SAN DIEGO — Bob Gebhard, general manager of the Colorado Rockies, sits in the stands at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium with a speed gun at his side and scouting reports on his lap.
For the past week, he has been watching every move the Padres make. He can tell you how hard the pitchers are throwing. He can report the range of each infielder and outfielder. He knows the bat speed of every hitter.
In three months, Gebhard plans to use the information to swipe three of the Padre players in the Nov. 17 expansion draft. He doesn't know which three, nor does he know whom the Padres plan to specifically protect.
"It's been a hectic time," said Gebbard, who has spent only 18 hours in Denver since July 5. "It's never-ending because you always feel there's one more stone you can turn over. There's a lot of decisions that have to be made.
"It's hard to imagine that when I first started in September last year, there were two paper clips on my desk, and that was my entire staff. Now, here we are, almost 100 days away from selecting the players who will make up our entire organization."
The Rockies and Florida Marlins will select 36 players--three players from each National League club, three players from eight of the American League teams, and two players from the remaining six American League teams.
"You have to be aware of many things," said Gebhard, considered by most as one of top baseball men in the game. "You look at his ability, his major-league service time, how many options does he have left, when is he eligible for arbitration, when is he a free agent. . . . I mean everything.
"I don't think there's such a thing as a quick fix in expansion. You have to have faith in your scouting department and pick who you believe will be good players for your ballclub in three years."
The deepest organizations in the major leagues, Gebhard said, are the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Padres, who like everyone else can protect only 15 players, already have begun preparing their expansion list. In fact, they already have adjusted their thinking in the last couple of months.
They now have decided to definitely protect center fielder Darrin Jackson. They also realize that rookie catcher Dan Walters must be protected because they can not afford to lose him with Benito Santiago's impending free agency.
The three players whom the Padres are required to protect are right fielder Tony Gwynn--a 10-and-5 man who can reject all trades; and first baseman Fred McGriff and pitcher Bruce Hurst, each of whom has contractual trade restrictions.
If the Padres had to submit their 15-player protected list today, according to sources within and outside the Padre organization, it would read like this:
4. Gary Sheffield, third baseman.
5. Andy Benes, pitcher.
6. Greg Harris, pitcher.
7. Tony Fernandez, shortstop.
8. Ray McDavid, Class A outfielder.
9. Tim Worrell, triple-A pitcher.
10. Frank Seminara, pitcher.
11. Darrin Jackson, outfielder.
12. Luis Lopez, triple-A shortstop.
13. Dan Walters, catcher.
14. Scott Sanders, triple-A pitcher.
15. Jose Melendez, pitcher.
They will leave several of their high-priced players unprotected, sources say, most notably starter Craig Lefferts, reliever Larry Andersen, second baseman Kurt Stillwell and infielder Tim Teufel.
Lefferts, who earns $1.875 million, is eligible for arbitration this winter and could earn at least $3 million. Andersen has an option year for $2 million remaining on his contract, which a source said the club already has decided to buy out for $350,000. Stillwell earns $1.75 million in 1993, and Teufel earns $700,000.
The Padres don't have to protect catcher Santiago or bullpen stopper Randy Myers, each of whom are eligible for free agency and are not expected to return.
Once one of the expansion teams select a player from the Padre organization, the Padres are allowed to protect three more players. Those three players, baseball officials believe, probably will be relievers Tim Scott and Jeremy Hernandez, and either infielder/outfielder Dave Staton or Guillermo Velasquez.
The Toronto Blue Jays made the most serious bid to acquire Hurst before last Friday's waiver deadline.
According to a source in the Blue Jay organization, they offered starter Todd Stottlemyre, catcher Greg Myers and outfielder Rob Ducey.
When the Padres rejected their offer, the Blue Jays acquired reliever Mark Eichhorn from the Angels for Myers and Ducey.
"They felt they couldn't trade Hurst at this time," said the Blue Jay executive, "and it was perfectly understandable. It would have been hard to justify for their fans since they're not out of the race."
Padre starter Dave Eiland, who already is at triple-A Las Vegas on a rehab assignment, was forced to leave after three innings in his last start because of a recurring blister problem.