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Towers talks team's arbitration plans

Towers talks team's arbitration plans

SAN DIEGO -- Speaking to the local media before departing for the Winter Meetings, Padres general manager Kevin Towers talked of the perception of "gaping holes" that will need to be filled, though it looks like finding a backup catcher might not be one of them.

Towers indicated Friday that the team will likely offer arbitration to free agent catcher Michael Barrett and that there's a good chance Barrett will accept the offer for the one-year deal worth his 2007 salary of $4 million.

"I think there's a good chance Michael will be back," Towers said, "It's better than 50-50."

As Towers sees it, it's a no-lose deal for the Padres either way. If Barrett does decide to sign with another team, the Padres will receive a first-round Draft pick and a compensatory pick (a pick between the first and second rounds) because Barrett was classified a Type A free agent.

Barrett was acquired from the Cubs on June 21 and hit .226 in 44 games, which is well below Barrett's career average of .266, and missed time with a concussion in August. If Barrett does return, he'll serve as Josh Bard's backup.

As for the Padres other Type A free agent -- outfielder Milton Bradley -- Towers said that the team won't likely offer him arbitration, which likely signals the end of his short stay with the Padres.

"I would say we're less likely to offer," Towers said. "Not without knowing where he's going to be in April and with Brian [Giles] coming off knee surgery."

Bradley, who hit .313 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs in 42 games after coming over in a trade from Oakland, will not be ready for the beginning of the season as he is still recovering from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Bradley suffered the injury in a well-publicized incident in the final week of the regular season in a game against the Rockies after a heated argument with umpire Mike Winters.

Towers has been told by Bradley's agent that he'll be ready for Opening Day, though with Giles coming off surgery and the uncertainty that the team will land a center fielder this winter -- its No. 1 need -- the Padres decided they couldn't afford to carry two outfielders coming off major surgeries.

Winter Meetings

Towers said that the Padres will offer relief pitcher Doug Brocail -- who signed a one-year deal worth $2.5 million this week with Houston -- arbitration. That means that San Diego will receive a compensatory pick for the Type B free agent.

Towers said this week that the team will offer arbitration to Type B free agent outfielder Mike Cameron. Cameron's agent said his client will likely decline the offer and will instead continue to look for a multiyear deal. That would give them an additional compensatory draft pick.

Free agents have until Dec. 7 to notify their previous teams if they will accept arbitration.

Also on Friday, Towers said that he's had discussions with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, trying to gauge whether Chicago will offer right-hander Mark Prior arbitration. Prior, who is from and still lives in San Diego, might be available in a trade.

Towers also said that he and the agent for Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, Barry Axelrod, have continued discussions about extending his current contract, which doesn't expire until after the 2009 season.

"Almost daily," Towers said when asked how often he's spoken with Axelrod regarding Peavy. "As of now, we're moving toward an extension."

Sledge off to Japan: Outfielder Terrmel Sledge will play in Japan next season for the Nippon Ham Fighters, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Sledge, 30, hit .210 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs last season for the Padres in 100 games. Sledge said he hopes to return to the Major Leagues in a few years.

Sledge was acquired by the Padres from the Rangers on Jan. 4, 2006, in the deal that also brought pitcher Chris Young and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from Texas.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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