This offseason Bud Black, Josh Byrnes and co. have clearly transmitted their intention to acquire a top end starter, a lefty reliever, and a left-handed bat Despite being "pretty deep" at starter, the Padres had a low-risk upgrade fall into their laps in Josh Johnson. This opens up a lot of opportunities for the Padres to get creative in addressing their other needs going into 2014 and beyond.
The Padres still have a few million to play with in their 2014 payroll. There are some interesting LOOGY-type relievers, but few left-handed bats in San Diego's price range. Based on the condition of the market, it looks like the Padres might try to sign a reliever off the scrap heap and trade for a bat, possibly a young and cost-controlled one. To make a move like this happen, the Padres are going to have to part with some talent that the open market finds valuable.
The ideal trade would involve somebody who has more value on the open market than they do to the Padres organization. ignoring players that are projected to make the 25-man roster out of spring training, let's look at some fluid assets the team might move.
Tier one - the most valuable arms
Casey Kelly, Cory Luebke, Max Fried, Zach Eflin, Matt Wisler
Kelly and Luebke are MLB-ready and highly regarded (Luebke has already seen a lot of big league success), but their value is currently bottomed-out as neither has thrown a competitive pitch since Tommy John surgery last year. Fried and Eflin have both been impressive in terms of stuff and results, but both are still teenagers. Those kinds of pitching prospects are rarely moved before their 20th birthday because of the risk and upside involved. Wisler is far enough along in his development with enough upside to net a pretty good return. After an impressive age-20 season in AA, he'll either repeat the level or languish in the PCL - where pitching prospects go to die. His stock has been steadily rising, but it may never be as high as it is right now
I think there is a pretty low probability that any of these guys gets traded, but Wisler is probably the most fungible piece. He's just unlucky enough to be buried on the depth chart at the wrong time.
Tier two - the intriguing pieces
Matt Andriese, Walker Weickel, Burch Smith, Robbie Erlin
Weickel is all upside at this point, without much of a proven track record. Still, he's got a great frame and some good offerings. Andriese looks like a version of Matt Wisler a year from now - his hype has taken a hit from a somewhat "meh' performance at at AAA, and combined with his age you can see a little shine leaving from his prospect hype. Padres fans got a good look at Burch Smith and Robbie Erlin in 2013. Both players spilled their spaghetti when they were first called up, but finished strong once the team told them they weren't being sent back down in September. Each guy looks like they might make a useful major leaguer but they come with question marks - but they are both young and virtually ready to be plugged into some adventurous or desperate team's rotation out of spring training.
I think Burch Smith is most likely to be moved. He's promising enough to be valuable, but redundant on a team full of power righties who are already more developed and well-rounded than he is. Erlin is probably just as movable, but he's got the makeup and repertoire that pitching coaches love, and they hold a lot of sway with the front office.
Tier three - wild cards and throw-ins
Joe Ross, Keyvius Sampson, Adys Portillo, Joe Wieland, Anthony Bass, Donn Roach
Everyone here is either obviously flawed or hurt. Sampson loses the strikezone for Volquez-like stretches. Portillo and Wieland are recovering from surgery. Ross is young and hurt. Roach and Bass have stalled out in their development. Still you could make the case that any of them will deserve a shot at a rotation spot soon. Sampson, Roach, and Bass all seem to have repertoires that would make them natural candidates for a transition to the bullpen, where they could be useful pieces for the Padres in the immediate future.
The Padres seem momentarily rich at starting pitching but they've also got to plan for the years beyond 2014 when they could lose Johnson, Ian Kennedy, or both to free agency. With the current pitching-heavy farm system, the front office might take this opportunity pull off some prospect-for-prospect trades in order to balance the system with position players. The team has metaphorical money to burn on the trade market, but it would be foolish to start spending next month's rent on a new PS4. Who do you think the front office is most likely to move, and who do you think they'll go after?