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Padres linked to Bryce, Manny, Realmuto, Gio @jonmorosi

The Padres are pursuing Manny Machado.

The Padres are talking with Bryce Harper.

The Padres are pursuing Manny Machado.

The Padres are talking with Bryce Harper.

The Padres are among the teams most heavily involved in trade negotiations for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto.

The Padres are showing interest in left-hander Gio Gonzalez, one of the top remaining free-agent starting pitchers, sources say.

In this discursive offseason, San Diego has become the focal point -- for a few days, at least.

One rival executive told on Thursday that Padres general manager A.J. Preller is trying earnestly to sign Machado or Harper and acquire Realmuto from the Marlins.

Objectively, that is not farfetched. The Padres could sign Harper or Machado to a $30 million-per-year contract and hold their 2019 payroll to around $115 million or $120 million -- the median range for the Major Leagues.

Sources: Padres meeting with Harper in Vegas

Meanwhile, with one of the richest farm systems in baseball, the Padres undeniably possess the type of talent the Marlins want for Realmuto. Whether Preller will part with those prospects is a separate discussion.

The Marlins' interest in San Diego catching prospect Francisco Mejia is not especially high, meaning the Padres likely will need to include at least one of infielder Fernando Tatis Jr., left-hander MacKenzie Gore, or infielder Luis Urias in any successful offer for Realmuto.

The Padres recognize that even the additions of Harper and Realmuto -- or Machado and Realmuto -- would not address all of their needs. They finished last in the National League with a 5.09 rotation ERA last year. Since then, they have added one pitcher, Garrett Richards, on a Major League contract -- and Richards' availability for 2019 is in doubt after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.

Gonzalez, 33, would add experience to a Padres rotation that may otherwise consist entirely of starting pitchers who are 28 and younger. Gonzalez has pitched effectively at Petco Park, with a .592 opponents' OPS in five starts.

And Gonzalez is represented by Scott Boras, the same agent as Harper.

Some in the industry believe Harper, the Las Vegas native and resident, prefers to play on the West Coast. So perhaps it's noteworthy that his meeting with the Padres -- first reported by MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal -- didn't come until after the Dodgers effectively removed themselves from the Harper sweepstakes with the signing of A.J. Pollock.

If Harper truly wants to play close to home, San Diego probably is his best option. That is an outcome few could have imagined in November -- or last week, for that matter.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for and MLB Network.

San Diego Padres, Gio Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, J.T. Realmuto