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Will Padres add to OF mix this offseason?

@AJCassavell
September 9, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- At some point in early October, the Padres' front office will sit down for a thorough evaluation of its current outfield situation. It isn't going to be easy. The Padres entered the 2019 season with a seemingly endless set of outfield questions. They've gotten very few answers.

SAN DIEGO -- At some point in early October, the Padres' front office will sit down for a thorough evaluation of its current outfield situation.

It isn't going to be easy.

The Padres entered the 2019 season with a seemingly endless set of outfield questions. They've gotten very few answers.

By now, the Padres had hoped to know whether they had the right pieces in place -- or whether they'd need to make an offseason acquisition or two. According to team sources, those plans still hang in the balance.

It's entirely possible the Padres make a move to add an outfielder this winter. It's also possible they stand pat. That uncertainty is the product of up-and-down seasons from three key figures in that outfield mix.

Wil Myers -- who has suddenly broken out in September after five woeful months -- remains an enigma. He still shows flashes of his immense talent. He still hasn't pieced together a full season of production for the Padres.

Josh Naylor entered the year with a high ceiling as a lefty on-base threat with some power potential. His defense was a question mark. Thus far, Naylor's potential remains exactly that, and his defense is still iffy.

Franchy Cordero remains as tantalizing as ever, but his injury history has only grown. The Padres need to decide whether they can truly count on the lefty-hitting power threat. He's played only 79 games in three big league seasons.

On the flip side, the Padres think they have legitimate answers on Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe. They view Margot as the starting center fielder against lefties and a bench weapon against righties.

Renfroe, meanwhile, developed into an elite defender and a legitimate power threat. The 27-year-old struggled in the second half, but he's been battling a variety of minor injuries, and to some extent, the club has written off those struggles. Moving forward, the Padres view Renfroe as a starter against lefties and a part-time option against righties.

So Margot and Renfroe are penciled into the 2020 mix. That leaves the Padres with serious questions surrounding the rest of their outfield composition. Myers is owed $67.5 million over the next three seasons, and it's worth wondering whether the Padres try to move him.

But the most pressing question comes from the other side of the plate. Do the Padres need to add a bona fide lefty bat? Or are there enough answers from among the current group -- Cordero, Naylor, Nick Martini, Travis Jankowski and eventually No. 2 prospect Taylor Trammell?

In some regards, the final three weeks are about finding out. Martini and Naylor have received regular playing time at Renfroe's expense. It's a pseudo audition for those two.

One team official called Naylor "the most interesting player" to watch in the final three weeks. The organization's postseason evaluation of Naylor will go a long way toward whether another outfielder is brought on board, according to sources. The 22-year-old is hitting .255/.317/.417 in his rookie season.

"I've done OK," Naylor said. "But I've got a lot to improve on, obviously.”

Then there's Cordero who is unlikely to return from a quad injury before the end of the season. Cordero took batting practice on Monday and launched one off the facing of the second deck in right field -- rarefied territory at Petco Park.

"It excites me for the future," manager Andy Green said. "... He is as twitchy and explosive and impressive in certain settings as anybody. Now, that twitch and explosion has cost him some playing time. We just need to get him healthy. Then, we'll have an opportunity to look at him."

But the Padres can't afford to wait. They view 2020 as the opening of their window for contention. In October, they'll decide whether their current outfield makeup is playoff-caliber.

If the answer is no, they'll act accordingly.

Noteworthy

• For the first time since he sustained a right oblique strain in August, catcher Francisco Mejia took swings on Monday afternoon -- an important step in his recovery.

Mejia will build toward taking batting practice with the team this week before getting at-bats in instructional ball. If all goes well, Mejia could return as soon as next week, Green said.

• Right-hander Garrett Richards is expected to pitch Game 1 of the California League championship series for Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore on Tuesday. If all goes well, the veteran right-hander could make his first start for the Padres next week. Richards has missed the entire season as he's worked his way back from Tommy John surgery.

"Assuming everything goes well, we're excited about what the next step might be," Green said. "But we've got to check that box."

• Seventeen of the Padres' 20 remaining games are against teams in playoff contention, beginning with their four-game set against the Cubs on Monday. That's exactly the way the Padres prefer it.

"For some of the younger guys in particular, when you're looking at Josh Naylor ... or Ty France or Luis Urias, you want them facing teams that are highly motivated to go win every baseball game," Green said. "They're digging into scouting reports at a very deep level, and they're going to attack your guys a certain way. We want to see our guys combat that and win those situations."

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