This is the first in a 6 part series.
Padres current OF mix:
Ludwick, Gwynn, S Hairston, Venable, Denorfia, Stairs
Ludwick should be back in the mix even if he costs $9 million through arbitration. Personally, I think the Padres should try and sign him to a 3/$30 type of deal. As long as Gwynn continues to play stellar defense, I see him returning as part of the rotation. I don't think the Padres will need to pay Scott Hairston several million when they have other options. Venable will likely be back unless they trade him in the offseason. Venable is actually a bargain until he enters his arbitration years. The Padres would be smart to bring back Denorfia. Stairs should be gone.
This leaves the Padres with potentially 2 openings in the outfield. The Padres have several options in the Minors. If Blanks is healthy he will likely be 1 of those openings. At AAA the Padres have Durango and Cunningham ready to have another cup of coffee. Baxter and Hunter sure look ready. My gut tells me that Cunningham will be the guy. I think Hunter or Durango could get moved in the offseason for some pitching. The 2011 outfield will look something like:
Ludwick, Gwynn, Venable, Denorfia, Cunningham, Blanks(Durango if Blanks is not healthy)
This outfield mix would be above average defensively and provide a good mix of speed and some power.
The only player from my projected 2011 outfield that would not be under club control is Ludwick. I hope the Padres can sign him to an extension but I don't count on that. Gwynn could still be around for a reasonable salary, but only if he can improve his OBP while maintaining his high level of defense. I don't see Venable around this long unless he can also improve on the OBP. Denorfia will likely be gone. Cunningham and Blanks are the most likely to still be around. For Blanks the question will be: at what position? Farm system players likely to be in the mix include: Durango, Baxter, Hunter, Tekotte, Carroll, Robertson, and Jaff Decker. 2-3 years from now could see an outfield of the following:
Cunningham, Blanks, Tekotte, Decker, Durango, Hunter
This outfield mix doesn't provide the defense of the current one, but would still have speed and some nice power potential.
My Ideal outfield for the 2012-2013 would substitute Ludwick(or similarly aquired FA) for Hunter.
There you have it, a look at the next 3 years of the Padres outfield.