Padres open camp with boxes to check

February 13th, 2019

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The busy Padres offseason never fully materialized.

In need of pitching help, an everyday third baseman and a solution to their outfield logjam, the front office was active in its discussions over the past few months -- just not active enough for any major moves to come to fruition. Yet.

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Pitchers and catchers report to camp in Peoria, Ariz., on Wednesday, with infielders and and right-hander as the only big league acquisitions. Richards, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, might not even pitch this season.

Given all the remaining roster questions, the supposed "busy offseason" could roll into a "busy spring" instead.

At the forefront are rumors surrounding superstar free agents and . As things stand, the Padres remain interested in both. But their level of interest is practically indecipherable. The organization isn't commenting publicly or privately on any talks.

We know the Padres met with Harper in Las Vegas last month. We also know the front office has expressed interest in Machado. It's unclear whether the two sides have met formally, but sources indicate Machado is well-versed in San Diego's level of interest.

With the team's first workout slated for Thursday, we know very little else. As with last season, the Padres' biggest offseason acquisition might come during camp.

"Focus is here with the guys we have in camp right now," said Padres manager Andy Green. "If we add someone to the mix, which last year we did past this date, we'll make the necessary adjustments and we'll be excited. If we don't add someone to the mix, we'll still be excited, and we'll be ready to go compete."

If neither star free agent signs with San Diego, there are issues to address. The Padres are expected to add a third baseman, and and remain available as contingency plans for Machado.

After that, the organization doesn't view any further moves as imperative. But they could still happen. The rotation, in particular, is extremely inexperienced. Seven pitchers with a year or less of big league service time will have a serious chance to win starting roles.

"Those guys have more development time ahead of them," said Green. "But some of them are going to hasten that process and be with us very quickly, if not right away."

It's easy to see this rotation coming together in the future, when Richards and return from Tommy John surgery and are complemented by a swarm of top prospects. But for the present, the starting five is littered with question marks. That means a veteran addition is possible over the next couple weeks.

As for the outfield, the Padres are beginning to sound content with a six-man competition for roster places, leaving someone like or on the outside looking in if they don't perform this spring.

"There's going to be opportunity for certain people to rise up," Green said. "They're guys that we really, really like. If that means, you're not looking at 158 games played in the outfield, but you're looking at a lower number, all of them might profit from some of that rest. All of them might profit from the internal competition."

A Harper signing would muddy those outfield waters further. (Not for Harper, of course, but for names like and ). Meanwhile, Machado would solve the Padres' third-base riddle perfectly -- currently the most pressing long-term issue in their lineup. That dynamic has led some to speculate that Machado might be a better fit.

But no matter the results of their superstar pursuits, a busy spring awaits.