The Padres have ransacked the market for trade possibilities. They’ve conducted a search from San Francisco to New York for available power. Every available outfielder has been analyzed.
Finally, the Padres have found their man.
His name is Danny Tartabull, the same guy they’ve wanted all along.
They now fully recognize just how much they need him.
“If I could have one wish, just one wish,” Padres Manager Greg Riddoch said, “it would be to get Danny Tartabull. That’s all I’m asking. Can you imagine the difference he’d make on this team?”
Just where would he fit in the Padres batting order?
“We’d probably just let him pick his spot,” Riddoch said.
The Padres opened formal negotiations Monday afternoon with Tartabull for the first time since he filed for free agency, and are expected to make a multi-year offer within 10 days.
“He fits the bill,” said Joe McIlvaine, Padres general manager. “He’s a right-handed power hitter. He’s a big hitter. He hits well with men on base. And he’s capable of having a big RBI season.
“So he’s what we’re looking for.”
Tartabull batted .316 with 31 homers and 100 RBIs last season for the Kansas City Royals. He would fill the Padres’ vacancy in left field with the departure of Bip Roberts, and protect Fred McGriff in the lineup by batting fifth.
“I can’t say specifically what will happen,” McIlvaine said. “It’s really going to come down to what the owners want to do. It’s a financial decision. It’s up to the owners to see what their commitment is. And that remains to be seen.”
While McIlvaine is waiting for ownership to approve a proposal for Tartabull, he continues to explore several trade possibilities.
The Padres discussed trades with the Boston Red Sox that would enable the Padres to acquire center fielder Ellis Burks and third baseman Scott Cooper. The Red Sox are asking for starter Andy Benes and reliever Craig Lefferts, according to a source.
The Padres say they might be willing to offer Harris, a source said, but the Red Sox aren’t interested in parting with Burks and Cooper unless the trade includes Benes.
The Padres also talked with the Houston Astros regarding second baseman Casey Candaele. The Padres, according to a source, may offer catcher Tom Lampkin and outfielder Thomas Howard.
The Padres also talked to the New York Mets about outfielder Mark Carreon and the Seattle Mariners about second baseman Harold Reynolds, but they were not considered serious talks. The Padres also have scheduled a meeting this morning with the Montreal Expos, according to a source, in an attempt to acquire center fielder Dave Martinez.
Yet the main topic is Tartabull. He was told three weeks ago that the Padres lost interest in him because of the availability of outfielder Eric Davis. Still, he maintained hope the Padres would pursue him, and Monday found out his dreams could be realized.
“I think the whole world knows where I want to go,” Tartabull said. “It’s just a question of how interested the Padres are. It’s coming down to that.”
Dennis Gilbert, Tartabull’s agent, met for the first time with McIlvaine and Dick Freeman, team president. The sides exchanged ideas, but not numbers. They parted 45 minutes later optimistic the Padres could get Tartabull for Christmas.
“We had a very upbeat meeting,” Gilbert said. “It was real positive and upbeat. Obviously, Joe McIlvaine is an astute baseball man and he knows as much about Danny Tartabull as anyone else.”
The Padres and Gilbert are not expected to meet again until next week when the Padres make an offer.
Tartabull also is being pursued by the Angels and Royals, and the Red Sox are lurking in the background. The Red Sox would have interest in Tartabull only if they traded away left fielder Mike Greenwell.
Tartabull became much more attractive to the Padres after they traded Bip Roberts to the Cincinnati Reds for Randy Myers. They completed the trade Monday by sending minor-league outfielder Craig Pueschner to the Reds. Pueschner, 21, batted .230 with 11 homers and 52 RBIs at Class A Waterloo.
Roberts spent Monday fielding phone calls from friends and family while awaiting to hear from the Padres. The last time he heard from the Padres, they were denying a trade was near.
“I took it with a grain of salt,” Roberts said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Let’s put up or show me.’ When you read about it every day for two weeks, you know something’s up.”
Roberts was in Las Vegas for a charity function when the trade was consummated at 9 p.m. (PST) Sunday. He arrived home at 12:30 a.m., turned on his answering machine, and learned the news.
“I’d been preparing myself for this,” Roberts said. “The writing’s been on the wall all season. Man, I’m just the latest in a long line to go.
“We’ve had so much talent around here over the years. It seems like we always had the potential to win. But we never won.
“Now, I’m going to a winning organization and I can’t wait. The Padres no longer are my problem. I don’t have to worry about them at all.
“But I can leave here with my dignity and my head held high.”
Roberts also left the organization with complaints about Manager Greg Riddoch. His relationship with Riddoch deteriorated during the season, he said, and might have reached a point of no-return in June.
When Roberts was left behind in San Diego with a back injury in June, he secretly was undergoing psychological counseling. The Padres had hoped he would continue his therapy in an after-care program, but he quit within two weeks.
“I had to step aside and see if I was having normal thoughts,” Roberts said, “but everything was fine. I just had a lot of tension and stress in my life. I think the Padres were mad I didn’t keep going.
“But now, I don’t have to worry about what the Padres think. I’m a Cincinnati Red now. And I’m going to show the Padres just what I can do.”
Lefferts is expected to leave the Padres. McIlvaine is trying to trade Lefferts before the winter meetings conclude. The question is not if Lefferts will be traded, but when .
It hardly was the soothing news Lefferts was hoping to hear when he returned home after the birth of his third son (Taylor Christopher), turned on the TV, and listened to the announcement of Myers.
“Obviously, I didn’t have the kind of year I’m capable of,” Lefferts said, “and he (McIlvaine) didn’t like what he saw. He said he was looking for a closer with a month left in the season. That pretty much tells the story when you’re the closer.
“I hate to leave here. This is home. But it’s a business, and I know I’ll be pitching somewhere.”
In other news, the Padres lost outfielder Darrell Sherman in the Rule V draft when he was claimed by the Baltimore Orioles for $50,000. Sherman, who batted .295 with 43 stolen bases at double-A Wichita, must remain on the Orioles major league roster the entire season or offered back to the Padres for $25,000.
“We hated to lose him,” said Reggie Waller, Padres scouting director. “He’s a smart little kid who could make that team, who knows?”
In the minor-league draft, the Padres picked up catcher Brian Johnson from the New York Yankees system, outfielder Dwayne Hosey from the Milwaukee Brewers, right-handed pitcher Cole Hyson from the Houston Astros and lefty Pat Wernig of the Oakland Athletics. They lost outfielders Osvaldo Sanchez to the Atlanta Braves and Brian Beck to the Pittsburgh Pirates.