Padres' 40-man roster comes into focus

With nine days until they must submit it to the MLB offices, the Padres face several key decisions about which minor-league prospects to include on their 40-man roster, thereby protecting those players from the Rule 5 draft. Several of those choices are only awaiting the formal announcement.

After several post-season moves, the roster sits at 27. The club has severed ties with bench players Damian Jackson, Manny Alexander and Eric Young and has nine other major league free agents whom they can still re-sign. But more quietly, Brad Baker and Tagg Bozied were moved off the protected 40-man roster in recent weeks to clear spots for other minor leaguers who might be targeted by other franchises.

According to sources in the organization, pitcher Jared Wells and catcher George Kottaras - both of whom finished the year at Double-A Mobile – will likely take their spots, with several other players still on the bubble.

Baker opted for minor-league free-agency when the club outrighted him. Once seen as a potential replacement for Trevor Hoffman, Baker struggled in Portland this year, eventually losing his job as closer. The former Red Sox number one draft pick is likely to sign with a club much closer to his Massachusetts home. The Padres retained Bozied's services when no other team claimed him last week. Without enough service time to take the free agency route, he is still slated to start the season in Portland as he continues his attempt to comeback from knee and back problems which have cost him much of the last two seasons.

In the Rule 5 draft, any club may draft a player who has three or four years of minor league service - depending on his age when he signed - who is not on his club's 40-man roster. Any claimed player must stay on his new team's major league roster all year or be offered back to his original club.

After Bozied, third baseman Corey Smith and first baseman Greg Sain, each of whom has significant power but big questions about his game, are most likely to garner interest from other clubs.

The Padres still appear undecided on whether to add Smith back to the roster. The slugger has made a strong showing offensively in the Arizona Fall League, but remains a question with the glove and has had high strikeout totals throughout his career. Still, with a number of teams looking for options at third base, leaving him exposed may cost the team.

Once rosters are submitted on November 18, the clubs will have nearly three weeks to review available players before the draft, which will be held at the annual Winter Meetings on December 8. The Padres didn't take any players in the 2004 Rule 5 draft, but have taken prospects like outfielder Shane Victorino and infielders Donaldo Mendez and Bip Roberts in the past.

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