The Padres have started the move into their new home. Shortly after the Padres closed their Mission Valley offices Dec. 23 for the Christmas break, movers arrived to start carting furniture and files to the corporate offices at Petco Park. When the staff reports back to work on Jan. 5, they will be reporting to their new home.
The Padres are close to fielding an improved team in 2004.
Close. But not there yet.
Just look at what the Padres unsuccessfully tried to do during the winter meetings.
Twice they sought to sign a free agent center fielder. And twice they were rebuffed in favor of larger contracts from New York teams. The Mets got Mike Cameron. And the Yankees signed Kenny Lofton.
That leaves the Padres in the position of moving into their new ballpark -- with a Pac Bell-like pasture in right center -- without a true center fielder. It could be Brian Giles in center. Or it could be Terrence Long. Yes, Long played a full season in center as recently as two seasons ago for Oakland. But he played no games in center last year.
Last year, the Padres had a strong defensive presence in center. Regular Mark Kotsay was quietly efficient in center. And Gary Matthews Jr. was a capable sub when Kotsay missed time because of back problems.
But to patch a black hole at catcher, the Padres traded Kotsay to Oakland to land Ramon Hernandez. At almost the same time, Padres general manager Kevin Towers -- having become convinced the Padres couldn't re-sign the arbitration-eligible Matthews within their budget constraints -- waived him.
Towers went to the winter meetings hoping to move Long and open up a roster spot -- and enough cash -- to land a center fielder.
At one point, the Padres revisited the Pirates about a deal involving last summer's hottest rumor -- the idea of the Pirates Jason Kendall coming to the Padres. This time, the Padres floated the idea of Hernandez and Long going to the Pirates for Kendall. But Pittsburgh balked at taking on Long. The Pirates wanted right fielder Xavier Nady. No deal.
Padres general manager Kevin Towers is confident the Padres will sign LHP Edgar Huerta, a reliever with the Mexico City Reds. "He has closer-type stuff," Towers said of Huerta, who is pitching for Culiacan this winter. "He's got a heavy fastball up to 97 (mph) and a plus slider.
"We're going to sign one more starting pitcher. Greg Maddux is number one on our list. But he's not the only guy on that list."
Padres on the move, up
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