Inbox: Who will return to Padres' bullpen in '18?

Beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers fans' questions

Inbox: Who will return to Padres' bullpen in '18?

There is no offseason for the Padres Inbox.

It's going to be a busy few months for general manager A.J. Preller and the San Diego front office. Here's a look at some of your most pressing questions ahead of Hot Stove season.

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Will the Padres tinker with the bullpen, or will it be a complete overhaul? They seem to be able to find waiver-wire gems, e.g., Kirby Yates and Brad Hand.
-- Scott, Seattle

This question is largely dependent upon two factors. First: Does anyone meet Preller's asking price on Hand? Preller made it clear that he expects to field calls on the coveted left-hander early this offseason. For the right price, Hand is available. And his departure would obviously put a huge hole at the back end of the Padres' bullpen.

The second question: Where does Craig Stammen go this offseason? After a slow start, Stammen was quietly excellent over the final five months. (He posted an 8.49 ERA in April and a 2.23 mark after that.) Stammen has indicated he'd be happy with a return to San Diego. But there are more than a few teams who will covet his services.

Stammen escapes bases-loaded jam

If both return, the Padres will merely need to tweak their bullpen. Yates and Buddy Baumann will slot in behind those two, and promising youngsters Phil Maton and Kyle McGrath could take on bigger roles.

That said, I simply don't see the Padres bringing back both Hand and Stammen. And it's a distinct possibility they lose both. I'd expect the Padres to bring in at least two big league-caliber reinforcements, even if they only lose one reliever.

Does Fernando Tatis Jr. make it to the Majors in 2018? (Please say yes.)
-- Josh, Santee, Calif.

Because you asked nicely: Yes.

In all seriousness, Tatis has a ways to go, development-wise, before that happens. But a September callup is a distinct possibility for the Padres' No. 4 prospect per MLBPipeline.com (even though Tatis will be only 19 then).

The Padres aren't shy about moving their prospects through the system if they're performing. The roster at Double-A San Antonio is loaded with fast-risers, from the pitching staff to Luis Urias to Tatis himself.

Top Prospects: Tatis, SD

Tatis has raked at every level. After he set the franchise home-run record at Class A Fort Wayne, the Padres opted to thrust him directly in San Antonio's playoff race. He bypassed Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore along the way, and it's reasonable to believe he stays in Double-A to start the 2018 season.

After a slow start at San Antonio, Tatis' bat came alive in the final few weeks. If he continues to hit next year, Preller and Co. aren't shy about rewarding their prospects. Tatis only has two levels to go.

Would Allen Cordoba be a consideration at shortstop for the 2018 season? He doesn't have anywhere else to go, and he's already in the system.
-- Doug D., Victorville, Calif.

Cordoba could conceivably compete for the final spot on the Padres' 25-man roster next season, given his speed and defensive versatility. As the club's starting shortstop, though? No chance.

On both sides of the ball, Cordoba is nowhere near an everyday big leaguer. He has an enormous amount of development ahead at short.

Cordoba's dazzling play at short

And that's fine. It's what the Padres signed up for when they selected the 21-year-old last December in the Rule 5 Draft. But it's pretty clear Cordoba would be better served honing his craft at Double-A or Triple-A next season. For now, the Padres will almost certainly look to bring in a veteran shortstop as a stopgap to bridge the franchise to Tatis or Cordoba in 2019.

Who are the Padres' non-tender candidates this winter?
-- Pog L.

A year ago, the Padres shocked the baseball world by non-tendering Tyson Ross, their Opening Day starter. Don't expect any major surprises this time around. (Side note: they also non-tendered left fielder Jose Pirela, who chose to re-sign on a Minors deal. Good thing, too. Pirela was the Padres' best offensive weapon in 2017.)

Anyway, the non-tender deadline should present a few questions on some fringe roster candidates. First, a quick refresher course: The Padres can tender contracts to players who are arbitration eligible. If they can't agree on a 2018 salary, those players would have their earnings determined by the arbitration process. If the Padres don't want to be bound to arbitration with a player, they can non-tender him, thus making him a free agent.

Catcher Hector Sanchez is an option. He's a beloved clubhouse presence and an OK bench bat. But the Padres non-tendered Sanchez under similar circumstances last year. Meanwhile, right-hander Jarred Cosart and left-hander Christian Friedrich are both coming off arthroscopic elbow surgery. Neither has options remaining, and both bring major question marks into 2018. That said, the duo won't command high salaries in arbitration, so it could come down to 40-man roster space.

If there were to be a surprise, Carter Capps is an option. He is entering his third year of arbitration. But the Padres have plenty of belief that Capps can rekindle his relief dominance. It's almost certainly worth ponying up for that possibility.

AJ Cassavell is in his seventh season as a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.