The Padres don’t need to sign any more free agents. The goal, clearly, isn’t to win in 2017, and the team, as currently constructed, will probably be lucky to sniff 70 wins. Still, undervalued free agents can come in handy for a couple of reasons: 1) the Padres have to finish a 162-game season, and they may need more cavalry just to get there (especially on the pitching side), and 2) free agent rehabilitation projects can turn into valuable trade chips by late July.

It’s hard to oversell just how important the Drew Pomeranz acquisition was. Though not actually a free agent pick-up, Pomeranz was nabbed for close to nothing (Yonder Alonso) and, just a few months later, exchanged for one of the Padres most intriguing prospects, right-handed pitcher Anderson Espinoza. Fernando Rodney, an actual free agent signing, was turned into Chris Paddack last June, another interesting (if now injured) pitcher. Are there any free agents left who could be Pomeranz-ed or Rodney-ed into something useful by mid-summer?

First, let’s run down MLB Trade Rumors top remaining FAs, published on Christmas day:

Mark Trumbo—Pass.

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The natives have become quite restless.

As the 2015 off-season enters the 2nd half of it’s 2nd month, while it has seemed like nearly every major transaction of this winter hot stove season has involved one of the other teams in the NL West, the Padres have basically the same holes with which they entered the off-season. They’ve made some moves, yes, but because those have been moves meant to add depth, clear payroll, and rebuild the team’s depleted farm system, there has been little done to add to the major league roster for 2016. After last off-season, everyone is waiting for the sequel to start.

The phrase of the year appears to be “contend and rebuild.” The Padres, wary of losing revenue in the short-term for what could be a better chance at success in the long-term, are unwilling as an ownership group to commit to a complete tear down and rebuild, such as what we’ve seen recently from the Astros and the Cubs. The club’s majority/minority owner Peter Seidler, by way of the Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin this past summer, and brought back to the forefront by Chris from Padres Public’s own The Sacrifice Bunt just last week, is talking about “competing year after year after year.” Whether you fear or hope for a complete rebuild, this is not ownership’s vision for the franchise.

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Why is this happening? Is this gonna be forever?

After being snubbed by both Pablo Sandoval (BOS) and Yasmany Tomas (ARI) the Padres offseason looked to be just more of the same — overpromising and under-delivering — by the time the Winter Meetings started.

It was even reported that the new GM A.J. Preller’s laptop was broken right before the meetings started.  Out came the “Padres are too cheap to even replace a computer” jokes.

Padres’ fans started to show their frustration.  We all knew what this team needed to do, but it seemed that Preller was just like the old GM.  Refusing to drink the iced coffee instead of trying to upgrade the roster with quality players.

It was beginning to look like an almost exact repeat of the previous two offseasons, with only Brandon Morrow and Clint Barmes added as free agents for “roster depth.”

Clint Barmes

Padres sign IF Clint Barmes to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with a club option ($2 million or $200k buyout) for 2016

C’mon.  After Everth Cabrera was DFA, you didn’t really think the Padres were going to put all their faith in Alexi Amarista at shortstop, did you?  Although. Barmes is basically Amarista without the outfield experience.  He was basically signed for infield backup and as a veteran presence.

Why Clint Barmes?

Brandon Morrow

Padres sign RHP Brandon Morrow to a one-year, $2.5 million deal (with incentives)

Tim Stauffer Part Deaux, is what it boils down to.  Doesn’t cost much and if he doesn’t crack the rotation he’ll be the long reliever, most likely.

Brandon Morrow looking to make comeback with Padres

Then, the last day of the Winter Meetings happened.  And that all changed.  Big time.

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Last week, we discussed some potential free agent targets, eventually depositing a brief comment on former Kansas City Royals outfielder Nori Aoki:

Speaking of Alexi, Nori Aoki graduated summa cum laude from the Amarista School of Outfield Defense, but the numbers say he’s somewhat effective out there. He’s ultra consistent with the bat, posting batting averages between .285 and .288 and on-base percentages between .349 and .356 in each of his first three seasons in the majors, though his power is trending down. His high-contact offensive style might be a good fit in Petco, though he isn’t a clear-cut upgrade over a Will Venable or Seth Smith.

Unlike some of the other names mentioned in last week’s article, Aoki seems like a particularly good fit in San Diego for a couple of reasons: (1) he should be relatively cheap, even by today’s free agent standards, and (2) he would help fill out an outfield that has plenty of pieces that are coming off of injury-plagued or underachieving seasons like Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, and Carlos Quentin.

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If you thought I was going to leave this post blank, you’re evil. Well … maybe not totally.

The Padres probably aren’t going to be big players in this offseason’s free agent market. The Padres have never been big players in a free agent market. While there was early excitement about the possibility of signing Cuban import Yasmany Tomas, speculation has backed off on that front. While that doesn’t mean Tomas can’t sign with San Diego, if you read between the lines here and there, it seems likely that: (1) the Padres won’t ink Tomas and (2) they will be relatively quiet on the free agent market again this offseason.

While big-spending teams have the luxury of buying the best free agents, they also have the burden of risking hundreds of millions of dollars to sign the best free agents, a group that usually consists of 30-plus-year-old players with their best days in the rear-view mirror. That’s not a terrible burden to have, I suppose, but it can quickly turn sour if a couple of deals go wrong. Look at the Yankees — despite having a competent front office and as much money as anyone, they’re stuck in a mid-80s win rut because most of their big free agent splashes have failed.

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Living in Cleveland since 2006, I’ve been casually following the local NBA team, the Cavaliers, since my arrival. First, we had Lebron, and it was pretty cool. Then, all of a sudden, we had no Lebron, which wasn’t fun. Now we have Lebron again! It’s wild.

Wilder still, although the Cavs had the 9th worst record in the NBA last year, through the magic of the NBA draft lottery, they defied the odds and landed the 1st pick in this year’s draft. In the NBA, any team that doesn’t make the playoffs has a chance to win the #1 overall pick, and the Cavs lucked out, despite having less than a 2% chance of winning the lottery.

In MLB, there is no lottery, but there’s something almost as important. Teams who finish with the 10 worst records have their 1st round draft picks protected in the following year’s draft. That means those teams can sign a free agent who has received a qualifying offer from their current team without losing their first round draft pick. They’ll still forfeit a draft pick, but it will be a much less valuable 2nd round pick.

How much less valuable is a 2nd round pick? This year, the Padres paid their 1st round pick, Trea Turner, and over-slot bonus of $2.9 million. They also gave their 2nd round pick, Michael Gettys, an over-slot bonus, but of just $1.3 million. The gap only widens as you near the top of the draft, as top 10 picks in this year’s draft received bonuses up to $6.582 million, while no 2nd rounder got more than $1.8 million, and the highest slot value in the 2nd round was only $1.35 million.

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Yesterday morning Ervin Santana signed a 1-year contract for $14.1MM with the Atlanta Braves. It’s a good deal for Ervin Santana. He didn’t have a job before yesterday. It’s a good deal for the Braves who have seen injuries to pitchers Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen, the latter of which, may require Tommy John surgery. Ervin Santana has a contract and the Braves filled a hole in their rotation, and everyone wins. Or do they?

Ervin Santana didn’t want a 1-year contract. Ervin Santana wanted a Many-year contract. This is an understandable desire. Averaging 210 IP over each of the previous 4 seasons, Ervin Santana has shown himself to be a reliable starter, and at 31 years of age, was seeking what could be his last chance to get a big payday. But because the Kansas City Royals gave Santana a Qualifying Offer at the end of the 2013 season for 1 year at $14.1MM there were restrictions to the right-hander’s impending free-agency. Santana could either accept the offer or seek a multi-year offer elsewhere. Once he rejected the Qualifying Offer any team that signed him would be required to forfeit its first pick in the 2014 June Amateur Draft. This caveat to signing Santana appears to have scared off a good many suitors but when teams get desperate they make deals happen – and along came the Atlanta Braves. By signing Santana the Braves will add payroll and forfeit their 28th pick in the 2014 June Amateur Draft (Don’t feel too bad for the Braves – they have a pick at #31 as compensation for the loss of Brian McCann).

It took more than 200 words but we’ve finally arrived to Chase Headley. He of the expiring contract at the end of 2014, Chase Headley. Is a Qualifying Offer in Chase Headley’s future?

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