• HaroldHecuba: Mike Mussina is EASTERN EUROPEAN, not Italian....

The San Diego Padres lost a grand total of 99 games last year. They were third to last in RBI, second to last in team batting average, and dead last in runs scored. Their pitching was arguably better, but only marginally; they were 10th in ERA and in batting average against, and they allowed the sixth most runs in the National League. All of which was a drastic departure from 2007, when the Padres pitching staff was the best in the league.

After such a disappointing season, you’d think the Padres front office would have a semblance of a plan to right the ship for next year, right? Well…

Take one of their lone shining moments, another strong year from 2007 Cy Young winner, Jake Peavy. His ERA (2.85) was good for third best, and his 10-11 record would’ve easily been way north of .500 had his team provided more run support (they scored 3.63 runs per outing). Surely they can count on him having another strong year in 2009, right? Well…

Peavy’s pretty much done with the team, as the cost-cutting Padres can no longer afford his $11 million salary. They’ve got a scheduled budget of around $50 million for 2009, and they’ve been actively shopping him. In fact, GM Kevin Towers wanted a deal in place before the free agent period began back in mid November. So fine – trade him– that ought to bring in some talented prospects to build around. Well…

Peavy’s still with the team, as the possible trade partners (Cubs, Braves, among others) have not offered the right deal/pieces for Towers to pull the trigger. Which in turn is hampering the team’s ability to make any other moves.

Much of what the Padres need will be addressed by the impending Peavy trade, whether the returns are in the form of a young starting pitcher, or more relief pitching, or perhaps, a young shortstop. And consequently, any further moves will be directly contingent on what they get in said Peavy deal; as in, what to do with Khalil Green and what kind of a deal the Padres could make if, for instance, Towers is able to coax Yunel Escobar from the Braves. But without moving Peavy there is no other first move, because, as of now, that’s what the Padres need to do.

But let’s not concentrate on the what-ifs, let’s get some facts out of the way. The Padres declined to offer Trevor Hoffman arbitration, signaling the end of his storied tenure with the team, and Mark Prior filed for free agency (but he may re-sign). So they need to solidify their rotation and their bullpen (remember, their pitching was the best in the NL in 2007, and way below average in 2008).

They also need to drastically improve their offense. Picking up Brian Giles’ option (lead the team in BA) is a good start, but they could use a run-producing outfielder (Giles collected almost as many RBIs as their other two projected starting outfielders, Scott Hairston and Chase Headly, combined). With Tadahito Iguchi gone, the Padres will give Matt Antonelli a shot at second base, but an upgrade there wouldn’t hurt.

Which brings me back to the budget. Depending on how you look at it, offense is where the Padres need to be focusing their offseason plans, but then again so is pitching, and several free agent, veteran pitchers have indicated their preference for San Diego.  Well…

While the budget hasn’t been set, and mlb.com reports it around $50 million, other figures indicate that it could be close to $40 million, which is a full $30 million less than 2008′s budget. I don’t know about you, but last time I checked, you can’t do much with $40 mil other than hope your prospects are the hottest commodity in the market. The Padres are free of bad contracts, and the low payroll gives off the impression that an opportunity to spend some money is on the horizon.

Well…

The team is currently caught in the middle of owner John Moore’s divorce and at this point it’s not clear what impact, if any, that’ll have on his majority stake, but there’s a very real possibility that his wife, Becky Moores will get the controlling majority.

Oy… You thought 2008 was bad…? It seems 2009 won’t get any better.

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