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Padres have flexibility to add to 2015 payroll

SAN DIEGO -- If general manager A.J. Preller sees fit to add a starting pitcher, or other players, between now and Opening Day, he'll have the blessing of executive chairman Ron Fowler.

Repeating what he said in October, he reiterated Thursday that Preller will continue to have the ability to add payroll to help strengthen what figures already to be an improved team.

"[Team president and CEO Mike Dee], A.J. and I have had numerous conversations regarding payroll for 2015 and beyond," Fowler said in an email to "I believe A.J. feels he has sufficient flexibility to make a deal if it is the right fit.

"I very much respect his discipline in looking at options."

The Padres' payroll currently stands at a shade under the $90 million the team opened the season at a year ago -- which was a franchise record. That number, of course, could grow if a deal -- or deals -- are consummated between now and Opening Day.

The Padres, who on Thursday were exactly two weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting to Arizona for the beginning of Spring Training, are believed to be close to done in terms of roster construction.

But there's a chance that Preller, entering his first full season as general manager after being hired last August, might still have one more trick up his sleeve, maybe the finishing touch on what already has been an offseason that has seen him revamp the position-player grouping, adding Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers and several others.

Could Preller now add a starting pitcher to the mix to not only give the Padres an additional arm for their starting rotation but add a big, durable arm with history of production in the process?

The Padres have been linked to free-agent pitcher James Shields, who makes his home in the San Diego area, and Cole Hamels of the Phillies. Trading for Hamels might be more problematic, because of what figures to be the many moving parts -- possible pieces from the Padres' Major League roster, prospects, taking on Hamels' contract ($96 million over four seasons).

There are some in the organization who feel it would be prudent to add one more starting pitcher to the rotation to add to the grouping that already includes Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy. As it stands now, Brandon Morrow, Robbie Erlin, Odrisamer Despaigne and Matt Wisler would compete for the last two spots in the rotation. Adding Shields or Hamels would, essentially, push everyone back and give the Padres a much more formidable look.

Another starting pitcher would, of course, give the team additional depth. The old adage in baseball is you never finish the season with the same five starting pitchers you started with. The Padres know this better than anyone. They had 15 different starting pitchers in 2012, a season riddled by injury.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.
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