What Next for the Padres?

All free agent pickups that would likely require compensation in form of draft picks has been put on hold. It is not that Kevin Towers does not want the better players; he just does not want to give up any San Diego Padres draft picks, especially since they are slotted so high in each round. Rumors and offers are swirling even still.

"My goal is to have the bullpen wrapped up before the winter meetings so that I can spend that time concentrating on starting pitching," said General Manager Kevin Towers.

The bullpen targets are moves that will keep the farm system cupboard intact and make sure it sees nice additions via the draft. None of the potential signees at this time will be earmarked by compensation.

Towers has already re-signed closer Trevor Hoffman and has made an offer to Rod Beck, who was 20-for-20 in save opportunities for San Diego last season. And the Padres have won the negotiating rights to 32-year-old right-handed reliever Akinori Ohtsuka of Japan. San Diego already has Jay Witasick under contract for 2004 and is retaining Scott Linebrink.

"If we get Ohtsuka and Beck, that would give us five right-handers in the bullpen," said Towers. "Kevin Walker (who is arbitration eligible) would be one of our two left-handers."

Ohtsuka has a 2.39 career ERA in Japan with 132 saves. He was 1-3 with a 2.09 ERA in 51 games with Chunichi last season. Ohtsuka finished 34 of those games and was credited with 17 saves. In 43 innings last season, Ohtsuka allowed 31 hits and five walks against 56 strikeouts.

Over the past two seasons, Ohtsuka has 110 strikeouts against eight walks. Said Padres general manager Kevin Towers: "He throws up to 94 (mph) with a plus-plus slider. His strikeout-to-walk ratio speaks for itself."

The Padres have made an offer to RHP Rod Beck, who was 20-for-20 in save opportunities with the Padres after June 2 last year. The Padres acquired Beck in the absence of closer Trevor Hoffman but would like to have both in the bullpen next year. Ironically, the same agent, Rick Thurmond, represents both Hoffman and Beck. "We're waiting to hear back from Thurmond," said Towers.

The Padres need at least one starting pitcher and two or three more relievers. They'd like to sign two starting pitchers, but budget considerations could prevent that. Their No. 1 pitching target could be Greg Maddux.

Brett Tomko was offered a one year contract by the Padres. The numbers are believed to be one year for $1 million and Tomko is said to be waiting for more offers, as others are interested.

Tomko would slide into the fifth starter's role and still leave plenty of money to sign a front of the rotation starter. The offer seems a little low for someone of Tomko's caliber and veteran experience. It also makes one question whether Ben Howard will have a role with the team in 2004.


RHP Adam Eaton, LHP Kevin Walker, LHP Mike Matthews, OF-1B Brian Buchanan.

The Padres' policy under general manager Kevin Towers regarding arbitration is to not get to that point. They will either work out a deal with the player, trade him or non-tender him before the deadline to offer arbitration.

The Padres will keep Eaton in the fold. He could be their No. 2 or 3 starter in the rotation.

Buchanan, Walker and Mike Matthews will come much cheaper although the Padres probably won't sign them all.

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