The Winter Meetings are coming. Pull on your wool coats, grab some hot cocoa, stoke the fire, and get ready for the hot stove action. With the winter meetings comes rumors, deals, dreams, and broken hearts. For many teams, this signifies the start of their trade season. For the Padres it signifies more unknown. Corey Brock of Padres.com reports on the Padres’ limitations this winter.
That’s always possible, though Byrnes and the Padres are handcuffed to some extent — not so much by a payroll that figures to run about $53 million for 2012, but much more immediately by Heath Bell‘s decision about salary arbitration.
The Padres are faced with a situation no club wants to be stuck with. They must sit and wait, unsure who they will and won’t be signing leading up to the winter meetings. With Bell gone they have an extra $7.5 million to play with. With him on the team, their down 14% of their payroll on one player. All the while, teams in less precarious positions are signing free agents, making trades, and moving on with life. The Padres right now are sitting in their rooms, waiting by the phone, hoping the pretty girl calls and gives them good news.
Heath Bell is not the pretty girl in this scenario. Freedom is. Freedom to make trades. Freedom to spend money. $53 million is a boat load compared to what the club normally operates with. It’s a boat-load compared to the 2011 Rays who made the post season for the third time in four years. $53 million, spent well, can buy a winning club. Let’s take a quick look at the Padres current commitments for 2012 and what they have left over to spend.
Currently, the Padres have only four contracts worth more than $1 million. If Heath Bell accepts arbitration you can add one more to that mix. Right now, we’re looking at Chase Headley, Tim Stauffer, Orlando Hudson, and Jason Bartlett. As you know, the Padres want to dump the Hudson and Bartlett contracts as well. Regardless of whether they do or not, the Padres would be in pretty good shape to spend some money this off-season if Heath Bell does not return.
The recent additions of Kotsay and Baker filled a couple of needs — both are left-handed hitters. Kotsay, the Padres feel, can help off the bench as an outfielder and can play some first base in a pinch. The Padres also feel he’ll be a positive clubhouse presence.
One of Byrnes’ primary goals this offseason is to improve the offense, especially against right-handed pitching.
The only way the Padres are going to make the types of move Byrnes is talking about is to do so before all the talent is scooped up by other teams. The Padres winter wonderland this off-season is filled with more wonder than excitement. Let’s hope the next week is more revealing for a club that looks to turn things around after a 91-loss season.