Padres have 'work to do' at Winter Meetings

December 7th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Winter Meetings arrive in San Diego next week. Nice of the Padres to be such busy hosts.

It’s already been an active offseason in San Diego, where general manager A.J. Preller has maneuvered to add , , and . He capped his nine-day spree on Friday by landing outfielder in a five-player deal with Tampa Bay.

But Preller might not be done. The Hot Stove will get even hotter next week when the Meetings come to the Manchester Grand Hyatt. The annual extravaganza begins Sunday and concludes Thursday morning, and the Padres clearly still have work to do this winter.

Preller’s recent moves have helped shore up a roster that slumped to 70 wins in 2019. But the Padres view themselves as contenders next season, and it will almost certainly take a few more winter upgrades to reach that goal.

“We're still working,” Preller said. “We're actively involved in conversations, and we'll see what happens. It's hard to predict whether you're able to line up with anything. So far, we've been able to line up with a few things. ... We're still looking to improve our roster, and we'll see what the Winter Meetings brings.”

Club needs: At the risk of oversimplifying things: pitching and hitting.

The Padres could certainly use some rotation help, though they seem determined not to overpay for the current options on the market. That might lead to a trade, or it might mean Preller slow plays the market for a better deal. But it's hard to envision him standing pat in the rotation.

At the plate, the Padres aren't picky. They just want better hitters, and they feel as though they’ve already upgraded with Pham, Profar and Grisham. If the opportunity arises to land another second baseman or outfielder, Preller will most likely jump at it again.

Whom might they trade? From the big league roster, is the likeliest trade candidate and has been for some time. He's still owed $61 million, and the Padres would love to shed some of that salary to clear room for future maneuvering. Plus, Myers' righty outfield bat is a bit redundant in a group that already features and .

But the Padres might not find any suitors for Myers at a price they're willing to pay. If that's the case, sources indicate they'd be content to enter the 2020 season with Myers as a projected starter.

On the flip side, the Padres will almost certainly look to deal from a deep group of prospects to bolster their big league roster -- perhaps for a starter or a corner-outfield bat with some pop.

Prospects to know: The Padres envision top prospects and one day anchoring the rotation alongside . That duo is almost certainly untouchable.

But Preller seems more willing to part with his prospects this winter than he has in the past. He made that very clear with his willingness to move infielder Xavier Edwards in the Pham trade. It's possible Preller deals from his pitching depth -- putting , and on the trade bubble.

Rule 5 Draft: In the first few seasons of Preller's tenure as GM, he used the Rule 5 Draft as a means for acquiring young talent. Over the course of two years, he made seven selections -- including each of the first three picks in 2016.

The roles have reversed. Now, Preller has built a group of prospects so deep that a handful of decent players will be exposed in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Infielder , outfielders and Michael Gettys and righties Trevor Megill and Dauris Valdez were all left unprotected.

If another team selects any of those players, that player would need to remain on a big league roster for the entire 2020 season or be offered back to the Padres.

Payroll summary: The Padres still must settle arbitration cases with eight players, but their current payroll projects at around $130 million. They've already added a notable sum with the additions of Profar, Davies, Pomeranz and Pham.

Based on past statements from ownership, the current projected payroll probably leaves room for a bit more spending this winter. But for the team to make a significant jump, it would almost certainly require Myers' salary to be moved.

Biggest question: What are the Padres willing to sacrifice to upgrade their rotation?

Internally, San Diego is more optimistic about its current group of pitching options than the rest of the baseball world. There's reason to be bullish, too. Gore and Patiño are two of the sport's top pitching prospects, and and will be fully healthy after returning from Tommy John surgery in 2019.

That said, it seems clear that this current group of starters could use an upgrade. (And there are clear upgrades available on the open market.) If the cost is too high in free agency, Preller still has the option of trading for a starter, though the trade market has been very tough to gauge.

No matter how the Padres add a starter, it's going to cost something. The biggest question remaining this offseason is: What is Preller willing to give up?