Looking for a dynamic leadoff man and a natural center fielder, the Padres will try to buy one tomorrow when they offer a contract to Kenny Lofton, a free agent who has helped three franchises reach a World Series.
General manager Kevin Towers, who signed reliever Rod Beck yesterday, said he'll be direct with Lofton's agent.
"I'm not much of one to play work-up," Towers said. "We'll put our best foot forward. Hopefully it's something that entices him enough to want to come here."
Doubling an offer by the rival Rockies, Towers retained Beck, who was 20-for-20 on save chances and had a 1.78 ERA, with a $1.85 million guarantee for 2004, including a $100,000 buyout on a $1.75 million club option for 2005.
Beck, 35, is to work as a setup man for closer Trevor Hoffman, who sat out five months in 2003 to recover from a second shoulder operation.
"This ballclub's a lot better today than it was yesterday," Towers said.
Said manager Bruce Bochy: "We're glad to have him back. It's a role that 'Shooter' knows and understands. It gives us another experienced guy late in the ballgames to hopefully help us close out ballgames."
The Padres made the offer to Beck in late September, then told the right-hander to shop for a closer's job. The Rockies offered less than $1 million but more chances to get the 14 saves he needs to reach 300 in his career.
Beck, whose salary this year was $400,000, wasn't available for comment. He'd joked that the Padres would need to win 110 games for him to get 14 saves.
"It's not going to be our priority to get Shooter 14 saves," Bochy said. "If it works out, great. There are going to be games where, hopefully, he comes in in the eighth and gets them out, and in the bottom of the eighth we score some runs and we let Shooter close it out."
Lofton, who will turn 37 in May, has a career on-base percentage of .373 and would give the Padres a speedy catalyst in front of Mark Loretta, Phil Nevin and Ryan Klesko. In 140 games with the Pirates and Cubs, the left-hander stole 30 bases in 39 tries, hit 12 homers, scored 97 runs and had an OBP of .352.
Sean Burroughs, who finished the season as the leadoff man, probably would bat sixth or seventh.
Should they secure Lofton, who's also drawn interest from the Yankees and Cubs, the Padres will heat up their search for starting pitching. Their wish list includes free agent Greg Maddux, a four-time Cy Young winner
With Japanese reliever Akinori Otsuka's addition to be made official this week – provided he gets medical clearance from the Padres tomorrow – the final reliever to be added likely will be a left-hander from a group that includes Ricardo Rincon, Steve Kline and Mark Guthrie.