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MLB Team Report - San Diego Padres - INSIDE PITCH
Although the Padres finished 76-86 for a second straight season, the strengths and weaknesses of the franchise have taken a 180-degree turn from the final day of the 2012 season.
The Padres entered the past offseason planning to stand pat with their position players while looking for starting pitching.
This winter, they are more concerned with the offense than pitching.
But adding players is not manager Bud Black's biggest wish for the offseason.
"Health would be the biggest acquisition," he responded.
But given what just happened for a second straight season, that might be an unobtainable goal. And Black knows it.
Not once in 2013 was Black ever to employ the lineup he penciled in at the end of the 2012 season.
In addition to having three position players (Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin and Yasmani Grandal) have their seasons end early due to surgery, the Padres have three starting pitching candidates (Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland and Casey Kelly) rehabbing from "Tommy John" elbow reconstruction surgery.
Several other position players, notably outfielder-first baseman Kyle Blanks and infielder Logan Forsythe, face uncertain futures due to recurring injuries. The season ended with the Padres having more position players unable to go than healthy bodies.
Injuries weren't the only thing that crushed the Padres this season.
Grandal opened the season and shortstop Everth Cabrera ended it serving 50-game suspensions stemming from the use of performance-enhancing drugs. And third baseman Chase Headley fell far short of repeating his breakout season of 2012.
That said, had the Padres remained healthy they might have made a stronger run in 2013.
They climbed into contention in late May and early June before four starters -- Yonder Alonso (June 1, broken hand), Gyorko (June 10, groin strain), Maybin (June 11, PCL strain in right knee) and Cabrera (June 18, hamstring) -- went on the disabled list in a span of 18 days.
But can they count on the current cast of position players to stay healthy for an entire season. History says absolutely not.
As unsettled as the situation is in the lineup, the starting pitching made great strides this season with the emergence of right-handers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross as potential top-of-the-rotation starters.
With Ian Kennedy and Eric Stults solid starters, the Padres could take a giant leap forward if right-handers Matt Wisler and Burch Smith and left-hander Robbie Erlin continue to develop.
Or, might the Padres package one of their young starters -- Cashner appears to be untouchable -- with an existing position player to upgrade at a position. Padres ownership says the payroll will grow to $80 million next season. But the free-agent market appears to be thin. Add payroll through a trade for a proven player.
"Overall, there are some positive signs moving forward," Black said. "The pitching came around. We played hard all year.
"When you look at all the adversity we overcame on the injury front and the suspensions ... I'm very proud of the group that's been here all year."
But can that group continue to move forward without outside help.
The feeling is no.
MLB Team Report - San Diego Padres - NOTES, QUOTES
RECORD: 76-86, fourth place in NL West
TEAM MVP: OF Will Venable almost by default. SS Everth Cabrera had the inside track until he drew a 50-game suspension for getting linked to the Biogenesis scandal. Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso were playing well until injuries cut their seasons in half. Although slowed over the final month with an abdominal issue, Venable finished with a .268 average with 22 doubles, eight triples, 22 homers and 22 steals.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: 3B Chase Headley, and it isn't close. An incredible second half last year (he was the National League Player of the Month for both August and September) resulted in a breakout season for Headley in 2012. He hit .286 with 31 homers and a league-leading 115 RBIs. He finished fifth in the NL MVP voting and won both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards at third. This season: A .250 average, 13 homers and 50 RBIs.
TOP PROSPECT: RHP Matt Wisler, 21, was 10-6 with a 2.78 ERA in a season split between Class A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio. Although he didn't get a September call-up (the Padres don't have to add him to the 40-man roster this winter), Wisler will get a shot at making the rotation next spring. Expect to see him in the major leagues some time next season.
--C Chris Robinson was outrighted to Triple-A Tucson as the Padres took him off their 40-man roster. Robinson, 29, went 2-for-12 in eight games with San Diego this year.
--RHP Tyson Ross had arthroscopic surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, the club announced Oct. 3. Ross is expected to be ready by spring training. Ross, 26, endured a nine-game, season-ending winless streak. He finished the season with a fine 3.17 ERA, certainly not a mark that befits a 3-8 record.
--2B Jedd Gyorko, 25, was easily the Padres' Rookie of the Year and deserved consideration as the club's MVP. He hit his first grand slam in the season finale. The homer was Gyorko's 23rd of the season and raised his RBI total to 63. Gyorko became the first rookie since Nate Colbert in 1969 to lead the Padres in either homers or RBIs or both. Colbert set franchise records for rookies during the Padres' inaugural season with 24 homers and 66 RBIs. Gyorko led all major league rookies in homers this season and became the first rookie second baseman ever to lead his team in RBIs. Remember, Gyorko not only missed 30 games at midseason with a right groin strain, he was 5-for-50 in his first 13 games after the injury with no extra-base hits.
--OF Mark Kotsay's 16-year major league career came to an end in the season finale against a former teammate and close friend. In his final at-bat, Kotsay struck out swinging against LHP Barry Zito, who was likely making his last appearance for the Giants. Bruce Bochy brought in Zito from the bullpen to face Kotsay. The two were formerly teammates in Oakland. "That was great," said Kotsay of his final at-bat. "What better way to end my career against one of my favorite teammates and a close friend. It was a great moment for the both of us. One of us had to win." After the game, Zito and Kotsay exchanged text messages from their respective clubhouses. Said Zito: "I love that it was us out there together." Kotsay came within inches of two hits in the last game but went 0-for-4. Kotsay fell a hit shy of finishing the season at .200.
--OF Chris Denorfia finished the season on a seven-game hitting streak (13-for-30) with five hits in the final two games. He had a double, triple, homer, four RBIs and 10 runs scored during the streak. The late-season run boosted Denorfia's average from .269 to .279. Denorfia led the Padres in hits (132) and runs scored (67) with a career-high 10 homers.
--1B Tommy Medica, 25, capped his first month in the major leagues by finishing the season on a five-game hitting streak (9-for-15) with a double, a homer and four RBIs. Medica had the first three-hit game of his career Saturday.
--3B Chase Headley isn't just saying he struggled through an injury-plagued season. He's doing something about it. Headley has scheduled surgery for Oct. 1 on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus that he says occurred in training camp. That helps explain how the Padres' most hotly pursued player in trade talks last offseason after hitting .286 with 31 home runs and 115 RBIs could be arguably the club's biggest disappointment this season. He went 0-for-2 in the season finale to finish 2013 with a .250 average to go with just 13 homers and 50 RBIs. Want another sign his leg was bothering him? He stole only eight bases this season after swiping 17 a year ago.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Health would be the biggest acquisition." -- Manager Bud Black, whose team was paralyzed by injuries this season, talking about the Padres' needs this offseason.
MLB Team Report - San Diego Padres - ROSTER REPORT
A year ago, the Padres went into the offseason happy with their position players but concerned with their pitching. A year later, they are happy with the future of their pitching staff but desperately in need of a bat or two -- particularly a bat or two that can stay healthy for a full season.
BIGGEST NEEDS: Add a power bat at a corner outfield or corner infield slot. And that bat, maybe two, needs to be durable. Perhaps a bigger need would be good health. The Padres have four players who will be coming off surgery (OFs Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin, C Yasmani Grandal and 3B Chase Headley), three starting pitchers rehabbing from Tommy John surgery (LHP Cory Luebke and RHPs Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland) and at least two players (OF/1B Kyle Blanks and INF Logan Forsythe) whose injuries border on chronic.
FREE AGENTS: SS Ronny Cedeno, RHP Jason Marquis
The Padres aren't expected to offer Cedeno what his market value might be. Marquis is coming off elbow reconstruction surgery and might not pitch in 2014.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: OF/1B Kyle Blanks, OF/1B Jesus Guzman, 3B Chase Headley, SS Everth Cabrera, RHP Andrew Cashner, RHP Luke Gregerson, RHP Tim Stauffer, LHP Clayton Richard
The Padres will decide this winter whether to sign Headley to a long-term contract or trade him before he becomes a free agent after the 2014 season. Richard is coming off shoulder surgery and will likely be non-tendered. Blanks and Guzman are pretty much the same person and one could be moved or traded.
IN LIMBO: 3B Chase Headley, LHP Clayton Richard, SS Ronny Cedeno, RHP Brad Brach, RHP Anthony Bass, RHP Brad Boxberger, LHP Tommy Layne, LHP Colt Hynes
--RHP Tyson Ross (arthroscopic left shoulder surgery in October 2013) is expected to be ready by spring training.
--1B Yonder Alonso (weakened right hand) is expected to heal with time. He should be ready by spring training.
--OF/1B Kyle Blanks (Achilles tendinitis and a weakening left shoulder) battled both injuries at the end of the season. The Padres are concerned about the shoulder, which had a previous round of surgery in April 2012.
--INF Logan Forsythe (plantar fasciitis in right foot) was bothered by the injury during spring training and again over the final two months of the season. Forsythe had foot problems before, and the sesamoid bones in each foot were surgically removed following fractures.
--C Yasmani Grandal (right knee surgery in August 2013) had a torn anterior cruciate ligament repaired. He aims to be ready by Opening Day; the Padres expect him back no sooner than late May or early June.
--3B Chase Headley (torn meniscus in right knee) will have surgery on Oct. 1. He will be ready by spring training.
--OF Rymer Liriano (elbow reconstruction surgery) will be training and hitting at the Padres academy in the Dominican Republic over the winter.
--CF Cameron Maybin (right wrist surgery in September 2013) had two torn and inflamed ligaments repaired. He hopes to play winter ball around the first of the year and expects to be ready by the start of spring training.
--LF Carlos Quentin (right knee surgery in September 2013) had a third operation on the knee in a span of 18 months. He plans to be ready by the start of spring training. He played in only half of the Padres' games each of the past two seasons.
--LHP Cory Luebke (Tommy John surgery in May 2012) will get another opinion after his rehab was shut down a third time following discomfort in various stages of his throwing program.
--RHP Casey Kelly (Tommy John surgery in April 2012) is scheduled to start throwing over the winter and hopes to be ready to pitch by June 2014.
--RHP Joe Wieland (Tommy John surgery in July 2012) was shut down in August 2013 due to a "stress reaction" during rehab. He should resume rehab in October or November.