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The San Diego Padres announced Monday night that they would be without right-handed starter Mike Clevinger for the 2021 season. Clevinger, who was limited to 20 innings in the regular season and playoffs following the deadline trade that sent him out west from Cleveland, will undergo Tommy John surgery, a procedure that typically requires at least a 12-month recovery period. 

If there's some semblance of a silver lining to the news, it's in the timing. The Padres -- who made the playoffs in 2020 for the first time since 2006 -- will have essentially the entire winter to react to Clevinger's absence. What, exactly, that entails is to be determined; we figured this would be a good time to touch on what it could mean by previewing the Padres' offseason and focusing on three areas they're likely to address before the springtime.

Let's get to it.

1. Chase another ace?

Clevinger was supposed to be the Padres' ace, or a decent approximation of one from the day he arrived through the end of the 2022 season, when his team control expired. With Clevinger sidelined, the Padres have a rotation that features Dinelson Lamet, Zach Davies, Chris Paddack, and any number of young arms. 

The Padres could resort to an internal option and start MacKenzie Gore, Ryan Weathers, Adrian Morejon, or even Joey Lucchesi. Alternatively, they could make a play for a top free-agent starter, be it Trevor Bauer or a more moderately priced mid-rotation option -- a Taijuan Walker, a Jake Odorizzi, or even a Mike Minor. Cot's Contracts has the Padres with a $133 Opening Day payroll -- for reference, their Opening Day payroll last year was supposed to be $151 million. The Padres have other areas to address (as we'll cover below), but that gives them some wiggle room.

The other option for A.J. Preller is to leverage his farm system to make another big trade. Some of the pitchers who are likely to be available this winter include Lance Lynn (Rangers) and Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove (Pirates). The Padres could try to convince the Rays to part with Blake Snell, or Cleveland to hand over Shane Bieber or Carlos Carrasco, too.

The point is, the Padres have the means to replace Clevinger externally if they want to -- they also have the flexibility to give a youngster a chance until next deadline, when they can once again reassess their rotation.

2. Sort out the bullpen

The Padres are in an enviable position with their bullpen, at least in the sense that they have more passable options than available spots. 

As it stands, San Diego is all but guaranteed to keep Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagan, Pierce Johnson, Matt Strahm, and Craig Stammen. That leaves two to three spots for a collection of arms that includes Tim Hill, Austin Adams, Javy Guerra, Dan Altavilla, Taylor Williams, among others. 

Of those 10 -- and remember, that doesn't include Adrian Morejon, Michel Baez, and so on -- seven don't have any options remaining; either they're on the 26-player roster, or they'll have to be passed through waivers to remain in the organization.

It stands to reason the Padres might want to add another veteran arm to their late-inning mix, which would then make the math even iffier. As such, the Padres have to figure out what relievers are worth rostering and what relievers they're willing to risk losing next year.

3. Add outfield depth

Earlier this offseason, the Padres declined their club option on Mitch Moreland. That could leave them with a vacant lineup spot if the universal designated hitter is here to stay. Even if the DH isn't retained for the 2021 season, the Padres could use some additional position-player depth, specifically with regards to their outfield situation.

The Padres enjoyed a breakout season from Trent Grisham; a career-best showing from Wil Myers; and a decent year from free-agent Jurickson Profar. San Diego can cross its fingers and hope that Grisham and Myers maintain, and that Tommy Pham regains his old form in his walk year, but it wouldn't hurt to add someone else, just in case.

Obviously the Padres don't have to swing hard for George Springer or Marcell Ozuna or anyone like that. They could settle for a decent downmarket option (especially if the DH is in play), a Yasiel Puig or a Robbie Grossman, or go even further down the pecking order. Asking Michael A. Taylor or Jake Marisnick or whomever to play most-days is a mistake; having them around in case of a pinch is fine. 

Clearly, the Padres have a very good team. Shy of attempting to replace Clevinger, most of their offseason will be focused on minor tweaks. In that sense, the hard work is done; now, it's just a matter of adding the finishing touches.