The San Diego Padres are headed in a new direction, and not simply because they are under new ownership.
Club officials, encouraged by the team’s recent surge, could adjust their offseason plans in two ways, according to sources with knowledge of the Padres’ thinking.
One, by keeping third baseman Chase Headley.
Two, by signing at least one free-agent starting pitcher.
The Padres are 41-30 since June 10, the fourth-best record in the National League — and best in the NL West. Headley, the subject of trade discussions in July, has a .921 OPS since the All-Star break, 15th best in the NL.
Why mess with success?
The Padres are asking themselves that very question, sources say — and leaning against trading Headley this winter. Instead, Headley would remain their No. 3 hitter through 2014 and possibly longer if he signs an extension.
Top prospect Jedd Gyorko, a possible successor to Headley at third, still would join the team next season, but at second base. The Padres’ lineup, then, could look something like this:
Will Venable, RF
Carlos Quentin, LF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Yonder Alonso, 1B
Cameron Maybin, CF
Everth Cabrera, SS
Not bad. And the team’s bench — with players such as infielder Logan Forsythe and outfielders Chris Denorfia, Mark Kotsay and Jesus Guzman — wouldn’t be bad, either.
Starting pitching, then, would be the Padres’ biggest concern, particularly when so many of their young starters will be coming off injuries next season.
The Pads could re-sign right-hander Jason Marquis as a veteran complement to righty Edinson Volquez and lefty Clayton Richard. But if possible, sources say, they also would like to add a higher-impact starter — maybe even New York Yankees righty Hiroki Kuroda.
Padres general manager Josh Byrnes long has liked Kuroda, first trying to sign him out of Japan as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ GM in 2007, only to lose him to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Byrnes actually tried again last offseason, but he didn’t have enough payroll flexibility to afford both Kuroda and Quentin.
Under new ownership, that could change.
If not Kuroda, the Padres could end up with another veteran free agent from a group that is expected to include Ryan Dempster, Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson, and possibly Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Gavin Floyd.
Exciting stuff for a team that started the season 20-41 — a team that suddenly looks like it might contend sooner rather than later.
— Ken Rosenthal