by Jason Martinez
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SAN DIEGO PADRES OFFSEASON PREVIEW
After a horrendous start to the season that was only made worse by a ridiculous amount of injuries, especially to the starting rotation, a healthier Padres squad finished with a 48-36 record over its last 84 games. Unfortunately, they were never even close to sniffing a Wild Card spot, and therefore, played almost zero meaningful games during the 2012 season.
They're hoping that Chase Headley, the "2nd Half MVP candidate version", along with a healthy Carlos Quentin can keep the momentum going in 2013. With the way starting pitchers were dropping like flies in 2012, there is a very good chance that General Manager Josh Byrnes focuses on starting pitching this offseason.
STARTING LINEUP ANALYSIS
The focus on starting pitching this offseason has a lot to do with the injuries that have depleted the group, but the lack of holes in a lineup that is usually considered to be among the worst in baseball is another reason they can focus solely on one area. Aside from a potential Spring Training battle at second base between Logan Forsythe and Jedd Gyorko, Byrnes should go into the offseason feeling pretty good at every spot in the lineup. Headley (.875 OPS, 17 SB), Quentin (.877 OPS), catcher Yasmani Grandal (.863 OPS), and first baseman Yonder Alonso (.741 OPS, 39 2B) give the team one of the better middle-of-the-lineups they've had in years.
Add Forsythe (.852 OPS in September) or Gyorko (.968 OPS in 92 Triple-A games), Cameron Maybin (.735 OPS in 2nd half), and the platoon of Will Venable (.779 OPS vs RHP) and Chris Denorfia (.890 OPS vs LHP) in right field, and you can see why there isn't expected to be much change this offseason.
One very important position that could probably use an upgrade, but might be too difficult to do so, would be at shortstop. Everth Cabrera's overall numbers won't "wow" anyone and he can be erratic defensively. But there are several reasons why he'll probably be back as the starting shortstop in 2013. First of all, Ronny Cedeño is the top shortstop on the free agent market. Not an upgrade. Trading for a shortstop in a market where there are limited options will be expensive. Not many teams have the extra shortstop to spare and they'll be asking for the moon in a trade. Lastly, Cabrera did some really good things on the field. At times, he showed signs of being an effective leadoff hitter who could work the count and get on base. He led the NL in stolen bases (44) and was only caught four times. He has great range and can make the spectacular plays. He'll be just 26 going into next season. Don't think they're giving up on him this offseason.
STARTING PITCHING ANALYSIS
Reinforcements could be on the way in the 2nd half of 2013 if Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland make quick recoveries from Tommy John surgery. Until then, they need to put together enough depth so they're not pulling Kip Wells off the street to make seven starts again. Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard are both expected back. The other three spots are up for grabs.
Andrew Cashner, if healthy and if the Padres continue to believe in him as a starter, should be at the top of the list. Eric Stults, despite being one of the guys they brought off the scrap heap to make some starts, was impressive and deserves a chance to win a back-of-the-rotation spot in 2013. Young prospects Casey Kelly and Robbie Erlin will also have a shot while the versatile Anthony Bass can step in, if neccesary. Tim Stauffer and Dustin Moseley are non-tender candidates coming off of elbow and shoulder surgeries, respectively. If non-tendered, both could be candidates to return for much cheaper deals as they try and return to health.
Expect the team to sign at least one reliable veteran to fill a mid-rotation spot -- Jason Marquis is a good bet to return after a strong showing during his 15-start stint -- but a top-of-the-rotation starter would be a great addition to this pitching staff. If new ownership opens up the wallet and gives Byrnes the go-ahead to spend some money, which is no sure thing, he could go shopping for a #1 starter this offseason. Free Agents-to-be Kyle Lohse and Brandon McCarthy are potential fits.
RELIEF PITCHING ANALYSIS
Huston Street had a strong debut season in San Diego, where he saved 23 games in 24 chances. He was rewarded with a two-year contract extension, meaning that he'll be back in the closer's role again next season. As usual, Luke Gregerson did a great job in the setup role, and as a temporary fill-in closer when Street was injured late in the season. He'll return as the 8th inning guy. Joe Thatcher and Tom Layne give the team two pretty good lefties and Brad Brach, Dale Thayer, Nick Vincent, and Brad Boxberger all pitched well enough down the stretch to be considered for the 7th inning setup job in 2013. Bass or Cashner, if not in the rotation, are also strong candidates for a setup role.
This doesn't appear to be an area of need, but as I always say, it doesn't hurt to improve your bullpen depth by bringing in an experienced setup man. Pitching depth can disappear very quickly because of injury or ineffectiveness.
TOP OFFSEASON PRIORITIES
1 Starting Pitcher
2 Starting Pitcher
3 Setup Man
2012 HITTING STATS
2012 PITCHING STATS