padres have about $21.5MM committed before arbitration raises to Kouzmanoff, Rodriguez, Correia, and Bell.  By my estimate those raises will put the team in the $30MM range for 2010.  The Padres had an Opening Day payroll of $42.7MM, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.  New Padres CEO Jeff Moorad told MLB.com's Corey Brock in August that he's comfortable with a $70-80MM payroll, "but it's likely that it will take us a couple of years to get back to that level."  While Moorad doesn't expect a huge free agent splash, Padres GM Kevin Towers should realistically have at least $15MM available this offseason.

Towers recently suggested to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune that the Padres could be a .500 team or even a playoff contender next year.  The GM added, "I don't know if we need to do a lot this winter."

ESPN's Buster Olney and various Baseball Prospectus writers covered the Padres a few days ago, suggesting the team might add a veteran starter and outfielder despite Towers' comment.  The article ponders trading Bell to free up the payroll space needed for bigger-name free agents like Chone Figgins, Randy Wolf, or John Lackey.  I like the idea of trading Bell, but the salary relief would just be a side benefit.  I'd trade him simply because he may be at peak value and Towers is skilled at building bullpens out of nothing.  Problem is, there's a surplus of closers on the market this winter.

Towers has admitted interest in bringing Milton Bradley back, talking with ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.  If the Cubs are desperate enough to cover $17MM of the $21MM left on his contract, it'd be as if Towers signed a potential .400 OBP bat to a two-year, $4MM deal.  It's a chance worth taking, and it'd leave the Padres with a surplus of outfielders.  The Padres are second-to-last in the NL with 3.96 runs scored per game this year, but a Gonzalez-Blanks-Bradley heart of the order could be decent.  More silver lining: Headley, Venable, and Kouzmanoff have been offensive assets in the second half.

It'd be nice to have Wolf back, but even the classic San Diego discount might result in a $10MM salary.  I'd rather entertain Lackey for $15MM.  Either way, a quality veteran addition would push Richard to the fifth starter role and give the team surprisingly strong rotation depth months after trading Jake Peavy.

If Towers truly has a quiet winter and keeps the payroll around $30MM, it'd be a stretch to see the 2010 Padres contending.  But with the right free agent strikes and perhaps a shrewd Bell trade, they'd have a chance.


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