SAN DIEGO -- The Padres capped their third straight 90-plus-loss season on Sunday. A busy offseason awaits.For three years, general manager A.J. Preller has turned over the roster, acquiring young talent with an eye to the future. The Padres, owners of the best farm system in baseball, believe that "future"
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres capped their third straight 90-plus-loss season on Sunday. A busy offseason awaits.
For three years, general manager A.J. Preller has turned over the roster, acquiring young talent with an eye to the future. The Padres, owners of the best farm system in baseball, believe that "future" could become the present very soon.
• Myers confident he can improve at third
But first, they've got quite a few questions to answer this winter. These five are particularly pressing.
1. Who's the shortstop?
Freddy Galvis started all 162 games for the Padres this season. Now, he's headed for free agency, leaving a gaping hole at short. Fernando Tatis Jr., MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect and the club's presumed shortstop of the future, will be in big league camp next spring. But he's unlikely to crack the Opening Day roster.
Both Galvis and the Padres have expressed interest in a reunion. But Tatis' looming presence means the Padres might not be willing to offer Galvis the length of contract that he's looking for. And if the two sides do agree, Galvis would almost certainly need to be open to something of a utility role. He'd cede playing time to young infielders Tatis and Luis Urias.
If Galvis doesn't return, the Padres could look to a thin free-agent market for a stopgap until Tatis arrives. They could also stay in-house and give Javy Guerra a look. Guerra has been a defensive wizard in the Minors, but his bat has lagged well behind. Ultimately, the Padres could settle on a spring competition between Guerra and a veteran on a one-year deal, with Tatis waiting in the wings.
2. When does Tatis arrive?
Tatis' situation with the Padres isn't quite the same as two other high-profile service-time debates, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez (ranked No. 1 and 3 by MLB Pipeline, respectively). Both Guerrero and Jimenez appear big league ready. With Tatis, that isn't quite so clear yet.
Tatis missed the last two months of the Minor League season with a broken bone in his left thumb. He batted .286/.355/.507 for Double-A San Antonio and would probably open the '19 season with Triple-A El Paso.
But Tatis' performance in winter ball and Spring Training could go a long way toward pushing his timetable forward. It's been a decade since the Padres had a reliable long-term option at short. Tatis isn't far from filling that void. Finally.
3. Where does William Myers play?
The emergence of right fielder Franmil Reyes was one of the most positive storylines in San Diego this season. But it leaves the Padres with something of a logjam in their outfield. Hunter Renfroe seems to have anchored a place for himself in left field.
In August, Myers shifted to third base, and he struggled mightily on defense. He'll spend the offseason honing his footwork and growing acclimated to the position. But his growing pains are cause for concern. If Myers isn't a long-term solution at third -- and he doesn't look the part right now -- the Padres seemingly have three power-hitting corner outfielders, all of whom bat right-handed.
There's also the possibility that one of the three is dealt before the season. The Padres would still have depth in the outfield, with Franchy Cordero set to return from elbow surgery and Manuel Margot and Travis Jankowski capable of playing center.
4. Where do the Padres find starting pitching?
There's not a single question more pivotal to the Padres' 2019 success than this one. If you look closely, the pieces for the Padres' long-term offense have mostly already arrived. The pitching staff, meanwhile, isn't close.
All five rotation spots will be up for grabs next spring, and 2018 rookies Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, Jacob Nix and Brett Kennedy will compete for jobs. Prospects Chris Paddack and Logan Allen are expected to arrive next season, too.
Realistically, however, none of those youngsters is close to ace-caliber for 2019. The Padres need a front-end starter or two if they want to contend, and they will explore their options in free agency. But in a thin pitching market, the best route to acquire pitching might be via trade, and the Padres certainly have enough prospects to swing a deal for a big name.
5. Austin Hedges or Francisco Mejia -- or both?
In Hedges and Mejia, the Padres have two of the best young catchers in the sport. And they've got an important decision to make. Hedges, a defensive wizard, has made serious strides with his bat. Mejia, meanwhile, has strides to make on both sides, but he's still only 22 and the top-ranked catching prospect by MLB Pipeline.
The Padres must decide whether they're going to trade one or find room for both. The latter isn't as far-fetched a possibility as it seems. The organization has expressed a desire to ease Hedges' workload. Privately, too, they've discussed Mejia as a part-time outfielder. In theory, there could be enough at-bats to go around, if Mejia were to split time between two positions.
Ultimately, both Hedges and Mejia will almost certainly be dangled in trade talks this offseason. But good catching is hard to find in the big leagues, and the Padres won't be in a hurry to deal either.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.