Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason plans of every MLB team before the Dec. 3-6 winter meetings. Our series continues with the San Diego Padres.
2007 record: 89-74
Finish: Third place in the National League West
2007 Opening-day payroll: $58 million
For a mid-market team whose payroll dipped by nearly $12 million last year, the Padres are flush with cash because eight players left via free agency. However, the pickings in the free-agent market are slim, which undoubtedly will drive up the price on the handful of talented players. In other words, this isn't a great year to be a mid-market team flush with cash.
The Padres need two starting outfielders to join right fielder Brian Giles, unless they are resigned to giving a full-time job to Scott Hairston, who is working out in center field during the offseason in case all the Padres can do is sign the likes of free agent corner outfielder Geoff Jenkins. Re-signing Mike Cameron or Milton Bradley is a possibility, but after the Angels set the bar high for center fielders by giving Torii Hunter a five-year, $90-million deal, those flawed former Padres might become wildly expensive.
A second baseman and a catcher also are pressing needs, although neither position is likely to produce the kind of offense needed by a team that was ninth in the National League in runs scored. Kazuo Matsui is a possibility at second base, although the Chicago Cubs probably can outbid the Padres for him. If Matsui doesn't sign, prospect Matt Antonelli, a first-round pick in 2006 out of Wake Forest, could get a shot at second despite not having played in Triple-A.
Acquiring fresh faces might be difficult, so general manager Kevin Towers could spend time – and money – trying to lock up Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy and shortstop Khalil Greene to long-term deals.
Peavy has stated he'd like to remain in San Diego and is open to talking about a deal that would keep him off the free-agent market after the 2009 season – his current contract will pay him $6 million next season and contains a club option in 2009 for $8 million, a definite bargain for the Padres. Renegotiating a deal that would pay him closer to what he is worth the next two years while keeping him a Padre through at least 2011 is being given serious consideration by both sides.
Greene, whose 27 home runs represented an enormous spike from the 15 he hit in each of the previous three seasons, has two more arbitration seasons left. Towers would like to sew him up for much longer. Trading Greene is not much of an option because the Padres don't have a prospect at shortstop since converting Matt Bush to pitcher.
The Padres are accustomed to contending for the NL West title year in and year out, counting on payroll bungling by the Dodgers and miscalculations by the Giants and Diamondbacks to maintain an even playing field. Now, however, there is a new team to contend with, the rising Colorado Rockies. The difference between first and fifth in the division could be little more than a declining performance by 40-year-old closer Trevor Hoffman or an injury to one of the Padres' few consistent hitters.
Yes, the Padres have the best pitching in the National League, and that counts for a lot. But spending their temporary cash windfall wisely and adding at least one solid bat could count for even more.
NEXT: San Francisco Giants analysis