Padres aim to balance righty-heavy roster
Preller's 2nd offseason begins with hiring of new manager
SAN DIEGO -- Before jumping headfirst into baseball's offseason and dealing with roster questions, Padres general manager A.J. Preller first had to deal with a more pressing issue -- finding a manager.
With Andy Green, hired Thursday away from the D-backs, in the fold, the Padres can -- and already have -- pressed forward to dealing with their roster questions and how to improve a team that won 74 games, falling well short of expectation.
"When we came in here in April to play the Padres, this place was hopping," Green said Thursday. "The energy was palpable, everybody was excited about the possibility, and things didn't turn out that way."
Can that change in 2016 with a first-year manager leading the way? That remains to be seen, but the roster could certainly use some upgrades before the start of the regular season.
Free agents/options: Outfielder Justin Upton and right-handers Ian Kennedy, Brandon Morrow, Shawn Kelley, Bud Norris and Josh Johnson officially became free agents at the end of the World Series. Players with contract options are right-hander Joaquin Benoit ($8 million club option; $1 million buyout), shortstop Clint Barmes ($2 million club option; $200,000 buyout) and left-hander Cory Luebke ($7.5 club option; $1.75 million buyout).
Needs: Acquire a left-handed starting pitcher, a left-handed bat (or two), finding a long-term answer at shortstop (if the team doesn't feel Jedd Gyorko is the answer) and find a way to fortify the bullpen. There are other needs, but this is a good place to start.
Potential targets: It's hard to know what Preller may or may not do (see last winter, for example), but he did let the cat out of the bag to some degree in September, when he said he could see the team adding a left-handed bat to help balance a mostly righty lineup. Could that be at first baseman? Left fielder? The Padres have some flexibility in Wil Myers, who can play either position, which should help in their pursuit of a bat.
Trade assets: Preller dug into the team's farm system last offseason, using assets there to help acquire Major League-ready pieces. He can't do that as easily this time around. That likely means having to trade from the 25-man roster, which could yield some interesting deals (does he know any other kind?). Maybe that's moving closer Craig Kimbrel or, gulp, dealing right-hander Tyson Ross.
Financial situation: The Padres had a record $108 million Opening Day payroll in 2015 and have several players due for raises in '16. And get this: The Padres are already on the hook for about $72 million in payroll as it stands today. That's more than their payroll in '13 ($68 million).
Bottom line: What to expect from Preller in his second offseason? The team doesn't need the dramatic facelift it received last winter, but expect some additions and upgrades. There's a lot of money on the books for several players (Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton Jr. and James Shields). How do they make it all work this season when it clearly didn't in 2015?