Friars seek righty OF at Winter Meetings

Friars seek righty OF at Winter Meetings

SAN DIEGO -- Like every general manager, new Padres GM Jed Hoyer will arrive in Indianapolis for the start of the Winter Meetings next week with a wish list of players, needs and areas of improvement he could like to address.

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The list just isn't as extensive as one might think for a team coming off its second losing season in as many years.

"We can fill a team tomorrow, and that's pretty rare," Hoyer said recently. "But we're certainly looking to upgrade at certain areas. There are areas of improvement [to address], but there aren't areas of the team that are tremendously deficient."

The Padres won 12 more games in 2009 than they did during the miserable run of 2008 when they lost 99 tilts. They improved with a roster essentially comprised of young players, whom Hoyer and others feel have lots of upside.

Better still, thanks in part to this influx of youth and their holdovers, Hoyer will not head to Indianapolis for the Winter Meetings -- which runs Dec. 7-10 -- desperately looking to fill a particularly position or need.

That doesn't mean Hoyer won't have his hands full next week, though.

"I expect to be really busy in Indy," Hoyer said.

That could mean anything from actively pursuing and signing free agents, making a trade, or continuing discussions Hoyer had during the General Managers' Meetings in Chicago last month.

At the top of Hoyer's wish list is finding a right-handed-hitting outfielder. The Padres hit .236 against left-handed pitching in 2009 and certainly see a fair amount of lefties in the National League West.

The Padres will have some money to spend in free agency, as their payroll will again be in the $40 million range, according to CEO Jeff Moorad. Just how they spend it will be worth watching. Will they add players primarily through free agency or trades?

"Offensively, finding a right-handed-hitting outfielder is something I would like to do," Hoyer said. "We would be looking for a trade or free agent to do that. I think we would like to add a veteran starter or reliever or both."

The Padres have some interest in upgrading at the catching position, where they will go into the season with Nick Hundley as the starter. Henry Blanco, who did a good job as Hundley's backup, is a free agent. There's interest on both sides in having him return.

Of the right-handed-hitting outfielders on the free-agent market, 37-year-old Mike Cameron might be a fit for the Padres, though the outfielder, who played for the team in 2006-07, could ask for a two-year deal that the team might balk at.

Reed Johnson is another outfielder who could likely be had for less than Cameron. Johnson hit .255 for the Cubs last season and is a career .282 hitter. He also has a career .344 on-base percentage. It's not known if the Padres have interest in him.

Of course, adding an outfielder to what is already the deepest position on the team would likely mean some movement. Would that mean moving left fielder Chase Headley -- a converted third baseman -- from the outfield for good? Would that mean trading away third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to make room for Headley?

These are questions Hoyer and his staff has been addressing and ones they'll continue to talk about heading up to, at and beyond the Winter Meetings.

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