Padres general manager Kevin Towers told reporters that the team could sign a middle infielder by the end of the week. Several reports suggested that veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel was a leading candidate to land in San Diego. But the Padres preferred Eckstein, who turns 34 next week and is almost eight years younger than Vizquel.
The Padres also regard Eckstein, who has a .351 on-base percentage, as a better fit near the top of their order.
Eckstein, a member of World Series championship teams with Anaheim in 2002 and St. Louis in 2006, hit .265 in 94 games with Toronto and Arizona last season. While he's capable of playing both second base and shortstop, the indications are that San Diego will play him primarily at second.
The Padres traded shortstop Khalil Greene to St. Louis earlier this season, and the light-hitting Luis Rodriguez is the front-runner to open the 2009 season at short in San Diego. Matt Antonelli and Edgar Gonzalez are currently at the top of the second-base depth chart for the Padres.
Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com.