With the Winter Meetings just around the corner, the San Diego Padres are in a position to possibly make a few moves to turn this team into a contender in the National League's West Division.
The payroll may not reach more than $40 million next season, but new general manager Jed Hoyer admitted that they may have some wiggle room to sign one or two free agents.
One of those players could be outfielder Mike Cameron, a guy who's already had one stint with the team (2006-07) and was a fan favorite. Bringing him back will definitely give the team more veteran leadership along with second baseman David Eckstein, pitcher Chris Young, and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
Cameron hit .255 with 43 home runs and 161 runs batted in during his two seasons with San Diego. The one problem that has been consistent for him has been his numerous strikeouts, totalling 302 while with the Padres.
What he does bring to the table is tremendous speed both in the outfield as well as on the base paths. Cameron showed that off by covering more ground in center field than the Padres had seen in recent memory, making several incredible catches in Petco Park's vast outfield.
Signing Cameron would benefit the Padres in a big way, regardless of his strikeout problems. When he does make contact and when he is on the base paths, he gives the Padres that extra speed threat next to young shortstop Everth Cabrera.
If Cameron is willing to sign a one year deal in the range of $1 to $2 million, it would be a deal the Padres should sign if in fact they are interested in bringing him back.
With Cameron possibly being the only free agent they could sign, the team will turn their attention to the players currently under contract.
Signing Cameron creates a log jam in the outfield that will force San Diego to look at who they currently have on the roster.
San Diego currently has Chase Headley, Kyle Blanks, Tony Gwynn Jr., and Will Venable occupying three outfield positions. Neither Headley nor Blanks are natural outfielders, but both have picked it up with surprising results.
The Padres love what Kyle Blanks, a natural first baseman, brings to the table. The big 6'6" 285 pounder had a rough first half of the season, struggling to the tune of a .159 batting average (7/44) and driving in just three runs.
After the All-Star break, however, the light switch was turned on and Blanks found his stroke. He hit .288 with a .393 on base percentage with ten home runs and 19 runs batted in.
Those numbers will only get better now that Blanks has had a full season under his belt. Knowing that, it could lead the Padres to trade Chase Headley, especially with Kevin Kouzmanoff being the full time third baseman, as he gives the Padres more power than Headley.
That still leaves San Diego with another problem, even if they do trade Chase Headley. Bringing in Cameron as a full-time player means you have Tony Gwynn Jr and Will Venable who have earned their playing time. So what do you do with Kyle Blanks?
Though it's a good problem for this team to have, the Padres' front office would much rather give Blanks the playing time instead of having him split time with Cameron.
Kevin Correia, a guy that became the team ace after the injury to Chris Young and the trading of Jake Peavy, handled the role with finesse.
The 29 year old right-hander finished the 2009 season with a 12-11 record with a 3.91 ERA through 198 innings pitched.
Currently arbitration eligible, Correia could earn a sizable raise from his $750,000 salary. Taking his numbers into consideration, he could be looking at making anywhere between $1.5 million to $2 million next season.
With right-hander Chris Young slated to play the role of the team's ace, Correia most likely will take the second spot in the rotation in front of young pitchers Mat Latos and Clayton Richard.
The Padres used the final month of the season to prove that they could be a force to be reckoned with, winning most of the series they played, including series wins over division rivals in the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
Going into 2010, the team will be younger than they have been in years. They'll have more talent in the outfield with Gwynn and Venable. More speed on the base paths with Everth Cabrera. Stronger pitching with Mat Latos and Clayton Richard. Better leadership than years passed with David Eckstein and Adrian Gonzalez. And more power in the lineup with Blanks, Venable and Kouzmanoff.
Though most of the critics will tell you that this team is a few years away from being a contender again, they'll surprise more than just the critics, they'll surprise their own division.
The team may be a little slow out of the blocks, as they've never been a good starter, but once this team turns it on in May, they could quickly run away from the field.
Keep their starters healthy, get the kind of production out of Gonzalez that the team is used to, and let their up and coming young stars show what they can bring to the table.
With the kind of talent this team has from top to bottom, not only will the Padres be a contender in the division, but they'll be in the race all season long.
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