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Inbox: Will Padres wheel, deal to fill vacancies?

December 12, 2016

The Winter Meetings have come and gone, and -- aside from their Rule 5 Draft splash -- the Padres have remained largely quiet this offseason.Still, there's plenty of work to do, as the club searches for pitching help, catching depth and a young shortstop. Here are some of your most

The Winter Meetings have come and gone, and -- aside from their Rule 5 Draft splash -- the Padres have remained largely quiet this offseason.
Still, there's plenty of work to do, as the club searches for pitching help, catching depth and a young shortstop. Here are some of your most pressing questions, as the Hot Stove continues to simmer.
What could the Padres get for Travis Jankowski after seeing what the Nationals paid for Adam Eaton?
-- Nicholas B., Atlanta

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Obviously, Jankowski is no Eaton -- a 6 WAR (wins above replacement) player in 2016. But Jankowski's elite speed and defense will make him attractive to any club in search of a center fielder. Plus, he reached base at a very respectable .332 clip last season. If Jankowski can solve left-handers, he'll be an everyday starter.
So what could he fetch in a trade? Well, the Padres seem content to enter the season with four young outfielders, and there's a very good chance Jankowski stays put. Trade value-wise, he is a young player with some upside who remains largely unproven. It stands to reason the Padres could get exactly that in return -- at shortstop or on the mound.
Are the Padres close to signing any free-agent starting pitchers?
-- Andrew S., San Diego

General manager A.J. Preller and the front office spent part of the Winter Meetings talking with agents for a handful of free-agent starters. Essentially, they used the Meetings to gauge which starting pitchers might fall into their price range and which starting pitchers are interested in pitching for San Diego. Barring something unforeseen, it's unlikely the Padres sign a pitcher to a multiyear contract.
In any case, the Friars need at least three big league-caliber starting pitchers to round out their rotation. It's not exactly a buyer's market, but I'd expect a deal or two before the holidays.
Will the Padres trade for a shortstop or sign one?
-- Mark J., El Cajon, Calif.

This much is clear: The Padres aren't content to enter the 2017 season with Luis Sardiñas as their lone option at shortstop. Sardinas will have a chance to win the job in Spring Training, but the Padres want to find some competition for him.

To do that, they will almost certainly explore a handful of trade options before falling back on free agency. There simply aren't any impact shortstop options on the open market.
Meanwhile, the Friars have checked in with just about every club that may have a shortstop available. They're interested in Detroit's José Iglesias and Texas' Hanser Alberto, among others, though no trade is currently imminent. The simple reality is that there are a handful of shortstop options available via trade -- and very few in free agency.
Could either Anderson Espinoza, Cal Quantrill or Eric Lauer get some starts in September? If not, early in 2018?
-- Jamieson F.

I get it. Fans want to see the Padres' youth movement pay immediate dividends. And, to some extent, they'll get that with Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Austin Hedges poised to see significant playing time in 2017.
But on the mound, the Padres' most talented youngsters have a long way to go. Espinoza, the club's No. 1 overall prospect, is still 18 and hasn't yet mastered Class A. His arrival makes more sense for 2019 -- or late in the '18 season. Quantrill, while more polished, has to make up for the junior season he lost due to Tommy John surgery. He is probably on the same timetable as Espinoza.
Lauer is a more interesting option. Scouts heralded him as one of the most big league-ready arms in the 2016 Draft. Thus far, he hasn't disappointed. In eight starts at Class A, Lauer posted a 1.33 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. He's probably a better bet for 2018, but a late callup in '17 isn't out of the question.
We can't blame Jon Jay for greener pastures in the friendly confines. Who do you think fits the bill, not only as a veteran presence in the outfield, but a critical offensive contributor as Jay was?
-- Cam D., Bend, Ore.

No doubt, the Padres were open to bringing Jay back. He served as a phenomenal veteran presence in a very young clubhouse last season. Both Preller and manager Andy Green have noted the importance of bringing in some form of veteran leadership.
But who said it needs to be in the outfield? Barring a trade, the Padres are content to enter the 2017 season with their current crop of young outfielders. When they sign a Jay-type veteran, expect it to be a starting pitcher or an infielder.
With as many outfielders as the Padres had at the end of last season, who do you see starting the season in Triple-A El Paso?
-- Raymond, C., El Paso

Among Renfroe, Margot, Jankowski, Alex Dickerson and Jabari Blash, only four will crack the Opening Day roster -- with Christian Bethancourt serving as the team's fifth outfielder. Renfroe and Margot are seemingly off-limits in a trade. But Preller has fielded calls on both Jankowski and Dickerson.
Let's presume that all five remain with San Diego through Opening Day. It would make the most sense for the 22-year-old Margot to start the year at Triple-A. He undoubtedly needs the most seasoning of the bunch. And, given his upside, the Padres could secure another year of team control for his age-28 season. That said, if Jankowski is dealt, Margot's roster status would change quickly.

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