SAN DIEGO (AP) — A day after his overachieving San Diego Padres fell frustratingly short of a playoff spot, general manager Jed Hoyer said he'd like to have All-Stars Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell on the roster at the start of 2011.
Both players, particularly Gonzalez, were the subject of trade rumors last offseason, which became moot as the Padres made a surprising playoff push. The Padres finished 90-72, with Sunday's 3-0 loss at San Francisco eliminating them from the NL West and wild-card races.
"One of the challenges of this job is you're balancing the future and the present," Hoyer said on Monday. "Right now those guys are a huge part of why we won 90 games. Looking forward to next year, and I haven't made any definitive decisions, but we're a better team with those guys than without them, for sure. I'm glad they had the years they had. They're both great players, great teammates."
But Hoyer said he's a "never say never" guy.
"I just think in this business, you never know," Hoyer said. "The job is to make the team as good as it can be and the organization as good as it can be. I wouldn't say anything unequivocally, but I can tell you they're both great players and I'd love to have them here."
Regardless of Gonzalez's and Bell's future, Hoyer said there will be changes made. Although he didn't have a figure, he said he expects the player payroll to be higher than the 2010 opening day payroll of $37.8 million, second-lowest in the majors.
San Diego had an NL-best 76-49 record on Aug. 25, meaning they had control of home-field advantage through the World Series had they kept up that pace. But a 10-game losing streak contributed to a 14-23 finish.
Hoyer said it was a "safe assumption" that the team won't pick up right-hander Chris Young's $8.5 million option because of health concerns, but are open to bringing him back at a lower amount. Young was sidelined most of the season with a strained right shoulder, his third significant injury in as many seasons. He returned to the rotation in the season's final weeks. Young has said he'd love to be back with the Padres.
Gonzalez's highest trade value was probably last offseason. If a team had acquired him then, it would have had him for two seasons.
Hoyer plans to sit down soon with Gonzalez's agent, John Boggs, to discuss Gonzalez's contract status beyond next year. The Padres hold an option on the slugger for $5.5 million for 2011, the final year of a team-friendly contract.
Gonzalez, who grew up in the San Diego area and was the No. 1 overall pick by Florida in the 2000 amateur draft, might be too expensive for the Padres to keep. He was obtained in a trade with Texas before the 2006 season and has blossomed into one of the game's best first basemen.
"I came into the year with high expectations for Adrian, and he's an even better player than I thought," Hoyer said. "He's great defensively. I think he's a guy that if he didn't play in this ballpark as a left-handed hitter, would probably have low-40s, mid-40s home runs, and drive in a lot more runs. I didn't do him any favors with the guys we led off in front of him."
Gonzalez, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner, hit .298 with 31 homers and 101 RBIs.
Hoyer says that if Gonzalez wants Mark Teixeira or Ryan Howard money, "that's not something we're going to be able to do. He's a great player, great guy and it would be wonderful if we could work something out but given his talent level and what some other guys at his position have signed for, if his desire is to go after those kind of dollars, it's going to be hard. that's just the reality of free agency."
Howard agreed to a $125 million, five-year contract extension in April with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Teixeira is in the second season of a $180 million, eight-year contract with the New York Yankees.
Boggs said he's not allowing himself to think about what might happen with Gonzalez before his contract expires.
"I've tried deliberately not to because really, when you're not in a position to make things happen, you live a lot longer trying not to predict, because you'll either be disappointed or it will be a complete surprise," Boggs said.
"I look back at all the speculation that went on a year ago, that he'd go during the year, and look at what happened. They went to the last day before elimination. I don't think anybody anticipated this club would be as competitive as it was."
Bell, who had 47 saves, is arbitration-eligible. He made $4 million this year.
Hoyer has plenty of other decisions to make, such as whether second baseman David Eckstein and shortstop Miguel Tejada return, and to figure out a way to pump up the offense. San Diego was shut out three times in the final seven games, including Sunday's loss.
While their offense struggled, the Padres were carried most of the year by pitching and defense. Hoyer also said he'd like to sign one or two starting pitchers.
One player who might be gone is outfielder Scott Hairston. He took the name plate from above his locker.