LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Padres sent right-hander Anthony Bass to the Astros on Wednesday in a transaction that will be finalized when the Rule 5 Draft takes place on Thursday.
San Diego opened up one spot on its 40-man roster by shipping out Bass, 26, along with a player to be named later or cash in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. General manager Josh Byrnes said the deal is tied to the Rule 5 Draft, which takes place on the final day of the Winter Meetings, so it's no coincidence that Byrnes found Houston, which picks first, to be an "ideal trade partner."
This likely means the Astros will select a player on behalf of the Padres with the No. 1 pick, potentially someone to help fill the void in San Diego's bullpen. There are several relievers available who could stick on the Padres' 25-man roster, including right-handers Tommy Kahnle (NYY), Zach Thornton (PIT) and Marcos Mateo (CHC) and lefty Brian Moran (SEA).
It's also possible, but less likely, that the player coming back to the Padres is someone in the Astros' organization who is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, perhaps 26-year-old lefty Alex Sogard or 24-year-old right-hander Jake Buchanan, should they go unselected.
As explained in the Rule 5 Draft FAQ, "Teams may trade a player selected in the Rule 5 Draft, but the same rules regarding roster placement apply to the player's new team." Players picked in the Draft are automatically assigned to the 40-man roster and must be kept on the 25-man roster for the entire season while remaining active (not on the disabled list) for a minimum of 90 days. If he's not, he is offered back to the team from which he was selected for $25,000.
Bass recorded a 5.36 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 20 walks in 24 relief appearances for the Padres in 2013. He also made 15 starts for Triple-A Tuscon, finishing 4-6 with a 5.45 ERA, 60 strikeouts and 17 walks. In parts of three Major League seasons with the Padres, Bass went 4-8 with one save, a 4.08 ERA, 135 strikeouts and 80 walks in 75 games, including 18 starts.
Bass posted the following message on his @AnthonyBass45 Twitter account: "I want to thank the @Padres for giving me an opportunity to make my dream become reality. Now, ready to help the @Astros win a championship!"
Byrnes said the club felt that Bass "plateaued a little bit" this year, and the one thing they're not lacking for now is starting pitching.
"We obviously added [Ian] Kennedy, added [Josh] Johnson and some of our injured pitchers are getting healthy and some of our pitchers who were behind Bass have made progress. So he sort of lost ground on the depth chart," Byrnes said. "In a lot of organizations, he'll probably have a better opportunity."
Otherwise, the Padres remained busy but kept quiet. "Just another day at the Winter Meetings," as Byrnes put it.
Byrnes said his conversations and meetings this week at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort have been focused almost exclusively on upgrading the Padres' bullpen. Byrnes said they've made offers, both in free agency and potential trades, and the club is "getting a little better idea of things that are still alive and progressing and things that aren't."
Now, with offers on the table, it's just a matter of waiting to hear back. But it seems unlikely that the Padres will pull off anything other than the Rule 5 Draft-related transaction before heading home Thursday.
"For one, I don't think the trade discussions are quite as close, and free-agent discussions, even if we agreed, I'm on a plane 24 hours from now and we'd have to get a physical of the player," Byrnes said. "So I don't think we'll have anything to announce here."
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.