San Diego counting on bargains
GM Hoyer anticipating price of free agents will fall
SAN DIEGO -- It's beginning to look as though first-year Padres general manager Jed Hoyer has correctly gauged the free-agent market.
Now he's probably hoping everyone else hasn't.
"I think the offseason has developed as we had expected," Hoyer said. "For me it's similar to last year. It's been a fairly slow-moving offseason. There are still a lot of free agents on the market in January."
The Padres, who have holes left to fill through free agency or trades, are a little more than five weeks away from the start of Spring Training. Yet there's little panic in Hoyer's voice.
Hoyer is hoping that in January -- and, possibly, February -- that the asking price for some free agents will fall. With a payroll projected in the $40 million range, San Diego is counting on a few bargains.
The Padres, who are looking to add a veteran catcher to back Nick Hundley as well as a right-handed hitter who can play center field and a backup infielder to spell Everth Cabrera at shortstop, have a short list of players they're interested in and have targeted.
According to a baseball source, one of those players is 33-year-old infielder-outfielder Jerry Hairston Jr., the older brother of former Padres outfielder Scott Hairston, who was traded to the A's in July.
Hairston, a career .271 hitter in the National League (compared with .253 in the American League), could potentially fill two areas of need for the Padres. He can be the right-handed bat in center field to platoon with Tony Gwynn, and he could spell Cabrera on occasion.
Hairston hit .251 with 10 home runs and 39 RBIs between the Reds and the Yankees, and his versatility appeals to the Padres. He can play second base, third base and shortstop, as well as all three outfield positions.
The Padres are also said to be interested in Randy Winn, 35, who spent the past five seasons with San Francisco. Winn, a switch-hitter, has a career .280 average against left-handed pitching, though that slipped to .158 in 120 at-bats in 2009.
Winn isn't the defender in center field that he once was, but he still rates as a person of interest for the Padres moving ahead. Before he was dismissed as Padres GM in October, Kevin Towers said that Winn was on his radar for 2010.
The Padres also have some interest in Reed Johnson, a career .313 hitter against left-handed pitching, but he's primarily played left field.
It's likely that the Padres will sign a veteran catcher before they land an outfielder. It's believed they have interest in free agents Mike Redmond and Ramon Castro.
Redmond hit .237 in 45 games last season with the Twins. Castro hit .219 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs in 2009 with the Mets and White Sox.
Veteran catcher Brad Ausmus, who played with the Padres from 1993 to 1996, isn't believed to be as much on the Padres' radar as Redmond and Castro.
The Padres would like to have newly acquired catchers Dusty Ryan and Chris Stewart begin the season with Triple-A Portland.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.