Inbox: Could Liriano crack big leagues in 2014?
Beat reporter Corey Brock answers questions from Padres fans
The rumor mill for the Padres has been awfully quiet so far this offseason. Are we still in the market for a left-handed bat? I was wondering if you could give me some potential targets for us -- who could potentially be a fit for us via trade or free agency.
-- Corey P., Newbury Park, Calif.
Indeed, the Padres are still in pursuit of a left-handed bat and -- speaking of southpaws -- a left-handed relief pitcher, especially since they have jettisoned the two internal candidates, Colt Hynes and Tommy Layne. The need for a left-handed bat is to improve their poor offensive production last season while facing right-handed pitching. I think someone like free-agent outfielder Nate McLouth could be a fit. He is a career .260/.345/.441 hitter against righties, and hit .272 against them a year ago. Of course, the team could also look for an upgrade through a trade.
What are the chances the Padres just let the young kids pitch? Who has the best outside chance of cracking the rotation internally?
-- Sam B., Carmel Valley, Calif.
Sam, that's a fair question, and that could eventually be the case in 2014 and beyond. The rotation, after the signing of Josh Johnson last week, is fairly set now. That doesn't mean we won't see young pitchers like Robbie Erlin or Burch Smith at some point this season. And Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland should be back in Spring Training, and Casey Kelly -- who had Tommy John surgery in April 2013 -- could possibly return in 2014. And there's others on the way. Remember, this is a funny game. Your starting five on Opening Day is seldom the five pitchers you finish with. In 2012, 15 different pitchers made starts for the Padres, and 10 different players got starts a year ago. But for the first time in a long time, there's decent depth. Don't be surprised if we see some of those arms in 2014 -- or if they're used in a trade to land an offensive upgrade.
I was wondering about Rymer Liriano. Do you think if he is healthy and has a good spring, he could be a candidate to start in right field while having Will Venable start in center? He's a good overall player with the potential to be great, and I see him as a better option than giving up some of our young pitching prospects for a guy like Mark Trumbo.
-- Dylan R., Gig Harbor, Wash.
Hey, a question from my hometown. Thanks, Dylan! Good question about Liriano. He had Tommy John surgery last spring and missed the entire season, so he'll need to go back to Double-A, where he spent the second half of the 2012 season. Or it's entirely possible he could head to Triple-A. Liriano has just now started playing in games this winter, so he'll be ready to go at full speed when Spring Training gets underway. He's still only 22 and won't turn 23 until June, but he's an exciting player with a live arm and some pop and speed. So to answer your question, he's still a little ways off after the surgery. He's worth keeping an eye on in 2014, though.
What's going to happen with Chase Headley? The team has said it wants him to remain in San Diego. Then I've read that there haven't been any contract discussions. What's more likely to happen: A trade or a contract extension?
-- Brad B., San Diego
Here's my take on Headley: He's not going anywhere this winter. He's coming off a 2013 season in which he struggled, and if you deal him now, you're selling low. That doesn't serve the Padres well at all. And there's this: The Padres still like Headley a lot as a player. He's in the lineup every day and plays very good defense at third base. There's a lot to like. Can he spin that fast finish in September (.305 average, five home runs) into a quick start in 2014? Who knows? Is he something between the player he was in 2012 and '13? That could be the case, which, when you account for his durability and defense, is a pretty good piece to have. My best guess is he'll stay here through the winter, but that the two sides won't likely reach an agreement on a contract extension.