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Padres set sights on free agent starting pitchers

SAN DIEGO -- Unlike last season when the Padres essentially reshaped their roster during the winter, this offseason figures to be considerably quieter.

"The lineup in general, there's an upside where I don't know if we need to mess with it a lot," said San Diego manager Bud Black.

The Padres will look to add to their starting rotation, which had just two pitchers -- Clayton Richard and Edinson Volquez -- who started more than 15 starts in 2012.

Teams can start signing free agents beginning after 9 p.m. PT on Thursday.

"As far as things we're trying to go get in the offseason, the focus will be on starting pitching," said San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes.

That will likely occur through free agency, which is always a thorny proposition in terms of money and length of contracts.

The Padres, who have a new ownership group in place that is on the record as saying they want to build the roster instead of breaking it down, could be active in free agency for pitchers.

While offering three-year deals might not excite the Padres, they would likely do so under the right circumstances.

The Padres already have about $30 million in guaranteed contracts for the 2013 season, with outfielder Carlos Quentin ($9.5 million) and closer Huston Street ($7 million) set to make the most in 2013.

Of course, third baseman Chase Headley, after a monster season offensively, will get a significant bump in salary from the $3.475 million he made last season. Headley is eligible for arbitration for the third time and figures to make more than $7 million in 2013.

There aren't a lot of questions on the position player front, which is reassuring to Byrnes and Black as the Padres hope to parlay a good second half in 2012 into a bountiful 2013.

"We do think this is a good group," Byrnes said.

Contract issues
Free agents: SP Jason Marquis.

Eligible for arbitration: 3B Headley; OF Will Venable, Kyle Blanks; SS Everth Cabrera; SPs Volquez, Richard; C John Baker; RPs Luke Gregerson, Joe Thatcher

Non-tender candidate: Blanks.

Club options: None.

Mutual options: None.

Areas of need:
Starting pitching: Byrnes has indicated that the team will likely pursue two starting pitchers for the rotation. The Padres were hit hard by injuries in 2012 and it tested the depth of their rotation to a great extent, forcing them to go outside the organization for help. They don't ever want to be in that position again.

Making a call on shortstop: The Padres will need to decide if Everth Cabrera is their guy moving forward at shortstop. Cabrera did some nice things offensively in 2012, especially when the switch-hitter hit left-handed. He's a threat on the bases as well. If he's their guy, fine. If not, then add shortstop to the off-season wish list.

2013 Payroll:
The Padres had an Opening Day payroll of $55 million in 2012, a $10 million bump from 2011. There could be yet another bump for 2013, as the new ownership group opted last summer to sign off on contract extensions for OF Carlos Quentin and closer Huston Street. At the time the team officially changed hands in August, the new ownership group vowed to grow payroll.