The Padres presumably eyed contending in the NL West when the decision was made to keep veterans like Carlos Quentin and Huston Street and sign them to contract extensions. San Diego was in the mix as of mid-June when the division was a cluster of underachievers, but a 10-game losing streak (which became 14 losses in 15 games) brought some hard reality. Catching up to the Dodgers probably won't happen in the near-future,. But depending on what the D-Backs and Giants do, competing for a second-place finish next season isn't out of the question, especially if the Padres are able to field their projected lineup.
How about staying healthy and not getting suspended for PED use? That would likely make a huge difference next season. Quentin was limited to 82 games, Yonder Alonso played 97 games and Cameron Maybin only appeared in 14. That's arguably the core of the San Diego lineup. Combine that with Everth Cabrera and Yasmani Grandal taking 50-game PED suspensions and that's half of a club the Padres thought might contend in the NL West this year. That doesn't even cover the pitching injuries (Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland, Jason Marquis) either.
However, without injuries or suspensions, there are some holes general manager Josh Byrnes will likely work to fill this offseason. Including switch-hitters, the Padres potentially have five left-handed bats in their lineup to face right-handed pitching. But a left-handed hitter might fit nicely in the outfield, preferably in left field.
San Diego could really use some help at the back end of its rotation. Last year, they pursued innings-eating veterans like Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson, so expect a similar tactic this winter. The bullpen could also use some middle-relief depth, especially at least one left-hander.
The Padres likely won't pursue any of the top left-handed free agent hitters like Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Curtis Granderson, or the switch-hitting Carlos Beltran. But there are some bargain bats available that could fit San Diego's lineup and payroll. David Murphy, Tyler Colvin and Brennan Boesch are outfielders that shouldn't be very expensive and could offer some upside if they bounce back from subpar seasons.
The free agent market has plenty of pitching that suits what the Padres need for their rotation. They could take another shot at Haren, who would probably cost less after his performance with the Nationals this year. Paul Maholm, Chris Capuano, Jason Hammel, Ted Lilly and Aaron Harang are among the veteran starters capable of providing 175 to 200 innings and could improve pitching at Petco Park. If Byrnes want to take a chance on some upside, he could pursue someone like James McDonald or Josh Johnson.
However, the pitcher who might best suit San Diego's needs, if he's not seeking too long of a contract, is Bronson Arroyo. He's thrown 200 innings for nine consecutive seasons, and a flyball pitcher would do well in the Padres' ballpark.
As far as bullpen help goes, this is a good year to sign a left-handed reliever with names like J.P. Howell, Scott Downs, Boone Logan, Matt Thornton and Javier Lopez all available. Rich Hill showed he can be a strikeout lefty specialist with the Indians this year as well. From the right side, the Padres could go after a top setup man like Jesse Crain, Joe Smith or Matt Albers. Or perhaps the team could take a chance on an arm like Frank Francisco, Kyle Farnsworth or Brandon Lyon in middle relief.
Two positions at which the Padres have some depth to tap into is the outfield and catcher. Chris Denorfia would be a nice fit for any team seeking a right-handed hitting corner outfielder. Will Venable can play all three positions and showed some surprising power this season. Kyle Blanks could be appealing to any club in need of a slugging first baseman or left fielder. If the Padres feel they won't contend next year, Carlos Quentin is a veteran hitter who would also draw heavy interest on the trade market.
If Yasmani Grandal is ready to take over as the starting catcher, either Nick Hundley or Rene Rivera could be dealt to a team in need of a backup catcher. Hundley might offer more in terms of power, though he brings a low batting average and on-base percentage with it. Those clubs that value defense in their second catchers might prefer Rivera, who throws well against opposing basestealers and blocks pitches relatively well. Of course, there's also top prospect Austin Hedges, but the Padres likely want to keep him.
However, if Byrnes wanted to make a bold move, he has a big trade chip in Chase Headley. The third baseman has one more season of arbitration eligibility next year and if the Padres don't think they can sign him to a long-term contract extension, it may be prudent to see what he can yield in a deal. Byrnes' bargaining power isn't what it was last season, when Headley was under two years of club control. Yet with third basemen at a premium throughout MLB and little of value in free agency, some teams might be willing to add a star player at that position and hope to sign him later. How great would Headley look with the Phillies or White Sox, for example?
San Diego will obviously seek top prospects if they deal an established major leaguer like Headley. But they could possibly address concerns with their outfield and pitching staff through trades. One of those surplus outfielders (or a reliever) could be part of a package that goes to the Tigers in exchange for Rick Porcello. The Nationals' Drew Storen is someone who could benefit from a change of scenery and might be a potential future closer in San Diego. Adam LaRoche could be a fit too, if the Padres think Alonso could successfully move to left field. The same applies to the White Sox's Adam Dunn. Byrnes might also want to talk to the Blue Jays about a starter like Kyle Drabek or reliever such as Sergio Santos.