Bill Center UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER November 28, 2003 wrote:
Then-Athletics' Terrence Long, above, follows through with a solo home run off of New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens during the fourth inning of Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
The acquisition of catcher Ramon Hernandez answered a huge question for the Padres.
But it raised another.
Who will replace Mark Kotsay in center field when the Padres move into their new downtown home in the spring?
Moments after Kevin Towers mentioned the possibility of a Brian Giles-Terrence Long tandem in center Wednesday, the general manager brought up the names of Kenny Lofton and Mike Cameron – two bona fide center fielders on the free-agent market.
"I feel better about our club today than yesterday," Towers said after adding Hernandez and Long at the expense of losing Kotsay. "But we're still in the middle of putting this club together. There could be more changes in December or January."
There are already rumors that Long's stay as a Padre will be short.
Although he once started all 162 games in center for the A's, Long didn't start a game in center for Oakland last season, and his best position is said to be left. Could Long, 27, be packaged with pitcher Kevin Jarvis in a trade with the Mets for center fielder Roger Cedeño? Long began his career as a Met and had his best seasons in Oakland under manager Art Howe, now with the Mets.
Between them, Long and Jarvis will make more than $7.5 million next season. If Long isn't dealt, the trade with Oakland will add $750,000 to the Padres' payroll next season and $3.55 million in 2005. Freeing himself of Jarvis and Long would give Towers more flexibility in his search for pitching.
Dollars are a big part of the process. Lofton might be had for about $1 million. Cameron is a long shot at between $4 million and $5 million.
"If we signed Cameron, we would probably have to move someone else," said Towers.
Last week, even while the Kotsay trade was in limbo, the Padres waived arbitration-eligible Gary Matthews Jr., who started 27 games in center in 2003. Considered a fourth outfielder by the Padres, Matthews might have sought $1.5 million.
Yesterday, Towers was sticking with the idea of Giles and Long sharing center with a combination of Giles, Ryan Klesko and Xavier Nady at the corners.
"As of now, we're planning on keeping Long," said Towers. "But we're going to miss something with Mark not out there in center. Long and Giles will do an adequate job."
Will adequate be good enough? Although Petco Park has some cozy distances, right-center is huge. And Towers acknowledged that the Padres haven't decided which corners Klesko and Nady will be assigned.
"I'd like to get in there in January before spring training and have a good look at the outfield," said Towers, who has also signed center fielders Gene Kingsale and Brian Hunter to minor league contracts and will soon talk to arbitration-eligible Brian Buchanan.
Buchanan, left-handed relievers Kevin Walker and Mike Matthews and right-handed starting pitcher Adam Eaton are all arbitration-eligible. Towers said that if he can't sign Walker, Buchanan and Matthews before the Dec. 22 deadline for arbitration, he will trade them or nontender their contracts, making them free agents.
Eaton will be tendered a contract, meaning he could be the rare Padre who advances past the Dec. 22 deadline toward arbitration.
Towers' next order of business is shoring up his bullpen.
"I hope to have (Japan's Akinori) Ohtsuka signed before the winter meetings, and we're still hopeful of doing Rod Beck before Dec. 7 (when the Padres have to either offer Beck arbitration or lose negotiation rights).
"I'd like to be concentrating on starting pitching by the time we go to the winter meetings."
sometimes Kevin can be a little public about his moves, and I wish otherwise. But it sure makes it nice to be a fan. Oh kevin