Padres laying groundwork for moves

Padres laying groundwork for moves

INDIANAPOLIS -- It's beginning to look as though the Padres will leave the Winter Meetings without making a trade, signing a free agent or doing much with their current 40-man roster.

Just don't confuse this lack of movement for inactivity.

"We're trying to push a few things," Padres general manager Jed Hoyer said.

The Padres have been getting a lot of hits from other teams about third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, who is eligible for salary arbitration.

A handful of teams will leave Indianapolis Thursday after the Rule 5 Draft still looking for a third baseman, presumably a player who will be a much better bargain than recent free-agent signee Placido Polanco, who signed with the Phillies for three years and $18 million.

Could Kouzmanoff be that player?

A team source said on Wednesday that of the players the Padres have been asked about, more inquiries have been made about Kouzmanoff than closer Heath Bell (also arbitration-eligible) and even their All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

The Twins and Orioles are two of the teams believed to have an interest in Kouzmanoff, who likely stands to make between $3 million and $4 million next season.

The Padres, who certainly don't have to trade Kouzmanoff, could be looking to fill any number of needs with such a deal. They want a right-handed hitting outfielder, but may have to way until the dust settles during free agency and a bargain presents itself.

They could also be looking for a starting pitcher, a need this offseason. It's believed the Twins might be willing to part with left-handed pitcher Glen Perkins, a 12-game winner two years ago, in a trade. That would strengthen the Padres starting rotation.

Making such a deal with Kouzmanoff, who has hit 18 or more home runs in each of the last three seasons, would allow Chase Headley to move back to his natural position. The Padres would like to move Headley from left field, where he's played the last two years.

Hoyer said some of the talks on Wednesday were "substantive," though nothing he said was imminent.

"We've had positive conversations and we feel like it's been a productive Meetings even if it doesn't end with us making a deal," Hoyer said.

While Hoyer certainly isn't under the gun to make a deal here, he is facing a deadline of sorts -- the Friday 9 p.m. PT deadline to tender offers to his arbitration-eligible players Kouzmanoff, Bell, reliever Mike Adams and starting pitcher Kevin Correia.

It's believed the Padres are considering non-tendering Correia a contract offer, but that doesn't mean the team is ready to sever ties with the 12-game winner from a year ago who pitched 198 innings and posted a 3.91 ERA.

Hoyer said the team will likely either sign Correia to a deal before the deadline or they will trade him.

The Padres did make one small move on Wednesday, requesting unconditional release waivers on right-handed pitcher Eulogio De La Cruz. The hard-throwing De La Cruz was 2-6 with a 3.12 ERA in 48 games for Triple-A Portland last season.

The decision to drop De La Cruz was likely a preemptive move by the Padres to clear a spot on the 40-man roster in the likelihood the team takes a player in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, where the team will pick ninth.

The Padres have certainly done more than dabble in the Rule 5 Draft during the past, as it's an inexpensive way to look at a player for $50,000. If that player doesn't work out, then he can be offered back to his original team for $25,000.

The Padres struck gold in the Rule 5 Draft a year ago at the Winter Meetings, plucking shortstop Everth Cabrera from the Rockies. Cabrera stuck with the team all season and stole 25 bases while hitting .255. He's considered their shortstop of the future.

Hoyer said the team is looking more at pitchers than position players.

"We have some candidates we're strongly discussing," Hoyer said.

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