The Padres and free-agent shortstop Ian Desmond have been widely regarded as one of the most natural fits of the offseason for both sides, and now San Diego appears to have emerged as the favorites to land Desmond.
The two sides are reportedly having ongoing discussions, according to FOXSports.com, and although no deal appears to be imminent, the Padres could be in position to land a huge upgrade at a position they have struggled to fill for some time. Signing Desmond would also not cost them their top pick in the 2016 Draft. The Padres have the eighth overall pick, and the top 10 picks are protected from compensation, meaning San Diego would relinquish its second pick if it signed Desmond, who received a qualifying offer from Washington
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The Padres have not been able to find a consistent starting shortstop since Khalil Greene manned the position from 2004-08, but even his career was derailed by injuries. Everth Cabrera appeared poised to be the shortstop of the future after making the All-Star Game in 2013, but was suspended for performance-enhancing drugs shortly after and played just one more season In San Diego. Alexi Amarista started at shortstop for most of last season and posted the lowest OPS (.544) of any player in the National League with at least 300 at-bats.
Meanwhile, Desmond batted .264/.317/.443 for a .759 OPS and hit 88 home runs during the past four seasons -- 17 more than the next highest shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki. But the 30-year-old struggled for most of last season, posting his lowest home run total and OPS during the last four seasons while leading the NL with 27 errors.
If the Padres believe 2015 was an aberration, Desmond could represent a major boost for a team that has been offensively challenged recently. Matt Kemp is the only player on San Diego's roster who hit more than 15 home runs last season.
The Padres did not pounce on pursuing Desmond quickly at the start of free agency, likely considering how few teams are actively looking for a starting shortstop and how slowly the market for position players has developed.
Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.