Padres stand pat, finish 76-86 again
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Standing pat last offseason contributed to the San Diego Padres standing still in the NL West.
The Padres finished 76-86 for the second straight season, their fifth losing record in six years. They tied for third with the San Francisco Giants, who won two of the previous three World Series.
"Going 76-86 two years in a row is like kissing your sister. That's not what we want,'' executive chairman Ron Fowler said. "We need to be better in 2014.''
Despite treading water, neither Fowler nor general manager Josh Byrnes think there are glaring holes to fill. The Padres said last offseason that they weren't going to spend just for the sake of spending, and Fowler stands by that approach.
Fowler said the player payroll, which stood at about $72 million on opening day, will increase by 20 percent for 2014.
"From my perspective, it's far more effective to acquire players through trades than sitting there and waiting for free agents to come along,'' Fowler said. "I think last year was a prime example of a free agent market gone wild. Josh was authorized to explore making deals, but when you have your GM say he's not comfortable with price-value, that's why we didn't do more than last year.
"We like the nucleus of the team, but obviously we'd like to get better. I think a successful season is one where you're a number of games over .500, and hopefully that number is enough to get you into the playoffs.''
The Padres haven't reached the postseason since 2005 and 2006. They played a wild-card tiebreaker at Colorado in 2007, losing in 13 innings. They won 90 games in 2010 but faded down the stretch and missed the postseason.
Byrnes said having a bigger payroll "gives us a chance to make some choices. We can keep the group together, if that's what we want, or use the money elsewhere. There's very few markets where you can go into an offseason, keep the group you have and spend on top of that. There's a short list of teams that can do that. Most teams have to make harder choices.''
There were some bright spots, like rookie second baseman Jedd Gyorko hitting 23 home runs and right-hander Andrew Cashner establishing himself at the top of the rotation.
But there were drug suspensions served by catcher Yasmani Grandal and shortstop Everth Cabrera, the team's only All-Star, and the kind of slumps that have taken the Padres out of other seasons.
They were derailed by a 5-15 start and then a 10-game losing streak in late June and early July.
"It was a mixed bag,'' Byrnes said. "I think we had the two really bad stretches that killed us, coming out of the gate at 5-15 and then that stretch in July. We had some good play other than those stretches. It's funny when you assess things going forward, part of the good play in May and June was probably because of our offense, and our play toward the end was because of pitching. We've had a couple of seasons where we've shown flashes, but had stretches where we were left short at the end. We've got to try to figure out how to avoid that.''
Byrnes said his shopping list "is less obvious than maybe last year'' and could include a starter, reliever, position player or all three.
"We certainly don't have a perfect roster, but it's not one with a gaping hole,'' Byrnes said. "If we find additions we like, we'll upgrade.''
Cashner went 10-9 with a 3.09 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 175 innings. He threw a one-hitter against Pittsburgh on Sept. 16. The Padres acquired Ian Kennedy in a trade with the Diamondbacks at the deadline.
Byrnes hopes to get back a trio of young pitchers who are still recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery. They are Casey Kelly, Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland.
"We don't know if we can plan for all three being ready by April or May 1, but it would be great if they were,'' Byrnes said.
After having a monster year in 2012, third baseman Chase Headley cooled off. He's scheduled to have surgery Tuesday to repair torn meniscus in his left knee.
Headley remains under team control for one more season. Talks failed on a long-term contract extension.
"I'm sure we'll talk a little,'' Byrnes said. "With a year to go, obviously we'll assess our options and he'll assess his. Last year's negotiations weren't all that productive. We'll see if this offseason sort of makes things line up better for both sides.''
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