SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' freefall in July saw them drop to last place in the National League West. But it didn't end their pursuit of roster upgrades.
San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes said recently that the conversations he's had with potential trade partners has changed since the Padres slipped in July. But that slide didn't change the fact that the Padres still need rotation upgrades -- if not for this season, then 2014.
At this point, in advance of Wednesday's 1 p.m. PT non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Padres have whittled several conversations they've had over the last month or so down to a select few.
"We're focused on a handful of ideas ... I don't feel we're spread out too much," said Byrnes.
Byrnes and the Padres continue to look for upgrades to a starting rotation that is without two pitchers who won't pitch again this season because of injuries and likely don't figure in the team's plans for '14: Clayton Richard and Jason Marquis. Edinson Volquez could be a non-tender candidate, as well.
"We've got to improve our starting pitching," Byrnes said. "We've had some injuries, but it underscores the point that we've got to keep adding [to] and improving our pitching."
The Padres, who a month ago might have considered a rental player to help them make a push for the top of the NL West, would now much rather add a starting pitcher that they can control beyond 2014 and possibly longer.
To date, the Padres haven't pulled the trigger on any moves. But that could very well change before the Trade Deadline.
"It's been a slow go," Byrnes said of trade activity to this point.
Reliever Luke Gregerson, one of the most consistent and top relievers in the NL, continues to be a popular target.
Could the Padres land a starting pitcher they could keep long term for Gregerson? If they don't make a deal before the Deadline, they could always do so during the winter. The thought process behind making a deal now is the team could potentially solicit a better package from a playoff-contending team.
The Padres, who are lacking in upper-level, position-player talent in their Minor League system, do have some interesting arms they could move before the Deadline -- either alone or, say, packaged with a player currently on the 25-man roster.
Three players the Padres won't likely move are third baseman Chase Headley, left fielder Carlos Quentin and closer Huston Street. Headley is under contract through 2014, and Quentin and Street signed deals last summer that will also keep them in San Diego through next year.
Quentin, who is quietly having a strong offensive season, has a full no-trade clause. The Padres also like the idea of having him hit in the middle of their order.
"Carlos is a good hitter," said Padres manager Bud Black. "If a pitcher makes a mistake, he's not missing those pitches."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.