Shortstop at top of Padres' wish list
GM Preller also on the lookout for pitching, left fielder
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Just to be clear, there's not a placard hanging from the door of A.J. Preller's suite at the Opryland Hotel that reads "Help wanted: Shortstop."
But there might as well be.
Preller, the Padres' general manager, and his front-office staff have been active this week at the Winter Meetings, both in terms of discussions with teams and agents, about finding someone to plug a hole on what has essentially become a black hole for the franchise.
Since the start of the 2009 season, the Padres have used 18 shortstops.
Preller would like to put an end to that this winter, finding someone who can play the position, play it well, and not merely serve as a stopgap of sorts until the next guy comes along.
"It's an important position," Preller said on Wednesday, the third day of the Winter Meetings.
First-year manager Andy Green stated as much during his manager session with reporters on Wednesday.
"We clearly have to plug that hole at shortstop. We're working actively to do that. I'm a defense-oriented guy. I'm a pressure-on-the-defense guy. The defense is paramount for us to be successful," Green said.
The Padres had been linked for Starlin Castro, who was traded from the Cubs to the Yankees on Tuesday. The best available option for them in free agency is former Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond, who can also play third base.
But Desmond, who turned 30 in September, surely won't come cheap. He could very well demand a three- or four-year deal, and with shortstop prospect Javier Guerra probably two years away from the big leagues, it's unknown what the breaking point is for the Padres financially.
What attributes does Preller covet in a shortstop? How much time do you have?
"I think in an ideal world, you want someone who is an intelligent player, a leader and captain of your infield, the ability to make the plays on the move, on the run, up the middle, in the hole. Someone, when the ball is hit to him late in the game, it's an out," Preller said.
"Big game, big spot, big moment, [someone] you're not worried the routine play is going to be made. He has the athleticism to make a spectacular play."
While the Padres are searching high and low for the shortstop, they continue to be linked to Japanese third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda, whom Preller met with when a front-office contingent was recently in Japan.
Matsuda, 32, has spent the last 10 seasons with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. He hit a career-high 32 home runs last season and pegs as an offensive-first option at third base.
A Japanese report Wednesday stated the Padres have made an offer to Matsuda. As per his policy on all free agents, Preller wouldn't confirm or deny that. But he did talk briefly about the player.
"I don't think there is any secret we have been scouting the player and know what he brings to the table and how he would help our club," Preller said.
For now, though, Preller and his staff will continue to look for upgrades for the roster -- a left fielder, a starting pitcher, help for the bullpen. And, yes, finding a shortstop.
"We're definitely continuing to search all options … free agency and the trade route," he said.