Trades on Padres' minds at Meetings
GM Towers not usually shy in terms of making deals
SAN DIEGO -- With deep pockets and holes to fill in their lineup and in their rotation, the Padres head to Orlando for the Winter Meetings in the right mood and mode to wheel and deal.
Led by CEO Sandy Alderson and general manager Kevin Towers, the San Diego contingent has an estimated $30 million to spend in its efforts to add starting pitching, a corner outfielder with power and help in the infield.
"We plan on being aggressive in the trade market and free agency -- with good judgment. We're not going to go crazy because the market is going crazy," Towers said. "We think we'll be able to get some good players. Right now, I'd say our focus is on pitching first, then second base and our bench. We'd like a corner outfielder, of course, but I don't see a lot out there right now."
The availability of free-agent pitchers could enable the Padres to sign a starter or two to join a rotation fronted by Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Clay Hensley.
Among the big names on the board are southpaws Barry Zito and Mark Mulder and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.
"In a perfect world, you'd like at least one left-hander in your rotation," said Towers, who went most of 2006 with five right-handers after losing Shawn Estes one start into the season. "All things being equal, I'd take the left-hander. Most of the better hitters in our division are left-handed, and I think a lefty would have some success in our ballpark."
If they are to acquire a power hitter, the Padres likely will have to do so in the trade market with Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee and Aramis Ramirez no longer available.
Among the intriguing possibilities are Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox and the Reds' Adam Dunn, but it remains to be seen if the Padres have the goods to lure either big bopper to the West Coast.
Drawing from their deep bullpen, the Padres could put together a package that would appeal to Boston, Cincinnati or another club with a big bat to shop in Orlando. Setup artist Scott Linebrink, who led the Major Leagues in holds with 36, has great appeal as a potential closer.
San Diego's pursuit of a second baseman to replace Josh Barfield -- sent to Cleveland in exchange for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and right-hander Andrew Brown -- remains a priority as well. While free agent Tony Graffanino is in their sights, he likely would be used in more of a utility role with the Padres. A career .269 hitter, he batted .274 in 2006 for the Royals and Brewers while playing a career-high 129 games.
The Padres have $29.2 million invested in six players -- Brian Giles, Mike Cameron, Trevor Hoffman, Peavy, Linebrink and Young. Shortstop Khalil Greene and catcher Josh Bard are eligible for arbitration.
There are eight spots open on the 40-man roster, giving the Padres the flexibility to sign free agents. The signing of Woody Williams by the Astros creates a hole in the rotation, with Mike Thompson and Tim Stauffer waiting in the wings.
There is a need for infield support behind Adrian Gonzalez, Greene and Kouzmanoff. Powerful Russell Branyan, who finished the 2006 season at third base, returns with gloves for all four corner positions.
Even if Mike Piazza signs a free-agent deal to DH for an American League team, the Padres feel they are in good hands behind the plate with Bard and Rob Bowen returning.
With left fielder Dave Roberts apparently departing as a free agent, the club could use a leadoff catalyst. It feels it has a variety of possible options starting with Giles, who has the versatility to hit anywhere in the lineup.
At the moment, the options in left to replace Roberts include Terrmel Sledge, Paul McAnulty, Branyan, Jack Cust and Jon Knott. All but Knott hit from the left side, and Sledge, with a proven track record in Montreal in 2004, is considered the favorite if a trade isn't made.
"We may go with Sledge," Towers said. "He had a great year at Triple-A. He just needs an opportunity to play."
While Ramirez's lure as one of the game's greatest pure hitters is obvious, Dunn also fits the mold the Padres are creating for disciplined hitters with his .380 career on-base percentage along with successive seasons of 46, 40 and 40 homers.
At 6-foot-6, Dunn, in his prime at 27, has shown that PETCO Park can't hold him when he gets his 275 pounds into a baseball. He has crushed five homers with 12 RBIs in nine career games at spacious PETCO, hitting .333 and slugging .806.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.