Padres need to upgrade their offense

The Padres, despite their most wins since 1998 and the lowest ERA in the majors, were denied a third straight division title in 2007 and fell to the Rockies in a wild-card playoff.

Under first-year manager Bud Black, they lived and died with pitching. Jake Peavy seems a lock for the Cy Young Award, and Trevor Hoffman earned 42 saves. But Hoffman blew save chances in the 161st and 163rd games, costing the Padres a playoff spot.

It also didn't help that they lost two-thirds of their outfield on Sept. 23, Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley.

Primary needs

It's still a poor offensive team, and any upgrade will help. The only regular who batted above .300 was Bradley, who was a "regular" for only 42 games. The Padres must solidify the back end of their rotation following Peavy, Chris Young and Greg Maddux, who will turn 42 in April. They also must find a closer-in-waiting to replace the 40-year-old Hoffman, who had a 4.44 second-half ERA with five of his seven blown saves coming after Aug. 9.

Mike Cameron


Free agents

CF Mike Cameron, OF Milton Bradley, C Michael Barrett, RHP Brett Tomko, RHP Doug Brocail and OF Brady Clark.

The Padres said they want to bring back Cameron and Bradley, but Cameron, who will be suspended for the first 25 games of next season after testing positive a second time for a banned stimulant, likely will be out of their price range. If Andruw Jones seeks a one-year contract to improve his free-agent status, the Padres would be interested.

Other possibilities are free agent Aaron Rowand, who was wooed by the Padres in the past, and Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. If the Padres don't re-sign Barrett, GM Kevin Towers is a fan of another free-agent catcher, Jason Kendall.

Trade bait

Towers has had success getting a lot for a little, and that'll be his goal in the offseason. On the other hand, Peavy said he wouldn't be surprised if he were traded before his salary escalates to $11 million in 2009, but it seems incomprehensible after he led the National League in wins, ERA and strikeouts. He'll be a bargain at $6.5 million in 2008, so it's likely he'll stick around at least another year.

Farm aid

The Padres released Marcus Giles, creating space at second base for Matt Antonelli, if he can win the job. Antonelli, a first-round pick in 2006, moved from third base in spring training and has power and speed. He could bat leadoff.

The Padres think third baseman Chase Headley is nearly ready, but the position is manned by Kevin Kouzmanoff. A trade is possible.

Trevor Hoffman



Towers isn't given much payroll flexibility, so he's often in the market for other team's troubles. That's how he got Bradley. More offense is needed to complement a pitching staff that should keep the Padres in contention.

The team, meanwhile, has to be concerned that two of its elder players had postseason operations. Hoffman had elbow surgery and outfielder Brian Giles, who will turn 37 in January, had knee surgery.

John Shea is the national baseball writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.