Much has been made of the surprising first-place Padres' needs as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. It's a known fact that they've relied on tremendous pitching to win in spite of an offense that ranks 27th in the Majors with a .701 team OPS and 21st with 396 runs scored.
The San Diego Union Tribune's Tim Sullivan says that manager Bud Black made a subtle pitch to Corey Hart, a known Padres target, at the Home Run Derby, opining to the Milwaukee right fielder that a lot of his home runs would also have gone out in Petco Park to gauge a reaction. While Hart kept an even keel and simply replied, "Yeah, they would have," Black says he wanted Hart to know that the Padres were interested.
Padres closer Heath Bell also spoke with Hart, and relayed that Hart isn't happy to be on the trading block. If he does get moved, he would like to train in Arizona near his newly-purchased house.
While Hart's 22 home runs would look nice in the middle of the Padres lineup and add some much needed support for Adrian Gonzalez, it's worth noting that the offense may no longer be the club's main focus.
Padres general manager Jed Hoyer did acknowledge that they have the resources to improve both the offense and the defense, but said that the odds of a significant improvement to both seemed "remote." Any trades that send away cost-controlled young players will require a return that's controlled beyond 2010 for the Padres as well, according to Hoyer, who stressed that financial limitations make cost-control important to San Diego.
Sullivan asked Bell about his personal wish list for acquisitions, and Bell named Hart, Cody Ross, Miguel Tejada, and Milton Bradley before floating a unique idea: acquire Lance Berkman and put him back in the outfield. It's unlikely that Berkman would play a respectable outfield at this point, but the scenario suggests that Bell clearly would like to see a proven, veteran bat added to the lineup.