With new ownership in place and the team finally getting a TV deal, this could be the most exciting and active Padre off-season in years. Instead of selling off veterans and scraping the bargain bin for roster filler, San Diego could have up to $30 million to spend on turning themselves into legitimate contenders in the NL West.
The Padres are seemingly always hurting for offense, so the Friars could drop some coin on a quality bat regardless of position. The most obvious positions for them to upgrade are right field, second base and shortstop. However, with Will Venable coming off a solid season, right field isn't a big need. Nor is second base if San Diego management believes in Logan Forsythe and/or Alexi Amarista. Shortstop though isn't as solid. They can live with Everth Cabrera, but if a veteran becomes available at the right price, they'd have to at least consider it. Of course, they could just forego big offensive additions altogether and promote prospects like Jedd Gyorko to help fill in the lineup gaps.
Though the Pads have been more noted for their strong pitching, their rotation can be best described as patchwork in 2012 with 13 different players logging at least five starts. That should put them in the market for one or two mid-tier starting pitchers who would be strong fits in the spacious (though slightly shrinking) confines of Petco Park.
Priority number one for San Diego has to be beefing up the rotation. Dan Haren makes so much sense as a target for the Friars that it is almost silly. He's a workhorse, familiar with the NL West, a flyball pitcher and a guy GM Josh Byrnes has acquired before. It wouldn't be a surprise either if the team showed some interest in former Padre ace Jake Peavy. If they are more interested in reclamation projects, Daisuke Matsuzaka could be of interest. But if they really just want someone to eat innings, then perhaps Carl Pavano could be to their liking.
On the positional side, the Pads could hope for some luck with some veteran options. Stephen Drew or Marco Scutaro are probably the only worthwhile upgrades, but both might be too expensive and/or too unwilling to leave contending clubs for one trying to build to contention. Besides, as mentioned before, Everth Cabrera is plenty useful, so the Padres will probably look to expend their limited resources elsewhere.
The Padres have one of the richest farm systems in all of baseball. If they want to try and improve their team via the trade market, they will have no shortage of pieces of to offer.
What is more intriguing though are the trade pieces they have on the big league roster. Catcher Nick Hundley went into last season looking like a big part of San Diego's future, even signing him to a long-term contract. Alas, he had a disastrous season, got demoted to the minors and eventually landed on the DL due to knee surgery. In that time, Hundley was supplanted in the lineup by Yasmani Grandal who doesn't appear to be going anywhere, making Hundley prime trade bait whether or not the Pads look to continue stockpiling prospects or move toward challenging for the NL West. If the Pads elect to hold onto Hundley, they could instead shop around veteran John Baker, though he doesn't have nearly the same kind of trade value.
The elephant in the trading room though is Chase Headley. He is coming off a career-year and sure to earn a hefty raise in arbitration. If San Diego is concerned about keeping him around as a long-term franchise cornerstone, as he can hit free agency after the 2014 season, then now is the time to move him and return the greatest possible value. However, the new owners could tab him as their club centerpiece and declare him completely off limits instead.
If the Padres want to find a frontline starter, they'd be wise to press #1 on their speed dial and set up another trade with the Cubs and former GM Jed Hoyer. Matt Garza could be just the kind of staff leader they need and would represent a hedge bet on their future financial flexibility since he is only under contract for 2013. Another possible option would be Tampa Bay's James Shields, who would be more expensive in a trade but is also under team control for an additional year at a reasonable price.