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Inbox: What are Padres' shortstop options?

Fans ask about competition for Sardinas, reliever Baumann's chances
MLB.com @AJCassavell

With the Padres' rotation suddenly coming into focus, the most pressing question on the roster is now at shortstop.

Luis Sardinas is the projected starter, but the Friars are looking to provide some Spring Training competition for the unproven 23-year-old.

With the Padres' rotation suddenly coming into focus, the most pressing question on the roster is now at shortstop.

Luis Sardinas is the projected starter, but the Friars are looking to provide some Spring Training competition for the unproven 23-year-old.

With that in mind, many of your questions in this week's mailbag center around shortstop -- and how the Padres might acquire an option to pair with Sardinas.

:: Submit a question to the Padres Inbox ::

Since the Padres are looking for a competition at shortstop, what is the possibility the team will look at Zack Cozart as a possible answer? Is a veteran shortstop like Erick Aybar a more likely possibility?
-- Eric

Cozart and Aybar are certainly available. But I'm not sure how well they would fit into the Padres' plans. We'll start with Cozart, who is in the final year of his contract with Cincinnati.

Cozart is a very good defender, and he would be a boon to the Padres' ground ball-heavy rotation. Plus, he'd be a stable presence to complement Sardinas' volatility. But to acquire Cozart, the Padres would have to give something up -- likely from within their farm system. It's hard to imagine general manager A.J. Preller sacrificing any ounce of the future for a one-year rental at short.

As for Aybar, he's the more likely option, simply because he's a free agent. Other than doling out a modest contract, San Diego wouldn't need to surrender anything to acquire Aybar. But the club has spoken a lot about its search for a shortstop of the future. That would seem to indicate the Friars are looking instead for an unproven talent with a higher ceiling.

What would it take to get Hanser Alberto? Do the Padres covet Alberto more than their internal options; or would he just be added to the mix in a potential trade?
-- Mickey K., San Diego

The Padres have indeed checked on Texas' Alberto, a slick-fielding 24-year-old who owns a .194 batting average in 76 Major League games. Alberto fits the Padres' mold better than Aybar or Cozart, and Preller was with the Rangers when Alberto signed in 2009.

Video: TEX@OAK: Alberto makes a smooth backhanded stop

It probably wouldn't take much to get Alberto on board -- possibly a fringe prospect or two. That said, it's unclear how serious any discussions are. Rumors of a Travis Jankowski-Alberto swap were unfounded. And the Rangers are by no means the only team with whom the Padres have spoken.

As for where Alberto fits -- he'd be fighting for a roster spot with Sardinas as the clear favorite. Alberto simply hasn't shown enough at the plate. With that in mind, the Padres are probably looking for a shortstop who would put up a better fight for the starting job.

Which brings us to ...

Who is the shortstop [on Opening Day]?
-- Bob L.

At this point, I'd put Sardinas' chances at around 80 percent. The Padres will almost certainly add another shortstop. But Sardinas has the upper hand after a solid stint with the Padres last season. In 34 games with San Diego, Sardinas batted .287/.353/.417, impressing plenty of people in the organization along the way.

One name to watch is Detroit's Jose Iglesias, who would probably have the edge in a spring battle. But most of the other options -- whether trade candidates or free agents -- don't stack up as favorably with Sardinas.

Where do the Padres see Buddy Baumann fitting in 2017?
-- Tom H., Lenexa, Kan.

Baumann, who notched a 3.72 ERA in 11 appearances for the Padres last year, is certainly in the mix for a spot at the back end of the bullpen. Aside from one poor outing against the Mets, he was practically untouchable in his big league debut season.

But the Padres' bullpen composition isn't ideal for Baumann's chances. San Diego has a glut of left-handed pitching options, and Brad Hand and Ryan Buchter are roster locks. Assuming the Friars opt to carry seven relievers, Baumann will likely be pitted against fellow southpaws Jose Torres and Keith Hessler for one of the final spots in the 'pen.

The Padres have been talking about adding veteran arms to the club to help out their rotation. Are they in talks with Jered Weaver? And what are the chances the Padres could get someone like Doug Fister or Colby Lewis for at least two years?
-- Benjamin R., San Diego

The Padres aren't the only team in search of rotation depth, and the three pitchers mentioned above would bring just that. Each would serve as a much-needed veteran presence. And they'd all have a good chance to crack the rotation in San Diego, while they might not elsewhere.

That said, all three are well past their primes and come with serious age and injury concerns. San Diego has already added three starters this offseason and can be more selective on the market. In that sense, the Padres wouldn't offer much, and it's extremely unlikely they'd dole out multiple years for any of the remaining hurlers.

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

San Diego Padres, Buddy Baumann, Luis Sardinas