Padres close out Winter Meetings with late-night Preller-palooza

With Bogaerts joining San Diego’s potent lineup, Friars likely to shift sights to pitching

December 8th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- Trea Turner is a Phillie. Aaron Judge is a Yankee. But the Padres had a Plan X.

An eventful week at their hometown Winter Meetings culminated late Wednesday night with news that Xander Bogaerts had agreed to an 11-year, $280 million contract with San Diego. That deal, which is pending a physical, has not yet been confirmed by the team.

"You want to explore, make sure you’re looking at every possible opportunity to get better,” general manager A.J. Preller said Wednesday afternoon at his press conference to wrap up the Winter Meetings, still hours before the Bogaerts deal came to fruition. “We’ve got a real desire to win and do it for a long time.”

It marked an emphatic finish to a busy week that saw the Padres in pursuit of both Turner and Judge, as well as Bogaerts. Now that the Padres have found the bat they needed, here’s a look at what lies ahead.

1. Starting pitching
Despite their tireless pursuit of a big-time bat, the Padres’ top remaining need is help at the back of their rotation. They're undeniably thin, and there are starters available. Preller noted that the Padres would "look to add a starter or two." Let's just say there's a much better chance it's two than one.

2. A corner bat
The positional flexibility of , and allowed for the Padres to sign Bogaerts. They might now end up moving all of those three around the diamond. But on paper, there’s still a pressing offensive need at first base/DH. Expect the Padres to add another hitter or two to round out what figures to be one of the sport’s most fearsome lineups.

3. Catcher
It remains unclear how serious the Padres are about searching for a catcher. They weren't part of the Willson Contreras sweepstakes. They like their mix of and . But if there's an upgrade to be had via trade, you can bet the Padres will explore it.

The Padres’ push for a bat knows no bounds. They were convinced they had the flexibility to add at just about any position. It just so happened that the premier position on this market was shortstop, where the Padres were active in their pursuit of Turner and sealed the deal with Bogaerts.

San Diego now needs to fill out its rotation.

“We've got a few different things we're talking about,” Preller said, perhaps foreshadowing the Bogaerts signing. “I think you're always going down different paths this time of the year. Nothing's really changed. You wake up, and now we're on to a different option. We'll see if we can line up to add another hitter and look at some pitching, as well.”

They nailed the first part of that equation. Presumably, the next few weeks will center around the pitching side of things.

The Padres had vacancies on their 40-man roster and a need for bullpen depth. On Wednesday afternoon, they selected left-hander Jose Lopez in the Rule 5 Draft. Lopez posted a 2.43 ERA at three levels of the Rays’ system last year, mostly at Double-A. He's an intriguing piece, having punched out 14.4 hitters per nine innings -- though his 5.3 walks per nine innings is obviously a concern.

Lopez must remain on the San Diego roster for the duration of the season or be offered back to the Rays. With jobs available in the Padres’ bullpen, he'll at least have a chance to compete for a spot come Spring Training.

“It's a big fastball,” Preller said. “And, of course, a breaking ball. He continued to refine his command, pitching at the Double-A level this year with a taste at Triple-A. He'll get an opportunity to come in and compete.”

“There's a lot of competition for top-end players,” Preller said late Wednesday afternoon. “You've got to be patient. You can't really force anything. It's got to be a fit, both ways -- from a player, from a team on a trade front. We understand that, and just be prepared.

“I think we have our game plan, what we're trying to do. If we line up, great. If not, I think we're ready for another move down the road.”

Prescient. The Padres were indeed ready for another move. A big one.