New GM Byrnes faces offseason questions
Will Padres re-sign Bell, coax free-agent position player?
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres are heading into an important offseason with a number of pressing questions -- can they coax a free-agent position player to PETCO Park or will they need to make a trade to achieve an offensive boost?
Can they adequately address their pitching and bench needs before the start of Spring Training?
Most importantly, though, will new general manager Josh Byrnes' wish list look much like his predecessor, Jed Hoyer? How does Byrnes, the former D-backs GM, feel about the 13 arbitration-eligible players and where they potentially fit?
How does Byrnes feel about pitcher Aaron Harang's mutual option?
FREE AGENT PREVIEWS
What does Byrnes' hire mean for three-time All-Star closer Heath Bell, the highest-paid Padre a year ago ($7.5 million), who will be a free agent? Hoyer's and Bell's agents had some discussions about a new deal. Will Byrnes continue that discussion?
The Padres figure to have some financial wiggle room this offseason, as they're not tied to any long-term contracts. Shortstop Jason Bartlett ($5.5 million) and second baseman Orlando Hudson ($5.5 million) have the largest contracts on the books for 2012.
A year ago, the Padres made their biggest offseason splash by trading two relievers to the Marlins for center fielder Cameron Maybin. The thought is that it's easier for the Padres, who play half their games at spacious PETCO Park, to trade for offensive help than sign it and have to overspend through free agency.
Byrnes was an active trader while the general manager of the D-backs and has a working relationship with a lot of teams based on his experience and work history in Cleveland, Colorado, Boston and Arizona.
Finding pitching, of course, is a different story than looking for a bat. And don't discount the city as a drawing card, as Hoyer explained a year ago.
"Guys want to play here," Hoyer said. "People love living here. I'm shocked by the number of times agents grab me and tell me players would love to play here in the future."
Free agents: RP Heath Bell, 1B Brad Hawpe.
Eligible for arbitration: First time eligible: SP Clayton Richard, RP Luke Gregerson, RP Joe Thatcher, C Nick Hundley, OF Will Venable.
Second time eligible: SP Tim Stauffer, SP Dustin Mosley, OF Chris Denorfia, 3B Chase Headley, INF Alberto Gonzalez.
Note: RP Jeff Fulchino has already elected to become a free agent.
Mutual options: SP Aaron Harang ($5 million option with a $500,000 buyout), RP Chad Qualls ($6 million option will be declined. $1.05 million buyout).
Non-tender possibilities: Jeremy Hermida, Gonzalez.
AREAS OF NEED
Corner outfield: Before leaving, Hoyer indicated that he wanted to find a corner outfielder with a bat that would play well at PETCO Park. Maybin was a good fit in his first season as the center fielder, now they want to build around him.
Starting rotation: There's plenty of internal candidates, although the Padres could make a move to add a starter for the top end of a rotation that includes Mat Latos, Tim Stauffer and 2011 rookie Cory Luebke.
Bench help: One of the reasons San Diego was able to win 90 games in 2010 was its bench, as Hoyer gave manager Bud Black a lot of flexibility with the likes of Jerry Hairston and Matt Stairs. Expect the team to beef up the bench to give Black more options next season. Catcher Rob Johnson cleared waivers and became a free agent.
The Padres figure to have a bump in payroll in 2012, as vice chairman and CEO Jeff Moorad indicated the team would have an Opening Day payroll of $53-55 million. There will be flexibility to add a player or players this offseason, though it's difficult to attract free-agent position players to spacious PETCO Park. The Padres could be in a position to add as much as $20 million in new salaries for the upcoming season.