With Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley not likely to rejoin the team, do you see the Padres making a move in the offseason to sign any free-agent outfielders like Andruw Jones or Aaron Rowand?
-- Russ, San Diego
First of all, here's a little background. Cameron and Bradley can be free agents, and I have to think that it's unlikely that both will return next season. I will even go as far to say that neither one returns in 2008. Cameron will be 35 in January and will likely want a three-year deal. I don't see the Padres wanting to give him more than a year or two. Plus, with Jones hitting the market, the Braves might well have interest in Cameron and vice versa, as Cameron is from the Atlanta area. Bradley, because of knee surgery, won't likely be ready for Opening Day, and I don't expect him to return anyway. Jones is a guy who has always killed the ball at PETCO Park, and the Padres might be able to make a one-year deal for him. Rowand might be the prized free-agent outfielder of the bunch, especially the way that he hits and plays defense. The problem is that a handful of other teams are looking for a center fielder.
What is the status of catcher Michael Barrett's contract? I'm aware of the clubhouse issues he had in Chicago, but he really broke out the last two seasons, and he has been much better than he's showing right now. Where will he be next year, and what will his role be?
-- Jason D., Tustin, Calif.
Barrett can be a free agent, and while I'm sure the Padres do have some interest in bringing him back to back up Josh Bard, I would have to think he's going to get better offers -- financially and from a playing-time perspective -- from another team. The Padres really liked the way Bard played down the stretch, the way that he hit (.285 overall, .329 in September). He's durable and capable of catching a lot of games. But look for the Padres to sign a free-agent backup catcher or trade for one in the offseason, as other than Nick Hundley -- who hit 20 home runs for Double-A San Antonio -- the Padres don't have any other options at the higher levels of their farm system. If Barrett signs elsewhere, the Padres should recoup a compensatory pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
Do you see second baseman Marcus Giles returning in 2008? With his salary, I think we can better use it somewhere else. Do you think Matt Antonelli could be ready?
-- Dan G., Syracuse, N.Y.
The Padres hold a $4 million option on Giles, and they'll likely decline that, choosing the $500,000 buyout instead. Giles, if you remember, smoked the ball in April, hitting .327 with 32 hits in the month. He struggled mightily thereafter, losing his job to Geoff Blum. Giles only had 89 at-bats in 35 games in the second half of the season. San Diego general manager Kevin Towers is a big fan of Antonelli, who just completed his second season in the Minor Leagues. Is he ready? We'll see how he fares during the Arizona Fall League and in Spring Training. I don't think it's unreasonable that he's in the lineup on Opening Day next March.
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Who did you think is going to play second base next year and what do you think that the Padres are going to do with third baseman Morgan Ensberg? Are they going to keep him?
-- Cesar C., San Diego
I partly addressed the second-base situation in the previous question -- I think Antonelli will get a long look. As for Ensberg, he would like to come back to San Diego next season, though he also told me that he would like to play. That's not going to happen a whole lot with Kevin Kouzmanoff around, especially the way Kouzmanoff hit in the second half. Ensberg hit .224 with four home runs and eight RBIs after the Padres obtained him from the Astros. He's a great clubhouse guy and a great teammate, so there's a chance he could return in a utility capacity, though other than third base, he really can't play elsewhere, though he told me that he's willing to play anywhere. Stay tuned.
I know Trevor Hoffman has made a huge contribution to the Padres organization over the years and is a lock as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but I believe Heath Bell should become the closer beginning next year. What are your thoughts?
-- David T., Ogden, Utah
I like Bell a lot and think he pegs well as a future closer. Will he get that chance in 2008? That remains up to Hoffman, if he's to return or not. His $7.5 option for next season has already kicked in. I would expect Hoffman to be back at this point, despite seven blown saves in 2007, including two in the final three days of the season. Remember, he still saved 42 games. Should Hoffman not return for some reason, then Bell is the guy. No question.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.