Now that the offseason is here, the mailbag will appear weekly throughout the winter, with a few exceptions, instead of every other week. So keep the questions coming. Thanks.
What are the Padres going to do with Kevin Kouzmanoff?
-- Alek S., Bass Lake, Calif.
If you're a Padres fan, the answer to this question is pretty simple -- hopefully nothing.
The Padres are generally happy with the way Kouzmanoff played in his second season, offensively and defensively. He reached career highs in home runs (23) and RBIs (84), though his walks (23) and on-base percentage (.299) were down in 2008.
The Padres would like to see him walk more and be more selective at the plate. Kouzmanoff was much better defensively this season than in 2007, and the team is encouraged by that.
Moving ahead, I see Kouzmanoff staying put because he's young and his salary is under team control, which means he's inexpensive. But if they're looking to add another productive bat to their lineup, he might be the player to move, as they can slide Chase Headley back into his natural position at third base. We'll see what happens this winter.
Are the Padres going to keep Edgar Gonzalez?
-- Christina D., San Diego
Hey, Christina, I have to think that Edgar Gonzalez, Adrian's older brother, has earned himself a spot on the 2009 team with the way he played this season.
At age 30 and after nine seasons in the Minor Leagues, Edgar proved to be one of the few nice surprises for the Padres, hitting .274 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs. He can play a few spots and offers a nice bat off the bench.
I don't know if the Padres see him as an everyday player moving forward, though he certainly showed at times that he can handle Major League pitching. As the Padres go about putting together their bench, an area they want to do improve in 2009, Edgar certainly will be a piece they consider.
What can the Padres do to strengthen their middle relief and clutch hitting, which were two of the major causes of their demise in 2008?
-- Hugh B., Kihei, Hawaii
This seems obvious enough: Find better relievers and add another productive bat to the lineup. It's not as easy as that, though.
The Padres have acknowledged that one of their deficiencies was middle relief and their inability to bridge the gap from their starting pitcher to eighth-inning setup man Heath Bell.
I would expect general manager Kevin Towers to find a few new arms to add to that bullpen mix. As for clutch hitting, that's a tough one. Who is to say that some of the players who fell short of expectations in 2008 won't be better in '09?
That said, adding a position player who offers the kind of things the Padres covet -- a disciplined approach, good on-base percentage, a firm understanding of the strike zone -- isn't out of the question.
Out of all of this season's rookies, which players look most likely to return to the Padres in 2009 and who will be put back in the system?
-- Andrew F., Portland, Ore.
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What you're really asking, Andrew, is which of the many rookies the Padres ran through are going to be back at Triple-A Portland, right?
I think there will be quite a few of them headed back to the Rose City for a little more seasoning. So let's look at which players have the best chance to stick with the Padres in 2009.
Headley and Nick Hundley are locks for the big club, and I think Will Venable might have played his way onto the roster in some capacity. For the pitchers, I like what I've seen from righty Josh Geer. He has a chance to win a spot in the back end of the rotation, as does lefty Wade LeBlanc. I think second baseman Matt Antonelli needs more Triple-A seasoning.
What are the best stadiums you've visited in the National League?
-- Zach S., Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Hey Zach, good question. I'm always up for travel/stadium questions, so fire away.
Best stadiums in the NL? I really liked Nationals Park. The press box is pretty high, but you do get a nice view, including the Capitol.
PNC Park in Pittsburgh is the same way, as you get a nice view of the city from the press box.
I like Nationals Park because of the view of the field from the concourse as you make your way around the stadium. Safeco Field in Seattle, another favorite in the American League, is also good that way.
I will throw out AT&T Park in San Francisco as another favorite, as well as Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Both places have great sightlines.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.