The Padres are always talking about making their team better — immediately and later.
Picture General Manager A.J. Preller’s mind as a giant white board with lots of words circled and connected by lines and arrows going every which way. He and his staff have “war game” scenarios about prospects (their own and other team’s) and veterans. They talk to other teams about different things. They call agents.
Word around the league for more than a week has been that the Padres are “looking for pitching.” So said two agents who represent at least one of the veteran pitchers still on the market.
But Padres officials insist they are not actively seeking pitching from the outside. Their focus is on what they have — or expect to have sooner than later.
Just for starters, left-hander Joey Lucchesi has risen to the occasion of his first big league camp. Cal Quantrill and Eric Lauer, the team’s first-round picks in 2016, are also on a progression to possibly be in San Diego this season.
Beyond that — perhaps not too far beyond — are Michel Baez, MacKenzie Gore, Adrian Morejon, Anderson Espinoza and Logan Allen. All are top-10 prospects in the Padres’ system.
If even half that group advances as quickly as Lucchesi, Quantrill and Lauer have, the Padres are looking at a full rotation by 2020.
Arrieta won the NL Cy Young Award in 2015 when he was 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and 236 strikeouts in 229 innings. He was very good again in 2016, going 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA, and he started and won two games in the World Series.
Last year was not as good — Arrieta was 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and his WHIP and home-run rate were higher than in the previous three seasons — but the right-hander just turned 32 this week so it seems too soon to consider him anything less than an above-average pitcher.
None of this automatically precludes Arrieta or another veteran being added now. But that is not the sense coming from inside the organization.