San Diego Padres: Biggest Needs in 2014 That Aren't Already Filled in the Minors
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With catchers and pitchers scheduled to report to Spring Training on February 12, it looks like the Padres front office are set to go into the 2013 season.
Minus perhaps a couple of starting pitchers that were promised to the fans (cough, cough), the lineup for the first time in years look to have decent depth.
Though it looks like they are covered positionally, the Padres could still add components to the team to make them a more complete ballclub.
With a deep farm system and a front office that is finally starting to see the value in extending player contracts (minus a third baseman that I'll get into later), the Padres should add a few more pieces to the puzzle in 2014.
Let's take a look at some of those areas now...
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Let's face it, the San Diego Padres are in need of starting pitching—now and in 2014.
With Edinson Volquez and Jason Marquis hitting free agency in 2014, the Padres will surely have some interesting decisions to make after the 2013 season.
Ever since the departure of Jake Peavy, the Padres haven't had a dominant ace and it's about time the team steps up and tries to acquire a top-of-the-line pitcher to anchor the staff.
Though the Padres may not be able to afford 2014 free agent pitchers Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright or James Shields, there will be some decent free agents on the market that could be attainable.
Matt Garza, Gavin Floyd, Jason Vargas and Ricky Nolasco are four guys that will probably be out of the Padres budget constraints (who isn't these days), but would be fantastic additions—pending their 2013 results.
Hopefully, some of the Padres current question marks (Anthony Bass, Eric Stults, Tyson Ross, Casey Kelly, Cory Luebke, Andrew Cashner and Joe Wieland), will have decent seasons and leave the team with less to contemplate.
With guys like Keyvius Sampson, Donn Roach, Joe Ross and Matthew Wisler developing in the minors, maybe the Padres won't have too much to worry about in 2014.
Regardless, with the team's recent track-record of injuries and false promises from the front office, let's hope that 2014 will be the year our new ownership group puts its money where its mouth is and gets the starting pitchers that the Padre fans deserve.
A Solid Leadoff Hitter
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Ever since Dave Roberts in 2006, the Padres have not had a consistent leadoff hitter at the top of the lineup.
Everth Cabrera led the National League last year in stolen bases, but still hasn't proven that he can hit for average and be an everyday shortstop.
And though Jace Peterson and Rymer Liriano look to be on pace for 2014, setbacks aside, the Padres could still use a consistent guy at the top of the lineup that can get on base, steal bags and create run-producing opportunities.
Outfielder Coco Crisp will be a free agent in 2014, and though his average has dipped in recent years, he's still a threat on the base paths and can play all three outfield positions proficiently.
Juan Pierre, a free agent in 2014, could also be another short-term outfield option who can hit leadoff.
If Will Venable and Chris Denorfia don't work out in right field, signing a speedy leadoff hitter with outfield experience would benefit the Padres while Liriano develops.
And if for some reason the Padres are left with holes in the middle infield, perhaps going after Houston second baseman Jose Altuve or Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar, would benefit the Padres while Peterson develops.
One way or another, the Padres should sign an everyday leadoff hitter that can get on-base regularly.
Protection in the Middle of the Lineup
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As I wrote earlier this week, I am a strong proponent of the Padres going after another slugger in the middle of the lineup.
Giancarlo Stanton anyone? Should we cough up some prospects and make a strong push for him? I certainly would.
Just imagine Stanton in the middle of the order with Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin. I know it's more of a fantasy than a possible reality, but it sure sounds good, doesn't it?
A couple of other interesting possibilities would be free agents Nelson Cruz and Corey Hart.
Cruz (.260, 24 home runs, 90 RBI and 86 runs scored in 2012) is a solid defensive outfielder and would solidify our needs in right field.
Hart (.270, 30 home runs, 83 RBI and 91 runs scored in 2012) is also an experienced outfielder as well as a decent first baseman.
Both former All-Stars would add some well-needed pop in the middle of the order and take some of the pressure off of both Headley and Quentin.
Extending Chase Headley
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I'm well aware (through comments on prior posts) that many of you feel that the Padres should trade Chase Headley now and get the most for his value.
I am not one of those people.
If the Padres are going to contend in the future, they need to start extending players that get the job done on the field.
It may have taken Headley a few years to develop, but after winning a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and leading the National League in RBI in 2012, he's proven that he is worthy of an extension and should stay with the team for many years to come.
I personally want to see the Padres get back to the top of the National League West and make another appearance in a World Series.
Trading Headley, will only slow that process down and put us in a never-ending, vicious cycle of rebuilding.
The Padres need to stop rebuilding and start putting together a team that can win, which begins by extending third baseman Chase Headley.
Figuring out the Middle Infield
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If either Cory Spangenberg or Jedd Gyorko can develop and become the future second baseman for the Padres, then I would be elated as a fan.
However, if neither of them pan out and Alexi Amarista and Everth Cabrera fail at shortstop, then the Padres are going to have a problem with the middle of the infield in 2014.
Remember when Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett were at second and short in 2011? For a second there, it looked like the Padres had the middle of the infield figured out—at least for a couple of seasons.
That couldn't have been further from the truth.
Other than Robinson Cano (who the Padres have zero-percent chance of signing), the 2014 class of free agents at second and short are pretty unimpressive at best.
Sure they could go after second baseman—and Southern California native—Chase Utley, but why take a chance on an injury-prone veteran that may never come back to his prior form.
Once again, Houston's Jose Altuve looks to be a decent option as well as shortstop Jed Lowrie.
The Astros, who have minor league depth in the middle infield, might find either player expendable for the right package of players.
The Mets' Daniel Murphy is another player that would be a perfect fit in spacious Petco Park, though I think it would take a nice little package of prospects to pry him away.
Though it's still too early to speculate, the Padres need to take a strong look at both second and short going into 2013, since it looks like this season will dictate how much of a priority it will be in 2014.