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Padres' interest in Hosmer said to be 'very real'

MLB.com @AJCassavell

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Unlikely as it may have seemed two days ago, the Padres have emerged as one of baseball's busiest clubs this week at the Winter Meetings.

Not only did they swing a pair of deals to land Chase Headley, Bryan Mitchell and infield prospect Deion Tansel on Tuesday, but their interest in free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer appears to be real.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Unlikely as it may have seemed two days ago, the Padres have emerged as one of baseball's busiest clubs this week at the Winter Meetings.

Not only did they swing a pair of deals to land Chase Headley, Bryan Mitchell and infield prospect Deion Tansel on Tuesday, but their interest in free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer appears to be real.

"Very real," according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Another source told MLB.com that there's definitely something substantial to the rumors linking the Padres to Hosmer. It's unclear how far those talks have progressed or if the Padres are preparing an offer.

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Last season in Kansas City, Hosmer batted .318/.385/.498 with 25 homers. He's one of the offseason's most coveted free agents, though San Diego is a curious destination given that Wil Myers currently mans first base there.

Myers, however, has already given the Padres his assurance that he'd be willing shift to the outfield, should the Padres land Hosmer. And Hosmer visited San Diego earlier this month to meet with the Padres face-to-face.

Still, signing Hosmer would require an unprecedented financial commitment from the franchise. Myers is currently the owner of the largest contract in club history at $83 million. Hosmer's deal is expected to reach nine figures.

At 28, Hosmer is certainly young enough to mesh with the Padres' plans. He'd serve as an experienced bat in a young lineup. But the organization's hope is that those young hitters push the club toward yearly contention, beginning in 2020 (or perhaps as early as 2019). Unlike most other free agents this offseason, Hosmer will presumably still be in his prime.

Padres have options at short

The Padres have "eight or nine" external shortstop options currently on their radar for the 2018 season, general manager A.J. Preller said. He wouldn't divulge how many are trade candidates and how many are free agents.

"There's probably eight or nine guys that we've started with that we think are realistic to try to acquire either in free agency or trade, and each guy has a little different skill set," Preller said. "We weigh that out in terms of acquisition cost, dollars and obviously what they bring to our club."

Preller wouldn't divulge much regarding the search. But he noted that versatility is a trait the organization will value, given that big-time prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. (No. 4 on MLBPipeline.com's Padres Top 30 prospects list) could arrive by 2019. It's possible the Padres look for a player who could shift from shortstop to another infield spot in a season or two.

Backup catcher on to-do list

In Austin Hedges, the Padres feel they have their catcher of the future locked up for the next half-decade. But who plays behind Hedges in 2018? That spot's still up for grabs.

Preller discussed his backup options at backstop on Tuesday afternoon, noting that Rocky Gale and the newly signed Raffy Lopez are options. But he'd still like to bring in another catcher before the offseason concludes.

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

San Diego Padres, Eric Hosmer