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Ian Kennedy would be a good replacement if the Pirates lose Liriano.
Ian Kennedy would be a good replacement if the Pirates lose Liriano.

Sometimes a trade partner seems to be hidden in the mist.  Other times, the trade partner seems to be written in neon.

The San Diego Padres have more neon around them than a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.

Last year the Padres were 77-85.  It was yet another mediocre year in their mediocre history as a franchise.  They seem stuck in the 75-83 wins portion of their win curve.  The Padres have a new GM, in the form of A.J. Preller, so that typically means is that change is afoot.

In 2014, the Padres had a very solid rotation for a sub .500 team.  It was their putrid offense that held them back.  With a very large arbitration class of 10 players that is estimated to cost $30M, plus existing salary commitments of $40M, plus about $4M to round out the roster with minimum salary players, the Padres are looking at $74M of payroll before one move is made.  Last year’s payroll was $90M, so assuming they aren’t looking to increase/decrease, the Padres have $16M to work with this offseason.  That’s not a lot of money to upgrade as many hitters as they need to.

Heading into 2015, the Padres have a whole host of rotation candidates.  The front of their rotation is well above-average (and better than the Pirates’ current 1-3) with Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, and Tyson Ross.  Jesse Hahn had a very impressive debut in 2014 and the junkballing Cuban, Odrisamer Despaigne, rounds out the back end.  Add in Robbie Erlin, Joe Weiland, and Casey Kelly all returning from injury-riddled 2014’s, plus potential young rookie, Matt Wisler coming up from AAA.  That gives the Padres nine options heading into 2015.

I’ve already stated my interest in obtaining Rene Rivera if the Pirates can’t re-sign Martin, so let’s take it one step further and increase the potential deal.  If the Pirates also lose Francisco Liriano, they will be in need of a second impact starter behind Gerrit Cole.  That pitcher could be Ian Kennedy.  Kennedy is estimated to earn $10.3M during his final trip through arbitration.  That’s a figure that fits right into the Pirates’ budget, plus it is a short-term commitment.

It’s hard to see the Padres having designs on contending for a playoff spot in 2015, especially being in the same division as the Dodgers and World Series Champs Giants.  They seem more suited to re-allocate monies in 2015 and stock up for 2016 and beyond.  Their farm system is not especially fertile, either.  For both Rivera and Kennedy, I would move SS/2B Alen Hanson, OF Mel Rojas, and SP Nick Kingham.  The Padres could aggressively promote Hanson to the Majors and put him at SS, allowing them to non-tender the troubled Everth Cabrera and save his estimated $2.9M salary.  Or Hanson could play 2B and Jedd Gyorko could move to 3B.  Mel Rojas could act as the 4th OF, which could enable the Padres to move OF Will Venable or OF Carlos Quentin in another deal.  Nick Kingham replenishes the Padres’ pitching depth and gives them a future #3 starter.

A trade of Rivera (if Martin leaves) and Kennedy would solve two needs for the Pirates at a total potential cost of $11.6M — $10.3M for Kennedy and $1.3M for Rivera (estimates).  That would still leave the Pirates with at least $14M to upgrade 1B, find a bullpen arm, and/or get a 5th starter.  If signing Martin and Liriano are my Plan A, this would be my Plan B.

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