Never count out the always-busy Padres at Winter Meetings

November 30th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- It's another hometown Winter Meetings for A.J. Preller and the Padres. For the third time in Preller's nine seasons as general manager, baseball’s signature offseason event comes to San Diego Dec. 4-8.

There's still an awful lot for Preller to accomplish over the next 2 1/2 months -- most notably filling out a roster that has the looks of a contender with a few very notable flaws. No better time to put the wheels in motion than next week, when the entire baseball world descends on San Diego.

Here's everything you need to know about the Padres at the Winter Meetings:

Key events

• Sunday, Dec. 4: Hall of Fame Contemporary Era Ballot results released (Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling)
• Monday, Dec. 5: All-MLB Team announced
• Tuesday, Dec. 6: Inaugural Draft Lottery, AL/NL Relievers of Year announced
• Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rule 5 Draft

Club needs

The Padres have solidified their pitching staff already this offseason, bringing back Robert Suarez and Nick Martinez. But they could still use another arm or two for the rotation. That should be an area of focus at next week's Winter Meetings, with mid-tier starting pitchers plentiful. The Padres could also use a bit of thump in their lineup, presumably at an outfield corner or at first base.

Potential trade candidates

At this year's Deadline, the Padres sent a sizeable portion of their farm system packing in trades to acquire Juan Soto, Josh Hader, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury. As such, there isn't much left to deal from within the system. But as far as young Major League talent goes, catcher Luis Campusano and left-hander Adrian Morejon are enticing pieces with sky-high upside. (Then again, both fill positions of need on the Padres' current roster, so it might take the perfect deal to move them.)

Prospect to know

Jackson Merrill burst onto the scene this season with some outstanding numbers in Single-A. Amid all the turnover in the Padres' system, he skyrocketed to the top of their prospect rankings, and for good reason. Merrill is a shortstop with a smooth left-handed swing who batted .325 with an .869 OPS in the California League in his first full season of pro ball. He is, quite clearly, the prize of the Padres' system, and after losing so much talent midseason, it seems unlikely they'd move another top-100 prospect this winter.

Rule 5 Draft

The Padres protected left-hander Tom Cosgrove from the Rule 5 Draft by adding him to their 40-man roster ahead of the mid-November Deadline. There are a few lower-level arms who, in theory, might be scooped up by other teams. Like, say, No. 10 prospect Jairo Iriarte. But the drafting team would need to spend a season with Iriarte on its big league roster, or offer him back to San Diego. Meanwhile, the Padres only have 32 players on their 40-man roster, so it's possible they make a move. But it also seems unlikely, considering there aren’t many fringe places available on the active 26-man roster.

Burning question

Does Preller have another major deal or two in him? The Padres' farm system may have been depleted in August. But there are few GMs as creative as Preller when it comes to getting a deal done. The Padres have some enticing young big leaguers and could still theoretically be players on the trade market. That said, San Diego has an awful lot of money committed to its 2023 payroll already, and its trade resources are thin. It's less likely than in past winters that the Padres would be able pull off a blockbuster. But don't ever count Preller out on the trade front.