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Inbox: Who's odd man out in a healthy outfield?

Beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers questions from Padres fans
MLB.com @AJCassavell

How do we look at the outfield problem now? Travis Jankowski, Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe are playing well right now. When Franchy Cordero and Wil Myers come back, who's guaranteed a spot?
-- Austin, Santee, Calif.

Before we get ahead of ourselves: We've been asking some version of this question since Spring Training, but injuries have prevented the Padres from having their full contingent of outfielders. Right now, they're probably closer than they've ever been, with both Myers (left oblique strain) and Cordero (right forearm strain) on rehab assignments. But let's pump the brakes and acknowledge this as a hypothetical.

How do we look at the outfield problem now? Travis Jankowski, Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe are playing well right now. When Franchy Cordero and Wil Myers come back, who's guaranteed a spot?
-- Austin, Santee, Calif.

Before we get ahead of ourselves: We've been asking some version of this question since Spring Training, but injuries have prevented the Padres from having their full contingent of outfielders. Right now, they're probably closer than they've ever been, with both Myers (left oblique strain) and Cordero (right forearm strain) on rehab assignments. But let's pump the brakes and acknowledge this as a hypothetical.

In any case, San Diego wants to make sure all of those guys are getting regular at-bats. Franmil Reyes is almost certain to give way, barring some sort of huge breakout over the next week. I'd also expect Matt Szczur to stay on board as a fifth-outfielder type who can serve as a pinch-runner, pinch-hitter and defensive replacement.

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That leaves four spots for the five guys mentioned above. If Myers is healthy, he's playing. Margot, still viewed as the center fielder of the future, probably gets regular at-bats, too. That leaves Cordero, Renfroe and Jankowski for two places. Based on merit, the top two will stick in the Majors and the other will be headed for Triple-A. But don't be shocked if the Padres explore trade possibilities for Jankowski and Renfroe at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Does Matt Strahm get stretched out to be a starter this year?
-- Craig M., San Diego

Technically, of course, Strahm is already starting. But if you're looking for a more traditional five- or six-inning outing from Strahm, we're still a ways away from that.

Strahm has been excellent as the first pitcher on bullpen day, routinely working two or three innings before giving way to the rest of the relief corps. In those four "starts," Strahm has allowed one run in 10 innings while striking out 11. Naturally, that's led to some serious excitement about what Strahm might offer as a regular member of the rotation. In the big picture, the Padres are eager to find out. In the short term, however, they're not going to push him.

Strahm is less than a year removed from major left knee surgery, and he's still building strength in the lower half of his body. On a couple of occasions, Strahm has seen his velocity dip in the third inning of his starts. The 26-year-old left-hander could very well work his way toward a five-inning effort this season. But those deeper outings almost certainly wouldn't come on a regular basis.

We have a good idea of the trade return for Brad Hand. What would be the return for Craig Stammen and/or Kirby Yates?
-- Campbell D., Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Indeed, nothing has changed on the Hand front. The Padres will ask for a lot. As one of the game's elite left-handers, he's been likened to Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman when they were dealt at the Deadline in 2016. General manager A.J. Preller is expecting a similarly lucrative return. Once again, Hand's name is certain to grab headlines over the next month.

That said, it's just as likely that Yates and Stammen will be shopped. They've been excellent this season and could be useful pieces in a playoff-bound bullpen. The Padres, who boast one of the league's deepest crops of relievers, could probably withstand losing one or two top arms.

So what would San Diego get in return? Yates has two more seasons of arbitration after this year. Stammen has a year and a half left on a very affordable deal. Neither is a rental, meaning both could help fetch a mid-level prospect. Perhaps just as likely: The Padres could package one or both of them with Tyson Ross for a return similar to what they got last season from the Royals. In that deal, San Diego sent a pair of relievers and a veteran righty starter to Kansas City. The Padres landed Strahm and highly touted infield prospect Esteury Ruiz (currently ranked No. 10 in the system).

How optimistic are the Padres that Austin Hedges will improve enough as a hitter to at least become close to league average?
-- Sergio Q., Tijuana, Mexico

"League average" might be a stretch for Hedges, especially in the immediate future. In parts of four big league seasons, Hedges owns an OPS+ of 57. And while there is precedent for catchers to figure things out on offense later in their careers, right now Hedges isn't close to being league average at the dish.

The Padres are just fine with that. They aren't looking for league average from Hedges. He contributes so much defensively -- whether framing, game-calling, blocking or throwing -- that any offense is a plus. Hedges merely needs to be a serviceable No. 8 hitter in their lineup.

Last season, Hedges batted .214/.262/.398 with 18 dingers. Those numbers aren't particularly good. But if he can boost his on-base percentage just a bit, San Diego would take the rest of that line. The Padres could slot Hedges in at No. 8, where he'd offer the occasional offensive contribution. And he'd do that while anchoring the pitching staff as well as anyone in baseball. That's an acceptable yearly output in the team's eyes.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres