Padres Points: Span, Victorino, Mateo

At this time last year, general manager A.J. Preller was in the mist of reshaping the San Diego Padres into what many thought would contend for the postseason.

A year later, the club holds a roster that has critical holes that have yet to be filled as the calendar approaches late December. Outfield, shortstop, starting pitching, and the bullpen remain areas of need.

1) Outfield 

The team was connected to two names this week, free agents Shane Victorino and Denard Span, according to tweets by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (here and here). Crasnick notes Victorino is looking for a one-year contract. He hit .230/.308/.292 in 2015. At this stage of his career, it might be wise to platoon him with a left-handed bat like Jon Jay or Alex Dickerson.

Span struggled with injuries but still put up a solid .301/.365/.431 when he played. If healthy, he would be an ideal leadoff man. Perhaps an incentive-heavy one-year contract with an option could be the way to go for Span, who still seems to have something left. Rule 5 pick Jabari Blash is someone to watch if they opt not to acquire another outfielder.

It still seems very unlikely they spend to acquire a top-of-the-market outfielder, but if the prices come down as it gets closer to spring training, it is something to watch. Top outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe could be ready to contribute by the summer, so it could become something to monitor as the season goes on.

Prediction: Team ends up signing a buy-low free agent in hopes he out-produces the contract negotiated.

2) Shortstop 

Ian Desmond continues to be seen as a logical fit by many, but still has yet to sign with the shortstop-needy team. According to reports, they have been in contact with Desmond’s representatives and continue to show interest in him. They have also been connected to short-term options this offseason. One name that has been mentioned is Jimmy Rollins, who could serve for this upcoming season and perhaps one after that.

Javier Guerra, a prospect who came in the Craig Kimbrel exchange, is likely two years away, but is seen by some in the industry as a starting shortstop. They could opt to go through the trade market, though it’s been relatively quiet this offseason on the Padres front. A few names they have been connected to in the past: Milwaukee Brewers’ Jean Segura and Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez.

Prediction: In one way or another, the team will fill the position that has been an organizational problem for multiple seasons.

3) Pitching 

Looking at starting pitching, the team has remained quiet in acquiring any starting pitcher on the free agent market.

They have re-signed Brandon Morrow to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, tweets Corey Brock of MLB.com. If healthy, he has a very good chance of being in the Opening Day rotation.

They also have other options, including Cesar Vargas, whom the team signed earlier this offseason. Vargas has yet to pitch in the major leagues. He was given a major league contract, so the team does see him as a contributor to the major league roster. There are other names that could be given a look, including Rule 5 draft pick Luis Perdomo and Brandon Maurer. A report stated earlier this offseason that the club was at least somewhat interested in re-signing Ian Kennedy, but would only likely be willing if the price comes down.

Looking at the bullpen, the only name they have been connected to on the free agent market is Fernando Rodney, who is another buy-low candidate after a rough season with the Seattle Mariners before being traded to the Cubs, where he performed better. He would be a candidate for a setup role or even the closer job. Two arms from the Rule 5 draft, Josh Martin and Blake Smith, will get a shot for bullpen spots. It seems unlikely the Padres go after anyone on the free agent market. Signals point to them building the bullpen on a foundation of cheap arms in hopes they can produce in the pitcher-friendly park.

It should not be ruled out that they bring in a veteran arm for either the bullpen or starting rotation on a minor league deal who could make the roster with a strong performance during spring training.

Prediction: Team might sign a few more pitchers to compete for a starting spot or a bullpen spot, but with the prices of pitchers on the free agent market, the Padres don’t seem inclined to spend that kind of money at this point.

Friar Notes

  • The Hanshin Tigers of Japan have reached an agreement with Padres relief pitcher Marcos Mateo, according to a report out of Japan. There have been no confirming reports from the American media, so it remains to be seen the other details on the situation.
  • The Padres remain one team that could have interest in starting pitcher Kenta Maeda, according to a report out of Japan. The team has scouted him in the past, but the real question is whether the team will be competitive in the bidding process.
  • There is still a feeling in the industry that James Shields could be moved, writes Nick Cafardo of the BostonGlobe.com. The teams he sees as fits include the following: Cubs, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, and Kansas City Royals (if the Padres send some money to help pay for his contract).

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