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Padres poised for big offseason if they can sign Shohei Ohtani

The Padres are one of seven teams still in the running for Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani. (AP)

The San Diego Padres are positioned to be very active this winter. With a contract extension recently completed, general manager A.J. Preller is once again itching to make some big moves that he hopes will significantly advance the team’s rebuilding effort. Of course, that rebuild was made necessary when Preller’s aggressive first offseason bridging the 2014 and 2015 seasons backfired, setting the franchise back three years and counting. But hey, one can’t dwell on past failures forever.

Is there a quick fix out there that would push the Padres into contention in 2018? Probably not. But the closest thing might be signing Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, and that’s exactly what Preller intends to do.

According to recent reports, the Padres are believed to be the frontrunners to sign the two-way player’s services. They are definitely among the seven teams that made Othani’s short list. He’s reportedly met with San Diego, along with the Dodgers, Angels, Mariners, Rangers, Cubs and Giants this week, and could make his final decision by week’s end.

If it proves to be San Diego, that would send quite a ripple through the league. No one can argue with San Diego the city. It’s a beautiful place that offers exceptional weather and culture. For Ohtani, it also put him on the west coast, which is as close to home as he’ll get. With that said, the Padres aren’t exactly a marquee franchise. The expectation was Ohtani would end up somewhere a little sexier, such as New York with the Yankees. But Ohtani seems to prefer comfort over glamour.

San Diego offers great opportunity for Ohtani on the field too. There, he can establish his own legacy and become a true franchise player. If his talent shines through at baseball’s highest level, he could be the centerpiece that catapults the Padres from afterthoughts to relevant contenders over the next few years. That’s an exciting proposition, and it’s possible that Preller can use that potential to his advantage while courting other players to join him.

The Padres have already been strongly linked to free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer. The former Royal figures to command a healthy contract in years and salary, but that doesn’t seem to be a concern for Preller. Knowing that Ohtani would only take up a fraction of the team’s payroll, they’d still maintain whatever flexibility they’ve allowed themselves to sign a bigger name.

Former Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is another big free agent on the Padres radar. (AP)

Being able to tell Hosmer or any other free agent for that matter that he already has Ohtani, could lend a boost to negotiations. Not all free agents will care, of course, but some could.

On the flipside, some think the Padres would be wise to save that money set aside from an impact free agent and use it next winter, when the pool is deeper and when they would presumably be closer to competing. That line of thinking makes sense, but it also makes sense for Preller to strike while he can. There’s no denying that adding Ohtani and a player of Hosmer’s caliber would supplement a nicely developing core. When you add in established slugger Wil Myers with up-and-coming players like Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges, the lineup would be in excellent shape.

By the way, Myers seems pretty excited about the possibility of adding Hosmer. The slugging first baseman Wil Myers has already expressed his willingness to move back to the outfield to make room for Hosmer. But there might not be much room there either if Ohtani’s around. That’s all stuff Preller and manager Andy Green can sort out later. For now, the Padres focus will remain on Ohtani.

What Ohtani decides to do will set the tone for whichever team signs him, but it feels like it would make the biggest impact on San Diego. Unlike the other six teams, the Padres need him to be more than another link in a chain that’s already strong. They need him to be the catalyst for future success. That makes the next few days extremely important to the Padres immediate future.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Yahoo Sports Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!