On Wednesday, MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi reported the San Diego Padres had inquired with the New York Mets about Noah Syndergaard’s availability. As we noted elsewhere, a source has confirmed to CBS Sports that Syndergaard is on the block, but no deal is imminent and this process may carry on past the July 31 deadline and into the winter. On Thursday, Morosi added that the Padres also have interest in Detroit Tigers southpaw Matthew Boyd:

There’s no telling if the Padres will land either, but it’s clear that general manager A.J. Preller wants to acquire an ace (or a close approximate) — and has wanted to for more than a year now.

This time last July, the Padres were connected to Syndergaard, as well as then-Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Chris Archer. The Padres were even considered by some in the game to be the favorite to land Archer — he’s said to have landed with the Pittsburgh Pirates instead in part due to the Rays’ reservations about catcher Francisco Mejia. Since then, the Padres have also been linked to Marcus Stroman, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and other front-of-the-rotation arms.

If Preller views a veteran anchor as the proverbial final piece of the puzzle — the one that can help the Padres reach the postseason for the first time since 2006 — then he might just be right.

The Padres are in a fortunate situation. They have arguably the best farm system in baseball, including perhaps the best pitcher (MacKenzie Gore) and one of the top hitters (Luis Urias).

As soon as Urias supplants Ian Kinsler as the everyday second baseman, the Padres will also have one of the best infields in the game. Add in a solid-looking outfield — thanks to the emergence of Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe; plus the lingering promise offered by Manuel Margot, Josh Naylor, and the injured Franchy Cordero — and there’s plenty to like. Sure, the Padres could upgrade behind the dish (though, who knows, perhaps Mejia or Austin Allen emerges as a legitimate starting option) and/or in center field, but the lineup looks solid.

There’s reason for optimism on the pitching front as well. Chris Paddack looks like a budding ace; Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer have shown enough to think they’re big-league starters; and there’s a decent chance at least one or two of Logan Allen, Dinelson Lamet, Cal Quantrill, Nick Margevicius, and so on work out in San Diego’s favor, too. And that’s not counting any number of other young starters who could join the fray over the coming 12 to 18 months — be it Jacob Nix (injured), Adrian Morejon, Reggie Lawson, Ryan Weathers, whomever. 

The sheer amount of depth the Padres have at this point can (and seemingly will) be consolidated via trade into a more established, surefire starter. Should the Padres acquire the right arm, they could improve into a serious threat in the National League. Even now, without that established ace, the Padres are sitting at .500 and within two games of a wild card spot. Incorporating a well-above-average starter would give the Padres a legitimate shot at October.

As such, while we can’t be certain about whom the Padres will acquire — or when they will acquire them — it seems to be all but a foregone conclusion that at some point in the coming months the Padres are going to make a trade to land a veteran front-end starter. And when we look back at this iteration of the Padres in five or seven years, that move may be viewed as when the Padres upshifted from a cute, underdog story into one of the NL’s monster squads.