PEORIA, Ariz. -- In the Padres' quest to find a free-agent third baseman this offseason, it's Manny Machado or bust.
Over the past few days, a handful of lesser options have come off the board -- most notably Mike Moustakas, who agreed to a one-year contract with Milwaukee on Sunday. Yangervis Solarte, Adeiny Hechavarria and Alcides Escobar all agreed to deals, as well.
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Team sources said the interest was never all that serious in any of those non-Machado options -- all of whom fall into a far lower class of third baseman than Machado. But each could've helped bolster the Padres' thin infield ranks.
Now, it seems likely that if the Padres can't land Machado -- and they've been aggressive in their pursuit -- they'll stick with what they've got. There's plenty of optimism that Machado might be enticed by the Padres' substantial offer. But the ball's in his court, and it's ultimately up to Machado where he'll be playing next season.
With that in mind, it's at least worth looking at the contingency options. In the long term, that contingency centers around prospect Hudson Potts. If Machado isn't the third baseman of the future, Potts might be next in line. Within the organization, Potts is viewed very highly. He's 20 years old and officially reported for his first big league camp Monday. A day prior, during the first live batting-practice session of Spring Training, Potts took Bryan Mitchell deep to the opposite field. Then he did the same to Jerry Keel.
Potts was selected in the first round of the 2016 Draft with a compensation pick from the Royals for signing Ian Kennedy. Last year, in his age-19 season, Potts posted a .260/.335/.455 slash line between Class A Advanced and Double-A. He struggled upon his late-season promotion, but he was also one of the youngest players in the Texas League. Including the Fall League, Potts has smashed 41 homers over the last two seasons.
But Potts' arrival probably won't come any sooner than a September callup. In the meantime, the Padres will turn camp into a six-man competition for the job. Career Minor Leaguer Ty France headlines a patchwork list that also includes Jason Vosler, Esteban Quiroz, Jose Pirela, Greg Garcia and Seth Mejias-Brean.
"Right now, we're just dealing with the certainty of the guys we have out here," said Padres manager Andy Green. "We'll focus on them and how they can put us in position to compete and win baseball games."
The projections aren't particularly kind to that group, with none expected to reach one WAR. Ian Kinsler could ultimately play some third base when Fernando Tatis Jr. arrives, pushing Luis Urías to second. But there's no question the Padres' third-base options are thin.
The best-case scenario is obviously Machado, a four-time All-Star in his prime at 26 years old. The next-best case would presumably see a trade open up in the coming weeks, but it's late February, and there's nothing cooking on that front right now.
After that, don't expect to see Wil Myers shifting back to third base. A Marwin Gonzalez signing seems unlikely, too. Cory Spangenberg and Christian Villanueva are no longer options, designated for assignment in November.
In the long term, Potts could fill the void that a Machado-less offseason leaves, but he's no sure thing. Meanwhile, in the short term, the Padres' contingency plan seems to be a spring competition among a half-dozen journeymen.