Inbox: What's on Preller's holiday shopping list?

November 21st, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Padres fans seem to be coming to grips with the fact general manager A.J. Preller will soon be trading pieces from his highly touted farm system.

“You build up depth and you have a good farm system with the idea that not everybody is going to play for the Padres,” Preller said last week.

This week's Padres Inbox features a number of questions regarding the prospects Preller might trade in order to bolster his 2020 roster. But let's start with a holiday theme:

Give us your best guess for position upgrades this winter.
-- @FaithfulPadres

If the Padres had a Christmas list, it would look something like this (ranked with the biggest needs at the top and the luxury items at the bottom):

1. A frontline starter
2. An everyday outfielder who hits both lefties and righties
3. A depth starter
4. A reliable reliever for the middle innings
5. A second baseman
6. A lefty-hitting outfield platoon option
7. A catcher
8. Another reliever

The first three needs are fairly obvious, and it's safe to assume the Padres will address their rotation and their outfield this winter.

Nos. 4-6 on the list are different. None of those are necessities. But if the Padres can upgrade at those three spots, it would go a long way toward making them contenders in 2020.

Meanwhile, a catcher and a second reliever are luxuries. The Padres have a solid tandem behind the plate and legitimate depth in the farm system. They also have high-upside arms who should make an impact in the bullpen next season.

With pressure to win now, is Preller caught in between letting his elite prospects pan out and develop or trading them for short-term guys?
-- Will H.

This is a legitimate concern for the winter. Preller spent the past four years stockpiling the best collection of prospects in baseball. Now his job might be on the line. Is there a chance that -- in his haste to win -- Preller sells the farm too early? If so, it would do more harm than good.

I don't see that happening. Preller still loves his prospects and still speaks in generalities about the long-term implications of his transactions. Remember, it was only four months ago that the Padres traded a bona fide big league slugger () for an outfield prospect (Taylor Trammell). It seems pretty clear the Padres aren't willing to part with the pieces that will help them most in the future -- namely lefty MacKenzie Gore, righty Luis Patiño and Trammell.

Instead, it's more likely that Preller dips into his prospect depth in order to make a win-now trade. The Padres will hang onto their blue chips. But they have enough talented young players to land some legit big leaguers with their next tier of prospects. There's always a chance that someone Preller deals becomes an All-Star, but that’s the nature of these types of trades.

What trade chips (prospects-wise) do you think the Padres could/could not part with?
-- @orioles910

The best place to look: positions of need on the big league roster. Those are presumably the prospects the Padres will look to hold onto.

Of course, San Diego is pretty set at third base, so 21-year-old Hudson Potts comes to mind immediately as a trade candidate. Strangely enough, the Padres are also somewhat comfortable with their long-term rotation, at least when , Gore and Patiño are factored in.

That could leave the next tier of pitching prospects available -- such arms as , Ryan Weathers and , who are Nos. 7-9 on the Padres' top prospects list, ranked by MLB Pipeline. Preller wouldn't trade all three, for fear of sacrificing pitching depth. But it's easy to envision one or two of them being moved in a trade for a frontline starter.

What are the odds that both Xavier Edwards and CJ Abrams remain in the Padres' system this offseason?
-- David R.

Pretty good. Edwards and Abrams aren't quite untouchable, as the Padres' top three prospects seem to be, but they're both regarded very highly within the organization. It would take a lot for the club to part with either.

Never mind the fact that both play shortstop (where is entrenched for the long haul). The Padres have serious long-term question marks at second base and in center field. If Edwards and Abrams continue their development, there's a chance they fill those voids.

might still have something to say about that. But it's hard to envision a more athletic middle of the diamond than Tatis, Edwards and Abrams.