Inbox: What are Padres' pitching plans?

Inbox: What are Padres' pitching plans?

A month and a half into the Padres' offseason, there are still plenty of unanswered questions surrounding the club. Expect answers to arrive soon, with the Winter Meetings on the horizon.

General manager A.J. Preller is actively searching for pitching, a shortstop and some veteran presence to add to a very young roster. Here's a look at some of your most pressing questions, as the Hot Stove continues to simmer.

How many free-agent starting pitchers should Preller sign?
-- Tyler C., Temecula, Calif.

Preller is on record having said he'd like to sign as many starters as possible. Given the current injury situation, that seems like a sound strategy. Robbie Erlin, Colin Rea and Erik Johnson are all ticketed to miss the 2017 season, while Tyson Ross and Jarred Cosart will be returning from surgeries.

With that in mind, the Friars need to sign at least two Major League-caliber starters to round out the rotation. They'd also be best served to sign some fringe starters for depth purposes -- think Christian Friedrich last season.

As it stands, you can pencil Friedrich and Luis Perdomo into the Opening Day rotation, but the rest is wide open. The more arms Preller can add, the better.

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1. Do you believe Yangervis Solarte will be moved? 2. What back-end starters do you think most likely will be signed?
-- Grant M., San Diego

A two-part question, so here's a two-part answer:

1. The Padres are open to moving Solarte -- but that doesn't mean he's a lock to be dealt. He's under team control for three more years, and the 29-year-old third baseman would still be a hot commodity at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Plus, he's an important veteran presence in a clubhouse that's currently almost entirely devoid of them. If the Padres aren't blown away by an offer, expect them to hang on to Solarte.

Solarte's RBI double to right

2. At last week's GM Meetings, Preller ruled out adding "high-dollar guys" to the rotation. It's a thin pitching market, and now isn't the time to splurge, he said. The Padres would love to work out a deal bringing back Clayton Richard -- making him a favorite to round out the rotation. Among other free agents, Kris Medlen, Doug Fister and Edinson Volquez are pitchers worth watching.

What's the over/under on Rule 5 guys Preller will draft? I'm thinking seven.
-- Craig

Hey, Preller selected four players in last December's Rule 5 Draft, and one of them -- Perdomo -- could be the Padres' Opening Day starter in 2017. Why not take some chances this time around as well?

It won't be seven, but the Padres are in position to take a few risks in the Rule 5 Draft -- most likely in their bullpen. They could follow the Perdomo route, drafting a future starter and throwing him in the 'pen to start the season.

Perdomo goes the distance

How likely is a Travis Jankowski /Alex Dickerson trade? If so, what would a potential return look like in your opinion?
-- Trevor B.

There's almost no chance the Friars deal Hunter Renfroe or Manuel Margot -- their top two hitting prospects. Both will be in the outfield mix in 2017, which appears to make either Jankowski or Dickerson expendable. I'd put the chances of a deal involving an outfielder around 40 percent.

As for a potential trade haul, the Padres are thin on starting pitching and at shortstop. As rookies in 2016, Jankowski and Dickerson showed flashes of brilliance -- Jankowski with his glove and his leadoff skills, and Dickerson with his raw power and patience. But they're far from finished products.

That's exactly the return the Padres would get: an unproven shortstop or a starting pitcher with big league-level upside.

Jankowski's nice running snag

Would an outfield of Jankowski, Margot and Renfroe be the most athletic in MLB?

If this ends up being the Padres' Opening Day outfield, good luck finding any gaps. Jankowski and Margot are two of the rangiest outfielders in baseball, and Renfroe is no slouch -- though he needs to clean up his footwork. (Renfroe also boasts an absolute cannon in right field.)

The most athletic in baseball, though? There's a pretty good group in Boston featuring Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi. The Royals, Pirates and Angels are in the mix as well. But it would be hard to argue with this Padres trio as a top-five defensive outfield.

Is there any way Austin Hedges isn't the Opening Day catcher?

Short answer: No.

Hedges catches Segura stealing

Longer answer: In the eyes of many fans, Hedges has been "catcher of the future" for too long. Well, it's finally safe to call him "catcher of the present." After hitting .326/.353/.597 with Triple-A El Paso last season, Hedges will be given the keys to the starting job in 2017. If Derek Norris isn't traded, he'll begin the season as Hedges' backup, after struggling mightily last season. Right now, it's Hedges' job to lose.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.