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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Padres' resurgence could put trades on hold

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SAN DIEGO -- In Philadelphia, with Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras disabled, the Phillies are operating with their fourth closer of the season.

In St. Louis, Ryan Franklin has pitched his way off the team after another meltdown in Baltimore on Tuesday.

They also need relief help in Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Detroit, Boston, Minnesota and check back tomorrow, because the list changes daily. It will grow longer between now and July 31, not shorter.

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"My son says I'm going to go to a red team," Padres closer Heath Bell says. "He says I'm going to go to a red team, and Chad Qualls is going to go to a blue team.

"Who knows?"

All Bell knows is this: "In all honesty, I know it's probably going to happen."

In San Diego, where the Padres mostly have spun their wheels, general manager Jed Hoyer's cell phone buzzes with increasing regularity. Bell? Qualls? Set-up man Mike Adams? Outfielder Ryan Ludwick? Going, going and gone?

If you're looking for someone to kick off this summer's July 31 trading deadline action, this looks like the place.

Timetable? Figure very soon after the All-Star Game, just after the Padres close the first half with seven games at San Francisco and Los Angeles and open the second half with four against the Giants. The thinking is, if the Padres don't make a move to start climbing the NL West ladder by then, it's over.

There have been recent signs of life. They've won seven of eight, including a sweep of the Royals this week.

"Our division is certainly winnable," Hoyer says. "No one's pulling away. I'm not sure how many wins it's going to take. No team in the division is without holes.

"We were 14 games under .500, now we're [eight] under. We need to get close to .500 before I start worrying about the standings.

"If we can do that, it would be wonderful. But we haven't made a run. That's the frustrating part. Every time we've started to, we've sputtered."

Padres GM Jed Hoyer says 'we need to make it (a run) happen quickly. We can't wait and hope.' (Getty Images)  
Padres GM Jed Hoyer says 'we need to make it (a run) happen quickly. We can't wait and hope.' (Getty Images)  
Now we'll see whether they can maintain their momentum, starting this weekend in Seattle.

"Why not?" Ludwick says. "Look at what Arizona did [winning 13 of 14 in May]. We've won seven of eight, four in a row ... let's say we win six more for 10 in a row."

Then they would be 43-45 and ... still need to continue winning.

As most baseball people will tell you, it's hard to seriously consider a team a contender until it's at least at .500.

Consequently, while Hoyer continues to assess, he sounds like a man who is edging closer to dealing.

"At some point, it's about making a run now," he says. "We've been playing for three months and we haven't had an extended hot streak.

"We need it to happen quickly. We can't wait and hope."

One of the most difficult things for a GM to do is to pull the plug on a season sooner rather than later. The clubhouse mood turns sour. The fans turn angry and stop coming. Though they did that a few years ago in San Diego, after the Padres shipped Jake Peavy to Chicago. Even after last summer's joyful band of Padres won 90 games and became one of the game's best stories, San Diego currently ranks 12th in NL attendance in 2011.

Yet if he moves sooner rather than later, Hoyer knows he can get more in return, especially for Bell and Ludwick, who are free agents after the season. Qualls is expendable. Adams will take over as San Diego's closer when Bell departs, though if the price is right Hoyer could land an irresistible package for him.

Bell is earning $7.5 million this season, so as of this moment, he's got about half of that remaining. Ludwick is at $6.775 million.

Bell and Hoyer briefly discussed an extension for the closer this spring, but talks have long since been tabled.

At the time, Bell says, the club's thinking was that "if the team was doing well and we were selling out, there was the possibility of a long-term deal."

But. ...

"Didn't happen," Bell continues.

Rival executives say the Padres are looking for young players and money. Their farm system remains Kate Moss-thin. Their bank account under owner Jeff Moorad remains miniscule, with no indications that it will grow. The Padres started the season 27th in payroll at around $46 million.

By the time they finish their dealing, it will be peeled back to the $40-million range.

"My job is to pitch the best I can for the team," Bell says. "Jed's job is to do the best he can for the organization.

"The organization will be here a lot longer than the players. That's just the facts of life."

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