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Padres trade rumors: AJ Preller has expressed interest in shortstop free agent Ian Desmond

With Andrelton Simmons going to the Angels, the Padres now have their sights set on top-ranked shortstop free-agent, Ian Desmond.

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The journey to fill the hole at shortstop continues for the Padres, and the latest trade rumors have them eyeing the newly available Ian Desmond.

Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last night that San Diego has expressed interest in Desmond, who officially became a free agent yesterday after declining the $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. Shortstop has been a problem position for the Padres since they parted ways with Khalil Greene in 2008. Since then there's been a revolving door of players manning short for the Friars: Everth Cabrera, Chris Burke, Josh Wilson, Miguel Tejada, Jerry Hairston Jr., Lance Zawadzki, Jason Bartlett, Alberto Gonzalez, Andy Parrino, Ronny Cedeno, Pedro Ciriaco, Logan Forsythe, Alexi Amarista, Yangervis Solarte, Clint Barmes, Jedd Gyorko, Will Middlebrooks.

Amarista, Barmes, Gyorko, and Middlebrooks split time at the position in 2015, with Gyorko's move to short being the latest of the Padres' attempts to find a suitable player to fill the roll. He had some success, both offensively and defensively, in his small sample size, but with his limited professional experience at the position, the Padres would do better to seek out a proven shortstop.

And Desmond surely fits the bill. He is coming off a relatively disappointing 2015 season, compiling a slash line of .233/.290/.384 (though his 19 home runs were a plus), but most would rate him the top shortstop on the market this season.

There were rumors that the Padres were in trade talks to acquire Andrelton Simmons from the Braves, who would have been another great, proven option at short. But he eventually ended up landing in "Los Angeles" with the Angels. Other eligible, currently available free-agent shortstops include Asdrubal Cabrera, Alexei Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, and Clint Barmes - whose $2 million 2016 option was declined by the Padres. Again, Desmond is by consensus the best of those options, and it's not even close.

With $18.5 million freed up in the payroll after trading Joaquin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel this past week, the Padres are better equipped to go after the bigger free agents, like Desmond, this offseason. And thanks to their 74-88 record in 2015, ranking in the bottom 10 in baseball for the season, the Padres wouldn't even have to forfeit a first-round draft pick if they acquire the free-agent Desmond. That #8 pick is protected, plus the team will likely get two more comp picks if/when Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy, who both rejected their qualifying offers, are picked up by other teams this offseason.

AJ Preller has already started to address one of his most important goals of this offseason, restocking the farm system to help shore up the future of the organization. Setting his sights on and acquiring an everyday shortstop is a more current need that will help the team in 2016.