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Padres fielding calls on trio of infielders

No trades appear imminent, but a deal would certainly make sense. Not only do the Padres have three players for two spots, but they have organizational depth, too. Third baseman Christian Villanueva — who debuted in September — will be given a chance to win a roster spot in Spring Training. And second baseman Luis Urias, the club’s No. 3 prospect per MLBPipeline.com, isn’t far from his debut.

“That’s something that we’ve preached throughout the organization, is that we have to have depth,” Padres GM A.J. Preller said at the GM Meetings on Tuesday. “Depth creates competition, and depth creates the ability to listen [on trade offers] and see if you can improve the team in other areas.”

Solarte is the likeliest trade chip. He’s the most experienced of the group, and the most versatile, given his ability to play second, third and even shortstop. Plus, his contract — which has one year remaining and two team options — is extremely club friendly. The 30-year-old switch-hitter has batted .267/.327/.419 over four seasons with the Padres and Yankees, and he hit a career-high 18 home runs this past year.

While still relatively unproven, Spangenberg might be the highest upside option. He hit .264/.322/.401 with 11 steals and 13 homers in 2017. Meanwhile, Asuaje impressed with a .270/.334/.362 slash line in his rookie season.

Preller wouldn’t divulge specifics regarding inquiries on the trio. But he noted that Villanueva and Urias give the Padres some wiggle room, should they choose to deal one of the three starting candidates.

“That’s an area where we’ve created some Major League depth,” Preller said. “There are some guys that have moved up the system and are going to push those guys. … It gives us a group of infielders that we’re excited about. And it’s a group that, other teams, they see that depth as well.”

Top Prospects: Urias, SD

Starters on the mend

Preller said he expects right-hander Colin Rea and lefties Robbie Erlin and Matt Strahm to be fully healthy by the start of Spring Training. Rea and Erlin are coming off Tommy John surgery in 2016, while Strahm underwent a procedure to repair a torn patellar tendon in his left knee in July.

“All the reports have been positive,” Preller said. “They’ve hit all of their checkpoints.”

Still, the Padres will keep a sharp eye on all three this spring.

“We’ll definitely monitor the situations, coming back from injury,” Preller said. “We go into it viewing those guys as full-go. But you just want to be careful, especially early in the year, that it’s not too much, too soon.”

Where to find a shortstop?

With the Padres in search of a shortstop — likely a stopgap option for 2018 — Preller was asked whether it’s likeliest that a move comes via trade or free agency. He was noncommittal, leaving open the possibility for a deal.

“We look at it as: Line the board up, and see the acquisition costs, either in terms of players or in terms of dollars and commitment,” Preller said. “Then, we’ll go from there. We’re still in the process of looking through that.”

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.




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