Melvin, Preller Look Ahead to Offseason, Discuss Fernando Tatis Jr.'s Return

The Padres' decision makers were asked about the star shortstop's return and the uncertainty around his health and fit with the Friars

Instead of preparing for Game 7 of the NLCS Tuesday morning, Padres President of Baseball Operations A.J. Preller and manager Bob Melvin spent time with reporters at Petco Park looking ahead to 2023.

No surprise Fernando Tatis Jr. was a popular topic.

Preller said the 23-year-old should be ready to go in time for spring training. Tatis had procedures done on his injured shoulder and wrist during his PED suspension. Outside of his health and how he'll look after a lengthy layoff, the biggest question about Tatis is where he'll play.

The emergence of Ha-Seong Kim as a Gold Glove candidate at shortstop gives the Padres another option in the infield. Meanwhile the offensive struggles of Trent Grisham would make Tatis a considerable upgrade at that spot in the lineup.

Preller offered his preference.

"On the field," the general manager joked, before acknowledging the topic on everyone's mind.

"I think for right now it's just getting him healthy and I think those are the conversations we'll start having here in the next couple weeks," Preller continued. "He gives you that option. He's a great athlete, a great player he can play all over the field and we have some other guys that have stepped up on the current roster that will be part of the equation too. It should be good competition, so we'll do what we think is best for him and for our club."

Preller added that Tatis will spend most of the offseason in San Diego.

Melvin has been in steady contact with Tatis and likes the MVP candidate's frame of mind.

"He's just looking forward to helping his team and getting back," Melvin said. "I think he has a different perspective on things now too and the hunger that he's gonna have to come in and be a part of this and help his team go farther than we were last year is pretty immense. What he's focused on right now is just getting healthy, getting back and being part of this group because he missed it."

Another young generational type talent came up as well, much to the delight of Padres fans.

Preller said Juan Soto "should be here for many years to come".

The batting champ and two-time All-Star has two seasons remaining with the club. Preller told reporters they plan to have conversations this offseason to gauge the possibility of signing the 24-year-old to a new deal.

As for what the Padres need to add in order to build on their postseason run, Melvin doesn't think it's much. Preller discussed the benefit of going into an offseason with strong core pieces in the lineup, starting rotation and bullpen. His manager expects them to field one of the best rosters in baseball.

"I think the guys that we have here now were prepared to take that next step - they were prepared to take it this year," Melvin said. "You look at the core guys we have coming back, this is gonna be as good a group as any. A.J. has always been good about filling out the roster, but I think you look at the group we have coming back right now we're gonna be as good as anybody."

Perhaps the most poignant moment of their address came at the very end, after the final question was answered and as cameras were about to stop rolling. Melvin had one last thing he needed to add.

"I just wanted to thank the city of San Diego and our fans, they were immense in our success," Melvin said. "Getting to the postseason was hard, they were a huge part of it. We'd look out at Gallagher Square and you'd walk into that ballpark especially in the postseason and see people in their seats before the game started rooting us on and we felt it. There's 26 players on the roster, whatever it is, they were almost like a roster piece for us. They drove us and inspired us."

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