With sparkplug second baseman David Eckstein disabled and young shortstop Everth Cabrera looking lost, the first-place San Diego Padres have sharpened their focus to acquiring a middle infielder before the July 31 trade deadline.
Their chief target appears to be Baltimore's veteran Miguel Tejada, a player they think could both help their offense and relieve some of the current stress on the infield. But the Orioles are fielding inquiries from other clubs on Tejada as well -- among others, they've talked with Philadelphia and St. Louis -- and the Padres might not have the goods to complete the deal.
Eckstein went onto the disabled list with a right calf strain July 21, and Padres manager Bud Black indicated Wednesday that he may not be quite ready to return when he is eligible on Aug. 5.
"The degree of the strain shouldn't keep him out for a prolonged period of time," Black said. "We're going to make sure David goes through all of the right steps to come back."
Eckstein is hitting .279 with a .326 on-base percentage and is statistically the most difficult regular to strike out in the National League.
Jerry Hairston Jr., who had been getting starts at shortstop, has been playing second base in Eckstein's absence. But that means Cabrera, who is hitting just .201 with a .270 on-base percentage, is getting more regular time at short and is not faring well under the daily grind.
Because of that, the Padres have shifted their priorities from acquiring a starting pitcher and/or an outfielder to middle infield.
"Jed's trying like heck," one source said of general manager Jed Hoyer's efforts during his first July trade deadline as the man in charge.
The Padres, who continue to own the best record in the NL, rank only 14th in the league with a .252 batting average and 14th with a .377 slugging percentage. However, they are hitting .276 with runners in scoring position.
Tejada, 36, is hitting .269 with seven home runs and 39 RBI in 97 games for the Orioles this season. Though he's playing third base, the Padres think he could return to his shortstop roots for some games here and there -- particularly until Eckstein returns and Hairston Jr. is freed up to return to short. The Padres also think he could play some outfield.
Tejada is owed roughly $2 million for the rest of 2010 and, if the Orioles do move him, probably will cost the acquiring team a mid-level prospect.