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Padres can explore pitching market at Meetings

SAN DIEGO -- They call Nashville "Music City," though when Padres general manager Josh Byrnes and his front office contingent arrive there for the Winter Meetings next week, the most fitting song to describe their winter forecast could be "The Sounds of Silence."

"In the big picture, our offseason was probably not going to be quite as busy as it was last year," Byrnes said on Monday.

To date, the Padres have done some tidying to their 40-man roster and made two trades, one minor and one that netted them right-handed pitcher Tyson Ross from the A's, with the hope Ross benefits from a change of scenery and the tutelage of manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley come Spring Training.

But the addition of Ross hasn't changed the club's singular focus this offseason: adding starting pitchers, likely two of them, to bolster a rotation that was ravaged by injuries in 2012.

"We have focused most of our energy on starting pitching ... with more of our energy on trades than free agency," Byrnes said. "Now we have to bide our time and find the ones who fit."

The Padres will still consider free-agent pitching, though the years and terms the market bears could be significant sticking points -- especially when you consider that Jeremy Guthrie essentially set the market with his three-year, $25 million deal with the Royals.

A pitcher like right-hander Joe Blanton, could be a fit. He has surpassed 190 innings six times during his career and could benefit from moving to a friendlier pitching environment. Think innings, durability, low walk rate, good strikeout rate and you might have a pitcher worth pursuing, perhaps on a two-year deal.

Byrnes, for obvious reasons, won't name the players he's targeting. But he did say Monday he will likely steer clear of one particular type of pitcher.

"With where we are now, with so many guys coming off injuries, it's not the time for us to take a flyer on a health risk," Byrnes said. "There's nothing wrong with it ... but it's just not the right time for us to do so."

That could rule out free-agent right-hander Dan Haren, a player Byrnes likes from their time together in Arizona. Haren missed three weeks last season with back stiffness. reported Monday that a hip issue might have nixed a deal last month between the Angels and Cubs.

The Padres had only two pitchers -- Clayton Richard and Edinson Volquez -- make more than 16 starts this past season. When they add pitching, they'll want some assurance of durability, especially because pitchers like Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland -- who each had Tommy John surgery last season -- won't return until midseason at the absolute earliest.

So if the Padres balk at adding free-agent pitchers, where will they find them? From other teams, and Byrnes has shown during his time in Arizona and last winter with the Padres that he isn't reluctant to pulling the trigger on trades, especially big ones (see Mat Latos to the Reds for four players).

A much-improved Minor League system as well as better bullpen and corner-infield depth have given the Padres some inventory in those areas should they choose to make a deal. Could the team dangle reliever Luke Gregerson or left-handed specialist Joe Thatcher to get a starter?

All will be considered and all has probably been discussed.

For now, though, Byrnes and his staff will continue to discuss free agents but will probably more so keep following what he calls "a trail of scouting reports," looking for players who haven't quite established value to this point, players -- and Ross might be a good example of this -- who could be had in a deal.

"We won't have as much roster change this offseason," Byrnes reiterated. " ... That said, we are always looking for ways to get better."

San Diego Padres, Tyson Ross