What are the Padres' plans for the middle infield? Up-the-middle defense is paramount if you're building your team on pitching and defense. Any chance the Padres make a deal for Jason Bartlett of the Rays and re-sign Jerry Hairston Jr.?
-- Tucker S, Santee

The Padres will definitely add some pieces to the middle of their infield during the winter -- especially since veteran shortstop Miguel Tejada, second baseman David Eckstein and utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr. are free agents. Now that they've acquired Cameron Maybin to play center field, I have to think that finding middle infield help is next on the list. You asked about Bartlett, who the Rays are reportedly listening to offers on. Bartlett made $4 million a year ago and is due a raise. Honestly, I'm not sure what the Padres can offer in terms of Major League-ready players. They have already traded two relievers to get Maybin. There are not a lot of attractive names on the free-agent market, but they might have to go that way anyway, maybe on a one-year deal. I know for a fact the Padres have interest in re-signing Hairston and that he's interested in returning.

Don't you think we got the worst part of the trade with the Marlins? We traded them two Major League pitchers with good ERA for a Triple-A outfielder.
-- Hector I, Chula Vista

Hector, I couldn't disagree with you more. I think the Padres got a steal when they traded for Maybin, who won't be 24 until April. I realize the Padres gave up two relief pitchers -- Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb -- who were important to their success in 2010, but the bullpen was where the Padres had the most depth and they made a deal for a player with a ton of upside from a position of strength. The Padres really like Webb and think that he can eventually become a Major League closer, but they needed to take care of their needs in center field and did so in Maybin, who has had success in the Minor Leagues, though it hasn't translated to the Major League level yet. He's young, athletic and has some tools most players don't. That said, it's still a performance game and he'll get a chance to do just that as the everyday center fielder in 2011.

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When will Luis Durango get a chance to play every day in the Major Leagues?
-- Derek V, Lancaster

Honestly, I don't think it's going to happen, at least not here with the Padres. The Padres' recent acquisition of Cameron Maybin signals that they think he'll be their center fielder for 2011 (and beyond) and with Will Venable in right field and Ryan Ludwick in left, I just don't see how Durango makes this team, even as a reserve infielder. Could he be trade bait? Sure. He's hit .305 in 59 Major League at-bats with seven steals. I won't guess how many of those hits left the infield, but speed is obviously his biggest weapon. He's hit in the Minor Leagues and is still young (25 in April). I can see him being a piece in a trade (would have to be packaged with someone else, say a pitcher) to get a decent return. That is just my guess for now. But I don't see how Durango fits in their long-term plans.

If the Padres picked up a shortstop that is ready for the big leagues, could we see Everth Cabrera take over as the second baseman?
-- Josh P, Temecula

Josh, that's a good question and something we might see happen. Remember, before the Padres selected Cabrera in the Rule 5 Draft in December 2008, he had played mostly second base in the Rockies' organization. Personally, I like Cabrera at shortstop -- his range, his arm, his footwork. But if you land a shortstop, as you surmise, you can move Cabrera over to second base without much trepidation. That said, I think the jury is still out on what kind of player Cabrera will be and if he's an everyday Major League player. He had a nice rookie season and slumped a year ago, though hamstring injuries had a lot to do with that.

Do you think the Padres will add any free-agent starting pitchers this offseason?
-- John G, Mira Mesa

It's an almost certainty they will. The rotation, as it stands today, is Mat Latos, Clayton Richard and Tim Stauffer. You need two more pitchers to complete the rotation. I think left-hander Cory Luebke will get a look in Spring Training as will another lefty, Wade LeBlanc, but you can be sure the Padres will add a starting pitcher, either through free agency or a trade, to help. Ideally, they would like someone to do what Jon Garland did last season; be durable and throw 200 or so innings. Those guys aren't real easy to find, nor do they come cheap.

My question is why are the Padres not making the catching position a priority? They must be confident in Nick Hundley, but he hasn't proven much. Will the Padres try to sign Yorvit Torrealba to a long-term deal? It's sad to see a good catcher walk away from the Padres.
-- Harley G, San Diego

Torrealba has said he doesn't expect to be back. He would like a multi-year deal and the Padres, in his opinion, aren't willing to offer that. I think you'll see them sign a veteran, likely to a one-year deal, like they did with Henry Blanco in 2009 and with Torrealba a year ago. It's not that the Padres don't value the catching position, but with more pressing needs elsewhere -- starting pitching, middle infield -- catching gets bumped down the line.