Although the Padres have addressed one need this winter, they have not made the impact move or trade that Padres fans had hoped for ... and felt they were promised.
A team that struggled against right-handed pitching -- particularly in the second half of 2013 after first baseman Yonder Alonso was out or struggling with a right hand injury -- added the left-handed bat they wanted in outfielder Seth Smith via a trade with Oakland.
They also signed a potential top-of-rotation starter in oft-injured free agent Josh Johnson.
But they have yet to address the shortages in the bullpen. In fact, the bullpen picture was more clouded at the end of the winter meetings than it was on the final day of the season.
To land Smith, the Padres had to part with setup reliever Luke Gregerson. Just before that, the Padres designated right-handed relievers Brad Brach and Miles Mikolas for assignment while contouring the 40-man roster.
The Padres needed to make another trade at the expense of a reliever during the winter meetings to land the left-handed specialist missing not only from the 40-man but also from the top two levels of the minor leagues.
The Padres sent right-hander Anthony Bass to Houston with the agreement that the Astros would take left-hander Patrick Schuster with the first pick of the Rule 5 draft for the Padres.
But the acquisition of Schuster still left the Padres with only six relievers on their 40-man roster. Padres general manager Josh Byrnes departed Lake Buena Vista, Fla., awaiting response to several trade proposals and free-agent bids regarding bullpen help.
"We've got offers out there, but nothing is imminent," said Byrnes before flying home. "But we're close on some things."
One thing the Padres appear no closer on is a decision regarding third baseman Chase Headley, who is a free agent at the end of the 2014. Headley followed a breakthrough second half to the 2012 season with a disappointing, injury-impacted 2013 season. The Padres are weighing their options, which include signing Headley to a long-term contract, trading him or letting him walk after the 2014 season.
--LHP Patrick Schuster was acquired in a trade with the Astros. He is the favorite to become the Padres' left-handed bullpen specialist since there are no other left-handed relievers on the 40-man roster or in the upper two levels of the minor league system. As the winter meetings approached, Padres GM Josh Byrnes saw one player on the list of Rule 5 eligibles who he coveted. The only problem was that the Padres' 40-man roster was filled -- and even if it wasn't, Byrnes felt the player in question wouldn't get around to the Padres. So on the eve of the Rule 5 draft, the Padres sent RHP Anthony Bass to the Astros for that "player to be named later," knowing that the Astros would select Schuster with the first overall pick in the Rule 5 draft and trade him to the Padres. Byrnes knew Schuster, 23, because he drafted the reliever in the 13th round of the 2009 draft out of high school. The 6-foot-1, 182-pound Schuster had a 1.83 earned run average in 55 appearances for Class A Visalia in the California League last season. He had 45 strikeouts with 18 walks in 44 1/3 innings. Drafted by the Diamondbacks as a starter after throwing four straight no-hitters in high school in New Port Richey, Fla., Schuster transitioned to the bullpen in 2011. He made 100 relief appearances over the past two seasons with Visalia with a 3.64 ERA. The Padres didn't lose any players in the Rule 5 draft.
--OF Seth Smith's acquisition gives the Padres the left-handed bat they needed as well as more versatility in the outfield. The Padres struggled against right-handed pitching in 2013, particularly in the second half of the season when they were without 1B Yonder Alonso (hand injury) and SS Everth Cabrera (suspension). "We've been looking for one more left-handed bat," said GM Josh Byrnes. "We needed coverage in multiple positions." The Padres now have the ability to employ two left-handed hitting outfielders (Smith and Will Venable), have a left-handed hitter available for road interleague games and have added insurance should LF Carlos Quentin and CF Cameron Maybin again go down with injuries. Smith has a career .279 average against RHPs.
--2B Cory Spangenberg, who hit .271 at Class A in a 2012 season interrupted by a concussion and post-concussion symptoms, is a forgotten prospect. He followed a solid finish at Double-A San Antonio (.289 with a .331 on-base percentage in 76 second-half games) with a better Arizona Fall League. Spangenberg, 22, the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft, was listed as the second-best prospect at second in the AFL. If Headley is moved and Jedd Gyorko returns to third, could Spangenberg become the Padres' second baseman of the future?
--The Padres are still looking to acquire one and most likely two relief pitchers this winter. Among the free agent names the Padres have pursued at LHP Oliver Perez and RHP Joaquin Benoit, who is also being pursued by the Yankees and would likely take an unPadre-like $6 million to sign.
--1B/OFs Kyle Blanks or Jesus Guzman and possibly INF/OF Alexi Amarista could be moved before the start of next season. Health will be a factor in the Blanks/Guzman decision. When healthy, they are basically the same player -- right-handed-hitting 1B-OFs. The return of CF Cameron Maybin and SS Everth Cabrera and the acquisition of OF Seth Smith could make Amarista surplus. Blanks or Guzman and Amarista are being used in talks seeking bullpen help.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Seth Smith is a bigger piece than it looks. Not only does he give us the left-handed bat we really needed, he gives a lot of flexibility and insurance in the outfield." -- GM Josh Byrnes.
BIGGEST NEEDS: The Padres desperately need to add at least one and likely two relievers before spring training. Right now, there are only seven relievers on the 40-man roster. An equally big need is good health. The Padres have four players who will be coming off surgery (OFs Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin, C Yasmani Grandal and 3B Chase Headley), three starting pitchers rehabbing from Tommy John surgery (LHP Cory Luebke and RHPs Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland) and at least two players (OF/1B Kyle Blanks and INF Logan Forsythe) whose injuries border on chronic.
ARRIVALS: RHP Josh Johnson (free agent from Blue Jays), OF Seth Smith (trade with A's), LHP Patrick Schuster (Rule 5 draft pick from Diamondbacks via Astros)
DEPARTURES: OF Jaff Decker (traded to Pirates), RHP Miles Mikolas (traded to Pirates), RHP Brad Brach (traded to Orioles), RHP Luke Gregerson (traded to A's), RHP Anthony Bass (traded to Astros), OF Mark Kotsay (retired)
FREE AGENTS: SS Ronny Cedeno, RHP Jason Marquis
The Padres aren't expected to offer Cedeno what his market value might be. Marquis is coming off elbow reconstruction surgery and might not pitch in 2014.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: OF/1B Kyle Blanks, OF/1B Jesus Guzman, 3B Chase Headley, SS Everth Cabrera, RHP Andrew Cashner, RHP Tim Stauffer (signed), LHP Eric Stults (signed), RHP Tyson Ross, OF Seth Smith.
The Padres will decide this winter whether to sign Headley to a long-term contract or trade him before he becomes a free agent after the 2014 season. Blanks and Guzman are pretty much the same person and one could be moved or traded.
IN LIMBO: 3B Chase Headley, SS Ronny Cedeno.
--RHP Tyson Ross (arthroscopic left shoulder surgery in October 2013) is expected to be ready by spring training.
--1B Yonder Alonso (weakened right hand) is expected to heal with time. He should be ready by spring training.
--OF/1B Kyle Blanks (Achilles tendinitis and a weakening left shoulder) battled both injuries at the end of the season. The Padres are concerned about the shoulder, which had a previous round of surgery in April 2012.
--INF Logan Forsythe (plantar fasciitis in right foot) was bothered by the injury during spring training and again over the final two months of the season. Forsythe had foot problems before, and the sesamoid bones in each foot were surgically removed following fractures.
--C Yasmani Grandal (right knee surgery in August 2013) had a torn anterior cruciate ligament repaired. He aims to be ready by Opening Day; the Padres expect him back no sooner than late May or early June.
--3B Chase Headley (torn meniscus in right knee) will have surgery on Oct. 1. He will be ready by spring training.
--OF Rymer Liriano (elbow reconstruction surgery) will be training and hitting at the Padres academy in the Dominican Republic over the winter.
--CF Cameron Maybin (right wrist surgery in September 2013) had two torn and inflamed ligaments repaired. He hopes to play winter ball around the first of the year and expects to be ready by the start of spring training.
--LF Carlos Quentin (right knee surgery in September 2013) had a third operation on the knee in a span of 18 months. He plans to be ready by the start of spring training. He played in only half of the Padres' games each of the past two seasons.
--LHP Cory Luebke (Tommy John surgery in May 2012) will get another opinion after his rehab was shut down a third time following discomfort in various stages of his throwing program.
--RHP Casey Kelly (Tommy John surgery in April 2012) is scheduled to start throwing over the winter and hopes to be ready to pitch by June 2014.
--RHP Joe Wieland (Tommy John surgery in July 2012) was shut down in August 2013 due to a "stress reaction" during rehab. He should resume rehab in October or November.
--RHP Josh Johnson (arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October 2013) should be back at full strength for spring training.
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