Padres execs encouraged, intend to stay course

Padres execs encouraged, intend to stay course

Padres execs encouraged, intend to stay course
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres will raise their player payroll to about $53-55 million next year, chief executive officer Jeff Moorad said, in large part because of a new television deal that should be in place by Jan. 1.

Pitchers, corner outfielders and a second catcher are high on the shopping list this offseason, according to general manager Jed Hoyer.

Sitting in the home dugout at PETCO Park, Moorad and Hoyer previewed the Padres' offseason on Thursday, one day after the team ended 2011 with a 9-2 victory over the Cubs that nonetheless left San Diego last in the National League West with a 71-91 record.

Hoyer will have at least $5 million more to spend on the payroll than he did in 2011, Moorad said. The TV deal should bring in about $25 million in 2012, compared with $15 million this year.

The Padres and Fox TV have been in talks since early last year.

"We're still negotiating," Moorad said. "And then, the last step is we have to take it to MLB. They're promulgating a variety of new broadcast regulations at the moment."

Moorad said that he expects that play-by-play man Dick Enberg and analyst Mark Grant will call the televised games, but he's "not sure" if Ted Leitner and Andy Masur will return to the radio booth because the club is negotiating a new radio rights deal.

Although the Padres continued to struggle to score runs at PETCO Park, a change in ballpark dimensions isn't part of the team's plans for 2012 and beyond, Moorad said. Rather, the Padres are likely to start more games at 5:30 p.m. PT rather than at 7 p.m. because the ball carries better earlier in the evening, before a common atmospheric effect with the Pacific Ocean occurs. The club discovered in 2010, for example, that its best hitter, Adrian Gonzalez, didn't hit a home run in San Diego after 8 p.m.

"Anything we can do to avoid the marine layer that settles in at around 8 o'clock, I think, is a positive," Moorad said.

"I feel the ballpark offers a home-field advantage that's a unique thing in baseball, where most dimensions are uniform or at least close to," Moorad said. "We've shown that, with the right players, we can get over the psychological hump of this being a tough place to hit. Our team can win here and our offense can succeed here. I think having the possibility of moving the fences, frankly, creates more problem than it's worth."

More than 50 percent of the team's season-ticket holders have renewed their plans for 2012. Moorad said the Padres will work to raise that number in the coming weeks.

Hoyer, meanwhile, said he needs to strengthen the pitching staff and the offense. He also said the "leadership and intangibles" within the players' rank was "clearly a weakness" this year.

Nick Hundley will return as the front-line catcher in 2012, Hoyer said, but must show he can stay healthy enough to play 110 games. The GM will shop for a second catcher, citing the productive tandem of Hundley and Yorvit Torrealba in 2010 as an example.

The GM will search for a hitting coach to replace Randy Ready, who was dismissed on Thursday, and plans to hire a second Major League hitting coach because he believes one coach gets spread too thin. The second coach would not be in the dugout during games.

Although it appears the Padres will not pick up a mutual option on pitcher Aaron Harang, Hoyer said he is open to negotiating a one-year deal with the right-hander, who was 14-7 with a 3.64 ERA.

Hoyer reiterated that he will explore a multiyear deal for center fielder Cameron Maybin, and he will see what transpires regarding closer Heath Bell, who is eligible for free agency.

"I'd love to have him back as our closer; he's great at his job," Hoyer said. "But I'm not going to bring him back if it means hurting the rest of the team. If we can afford him, I look forward to watching him sprint in from center field.

"But if we can't, my job is to put a winning team on the field. And if we have to spend an enormous percentage of our payroll, I'm not going to bring him back just for continuity's sake, if it's going to hurt us."

When shopping for pitchers, Hoyer expects to have a home-field advantage.

"Guys want to pitch here," he said. "Agents reach out to me all the time about [players] wanting to pitch in PETCO."

Suffice that the Padres will not be among the bidders for sluggers such as Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, two potential free agents.

"Our improvements hitting-wise, they're going to be through the farm system," Hoyer said. "They're going to be through trades. They're going to be through undervalued players. Some of the guys that have come up and done well -- Chris Denorfia and Jesus Guzman -- they were Minor League free agents."

Moorad doesn't appear to be in a rush to complete his purchase of the club from John Moores, with whom he met last week. The CEO heads a group that has paid about half of the amount due Moores per their March 2009 agreement.

"We have 2 1/2 years to consummate the sale," Moorad said. "The time value of money would suggest that it doesn't make sense to rush that, but there is a possibility that it could be accelerated."

Moorad said that he and Moores "had a great discussion about the state of the business" recently and that Moores "couldn't be a more cooperative partner as it relates to the process."

Moorad said the Padres will lose about $1.6 million this year. But the goal remains the same. "We're committed to winning a World Series, and we'll settle for nothing less," he said.

Encouraged that the team's per-game attendance in September 2011 was better than it was in September 2010, when the Padres were fighting the Giants for first place, Moorad said he believes a significant portion of the fan base is supportive of the club building a consistent winner through homegrown players.

Both Moorad and Hoyer said the playoff berths won by four Padres affiliates, including league champions in advanced Class A and Double-A, bode well for the Major League club. Moorad noted that when he was a D-backs executive, the team won the NL West in 2007 with several players who were part of Arizona's Pacific Coast League-winning affiliate in 2006.

"It's about building from within," he said. "It's about building a strong farm system that has the ability to promote players into the big leagues that can be impact players. Look at the culture of winning that's being created down there. We're evolving a culture of winning in the Minor Leagues.

"This season is part of what's required to get to that more stable, firm foundation that allows us to not just compete but to win."

Tom Krasovic is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.