The San Diego Padres have definite needs they need to upgrade in order to be contenders again in the NL West, most notably in the outfield and starting pitching. Due to a well-groomed farm system and several MLB-ready prospects, the Padres have actually laid the foundation for upcoming years.
The tricky part with this prediction is gauging what the possible Padres team salary could look like in 2013. As CBS Sports’ Navin Vaswami estimates, the Padres will have between $25 and $30 million to spend in the offseason this year. Also, as MLBTradeRumors.com calculates, the Padres only have $26 million in 2013 payroll commitments.
The San Diego Padres starting rotation was devastated by injuries in 2012, and they soon realized their lack of depth significantly hurt their team. Padres’ GM, Josh Byrnes, has openly said, “as far as things we’re trying to get in the offseason, the focus will be on pitching.” The same article also states Byrnes has indicated the Padres will pursue two starting pitchers this winter.
1. Dan Haren
I know you're thinking, “What?!" However, the Padres have all the pieces in order to aggressively pursue Dan Haren: the money to spend, the want and need for him and a previous relationship with him. Josh Byrnes came to the Padres from the Arizona Diamondbacks where he was instrumental in the trade that brought Haren to the desert.
Furthermore, Byrnes told the San Diego Union Tribune’s Bill Center, Haren is on the Padres short list of eight to 10 players, which Center predicts Haren tops the list. Though the Padres aren’t quick to offer three-year deals to starting pitchers, they will in the right situation.
2. Edwin Jackson
I believe Edwin Jackson is also on the Padres’ target list for obtaining an ace to anchor their staff. Though Haren is likely above Jackson, at 29 years old, Jackson is an extremely appealing aim.
Yahoo Sports ranks Jackson as the No. 12 top free agent this year, only three spots behind Haren. The difficult part for the Padres will be getting Jackson at a salary that fits their budget.
3. Brandon McCarthy
Again, these likely are in the order of preference, and it’s not likely to sign more than one of these top targets. Another 29 year old, McCarthy has shown he can be a solid ace-caliber pitcher on a staff. The aforementioned Yahoo Sports list, ranks McCarthy No. 13 overall, barely missing Jackson. However, the lower rank is likely due to the horrific line drive he took to the head he took on September 5.
Other possible starting pitchers: Shaun Marcum, Jeremy Guthrie, Scott Feldman
Long shots: Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster
The Padres are actually quite good in the outfield, and everywhere except right field. Will Venable should be a fourth outfielder at best. Also, Carlos Quentin remains an injury risk, so the more depth the better.
These predictions are extremely hard to guess, because the Padres have openly stated they’re going to go after starting pitchers this winter, and it’s unclear how much extra money will be left over for an outfielder. The following are assuming the Padres will spend big on a pitcher or two—and sorry, you won’t find Josh Hamilton or BJ Upton on this list.
1. Melky Cabrera
It’s unclear how much his value dropped since testing positive for extra testosterone on August 15. The test resulted in a 50-game suspension, and the San Francisco Giants subsequently left him off their postseason roster—even though he was reinstated. In an ESPN poll, GMs speculated he would receive a 1-year offer between $2-7 million.
Depending on leftover resources, it’s entirely possible the Padres will have enough capital left to bid for Cabrera at his discounted price. Remember, Padres fans, Cabrera was the “rightful” NL batting leader, putting up MVP-caliber numbers before the suspension.
2. Cody Ross
If you’re like me and like to forget the 2010 MLB season, you may have forgotten Cody Ross was almost a Padre. The San Francisco Giants put in a waiver claim to block Ross from becoming a potential Padre. The rest, they say, is history. Ross ended up being an integral piece in the Giants' eventual championship.
Ross could help solidify the Padres' outfield, both defensively and offensively. As a notable MLB journeyman—playing with six teams—Ross could provide great leadership and mentoring to the new flock of Padres rookies next year.
3. Torii Hunter
It remains to be seen what kind of contract Torii Hunter will command in 2013 and beyond. The 37 year old had a remarkable season in 2012, hitting .313 and nearly 100 RBI.
However, if the Padres can afford him, I think Hunter is the perfect piece for the 2013 Padres. Hunter is often referred to as one of the best teammates and greatest leaders in the clubhouse. These intangible traits would be a great asset for the slew of young players likely to be on the Padres’ roster this upcoming year.
Other possible outfielders: Jonny Gomes, Scott Hairston, Nate McLouth, Grady Sizemore
Long shots: Shane Victorino, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Angel Pagan, Ichiro Suzuki