It's never too early to take a look ahead at what the 2010 San Diego Padres might look like. Here's the list of players that will be free agents after the completion of the 2009 season.
Henry Blanco - Blanco was signed to a 1 year, $750,000 contract during the offseason. So far, he and Padres ace Jake Peavy have a chemistry I haven't seen since former A's catcher Ramon Hernandez was behind the plate in 2004 and 2005.
The Padres don't have much in the way of catchers in their minor league system. There are plenty of free agent catchers that will be available during this upcoming offseason, but it wouldn't surprise me if the Padres negotiated another one-year deal to keep Blanco in San Diego in 2010.
David Eckstein - Eckstein has been one of the bigger surprises this season for San Diego. The second baseman is currently hitting .321 (17/53) and has seemingly ended the "Second base curse" that hung on since Mark Loretta departed after the 2005 season.
It ushered in the likes of Josh Barfield, Marcus Giles and prospect Matt Antonelli. Neither of the three had any success at the position.
Barfield was traded to Cleveland, Giles was released after struggling badly and Antonelli was sent back to Triple—A Portland after he struggled both offensively and defensively.
Look for Eckstein to sign at least a two— or three—year deal before this season is over, especially since the Padres don't have good options in their minor league system.
Yet, the Padres did show interest in Mark DeRosa this past offseason and have shown interest in bringing back Mark Loretta. Eckstein is the better option and I expect the Padres believe that as well.
Chris Burke - Chris Burke was a player the Padres brought in as another option in case Luis Rodriguez or Everth Cabrera struggled. That didn't happen so Burke was traded to Seattle days prior to the start of the 2009 season.
After Cabrera's injury put him on the shelf for 6-8 weeks, Burke was traded back to San Diego and is currently the backup to Luis Rodriguez.
I don't expect Burke to be around after Cabrera returns. He'll either be sent to Triple—A Portland, traded or released outright.
Cliff Floyd - One name Padre fans have yet to see due to injuring his shoulder during spring training, may have to wait even longer according to Rick Eymer of MLB.com.
Floyd has had fluid drained from his right knee twice in the last three weeks and is now scheduled to undergo an MRI on Thursday afternoon in San Diego.
Once Floyd returns, look for him to get some significant time in right field especially with current right fielder Brian Giles having a slow start to the season (.159). If Floyd shows his bat is just as strong as it has been in years past with no ill effects, he could prove to be a strong addition to the lineup.
I don't see Floyd being with San Diego past this season, especially with young prospects like Will Venable and Chad Huffman ready to battle for a starting spot in San Diego.
Emil Brown - Brown is currently playing with Triple—A Portland and is currently hitting .256 with one home run and seven RBI. He's another one of those guys who could be brought up at any point during the 2009 season if Brian Giles is traded. But I don't expect to see him in San Diego until late this season, if at all.
Don't expect Brown to be a long term fixture in San Diego.
Brian Giles - Speaking of Brian Giles, he has been the biggest disappointment so far this season. I know we're only three weeks into it but I expect a guy like Giles to be hitting better than .159 at this point. Not only that, Giles has yet to hit his first home run of the year as well.
Giles' stats in situation—hitting aren't great either. With the bases empty, Giles has just two hits in 27 at bats, good for a .077 average. With runners on (not necessarily in scoring position), Giles is 8-for-36 (.222). With runners in scoring position, he's 6-for-24 (.250).
The Padres expect better from their number three hitter, especially hitting in front of Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Headley and Kevin Kouzmanoff.
I fully expect Giles to be traded some time in June or July. It could be a lot sooner if he continues to struggle. If the Padres want to stay in the race, they can't have Giles batting third at a .159 clip. Young prospects Will Venable and/or Chad Huffman would be better options than Giles at that point.
Mark Prior - This is another name that Padre fans have yet to see despite being in his second season with San Diego.
Anything the Padres get from Prior, they will gladly accept.
He is still very much a large presence on any mound in the big leagues and if he gets back any of what he had prior to his shoulder problems, it could resurrect what was supposed to be a Hall of Fame career.
If Prior doesn't quite make a comeback in 2009, I don't expect the Padres will bring him back unless there is more promise to his rehabilitation and they get a good report from the doctors.
Duaner Sanchez - It looked like Sanchez would be a diamond in the rough for general manager Kevin Towers, especially after his first three appearances—against the Dodgers, Giants and Mets—where he didn't give up a hit.
Since then, he's given up four runs, including two home runs in his last two—and— a—third innings. Unless he can turn this around soon, Towers may be looking to make another trade to bring in another reliever.
Final Thoughts: As much as teams talk about trading players or adding payroll close to the trading deadline, I think the Padres will be adding instead of subtracting. I believe the Padres will be in this race and think another piece or two could put this team over the top.
Cliff Floyd is still yet to make his debut, Shawn Hill has been better than expected as a starter, and the Padres will be getting Cha Seung Baek back from injury soon along with reliever Mike Adams.
This team is going to be just fine. So hang on Padre fans, it's going to be a fun ride.