Well, the election season is over. So is the World Series. Recently, I’ve found myself in transition between daydreaming about all the ways the San Diego Chargers could win the rest of their games this season and what my ideal San Diego Padres roster for 2017 would look like.
While we are in the thick of football season, the 2016-17 MLB free agent market officially opened for business this week, so I suppose I’ll focus on the Padres in this article.
In considering the Padres’ greatest needs for the upcoming season, one area sticks out like a sore thumb. I’m talking about starting pitching. In 2016, the Padres starting rotation was very erratic. 14 different starters took the mound over the span of the season. With all of the inconsistency, the Padres finished with a 68-94 record. Now, I’m not saying that the starters are fully responsible for this dismal record, but if the Padres even want to have a prayer in 2017, they have to achieve some stability in the rotation.
So then, who’s available out there on the market? At East Village Times, we’ve already had some speculation on Chris Sale, Derek Holland, and Jake Peavy, and how they each might fit into the future. One thing these guys all have in common is veteran experience. In my estimation, with a team as young as the Padres, a veteran presence is highly important. A young group, as talented as the Padres project to be, need role models to glean from.
The aforementioned names would surely provide such a presence. To further the conversation, I would like to recognize another veteran player on the market this off-season who could bring some quality to the team. A guy who’s been in the N.L. West for years with a solid track record. How about the Rockies’ Jorge De La Rosa?
Let’s face it; a 2017 Padre rotation is not going to be able to go toe-to-toe with most of their rivals in the N.L. West. They aren’t going to have a better rotation than the Dodgers, Giants, or even the Diamondbacks. It’s just not realistic. To try to sign expensive free agents or “sell the farm” on the trade market is not a wise strategy for the rebuilding franchise. Instead, I think that the Padres should simply stabilize their rotation with capable arms and bring back all of their bullpen gems.
They should keep Brad Hand, Kevin Quackenbush, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter. If Carter Capps gets back to his 2015 form, then there’s another huge asset. How about bringing back Fernando Rodney? We know he can pitch at Petco and he probably shouldn’t break the bank. My point is, the Padres could get away with saving resources on starters if they rely more heavily on a dominant bullpen. Kind of like the 2015 Royals.
A fellow writer (Noah) wrote an article this week discussing the idea of a three man rotation. Now that seems kind of radical, but the concept is similar in that it relies less heavily on the starters’ workload. I mean, also, look at the role that relief pitchers had during the recent post season. It was weird, but awesome. If the team does end up going on a run, then maybe they could land an elite starter as a rental before the deadline.
Back to De La Rosa. Look, he’s 35 years old. He should come somewhat affordably. He has a career 4.64 ERA and he’s pitched with success at Coors field. In fact, he holds the Rockies’ record for franchise wins with 86. He has a .585 win-loss percentage. Let me reiterate. Coors has been his home field for nine years. He’s the oddball pitcher who actually does well there. That’s surely why they’ve kept him around all these years. You know, last season he actually pitched better at home than away. He had a 5.23 ERA at Coors and a 5.84 away. He pitches pretty well at the other N.L. West parks also.
In 2016, he had a 2.57 ERA at Dodgers Stadium and a 3.86 at AT&T. He kind of struggled at Chase Field with an 11.25 ERA, but had a 3.00 in 2015. He didn’t pitch at Petco in 2016, but had a 4.80 ERA in 2015. These may seem like average numbers, nothing to write home about, but that’s actually why I think he’d be a good fit. He still has some gas in the tank, and he’s older so he won’t likely be a huge expense. He’ll provide a veteran presence and help stabilize the rotation. He has proven success in the N.L. West, and if the Padres plan it well, he should be good for a few wins at Coors on the season. Also, we must recognize by now that pitching coach Darren Balsley has a special knack for bringing out the best in his reclamation projects. De La Rosa’s best is pretty good. In 2013, he went 16-6 with a 3.49 ERA.
Another East Village Times article was published this week discussing the future of Padre rookie starter Cesar Vargas. Vargas showed some promise in a handful of games last season before losing the rest of his season to injury. He should be back in 2017. While reading the article, I made the connection between Vargas and De La Rosa. Both are from Mexico. Now, while this fact in no way guarantees that they’ll connect, De La Rosa may be a good mentor to the young Vargas. Surely they share some commonality. The truth of the matter is, De La Rosa probably has wisdom to share with all of his teammates. He can teach the whole staff how to pitch on the moon.
The Padres have about seven potential starters looking to compete for the rotation in 2017.
We’re looking at Christian Friedrich, Luis Perdomo, Paul Clemens, Jarred Cosart, and Cesar Vargas, plus Colin Rea and Tyson Ross, if they wind up being healthy enough to go at the start of the season. I also would really like to see the Padres try to re-sign Clayton Richard, and maybe even Edwin Jackson. So there would be a lot of arms vying for limited spots. Well now, that’s okay. A little healthy competition never hurt anyone. My one concern is just whether De La Rosa would actually be a better option (or a better value) than any of the guys currently on the roster.
While it would seem likely that De La Rosa could be had for a reasonable price, it may not be a guarantee. His most recent contract with the Rockies was a two-year deal for $25 million. I assume that would be too rich for the Pads’ blood. If De La Rosa’s expectation is in that neighborhood, I would assert that the Padres should pass and look at other options. In such a case, I repeat, there’s no guarantee that De La Rosa would even perform any better than the guys on the current roster. Realistically, De la Rosa is almost 36 years old and had a 5.51 ERA last season, so it’s doubtful that he would ask for an unreasonable deal.
About that 5.51 ERA. De La Rosa struggled early last season. His ERA was up around 11.00 in May and June, but then he settled down for much of the rest of the season, until September, when he gave up 17 earned runs in 19 innings. Not stellar. It’s probably why the Rockies have decided to finally part ways. That kind of down production is definitely something to approach with caution. Honestly, if it came down to choosing between a re-signing of Clayton Richard or De La Rosa (both lefties) on a similar deal, I would go with Richard. It wouldn’t necessarily come down to Richard versus De La Rosa though, so that’s just an aside.
What the heck, I think Jorge De La Rosa would be a good addition to the Padres. If he stays healthy and Balsley can help him pick up his production, he could be a quality veteran presence at a decent value. He pitches well in the N.L. West and especially at Coors Field. He should be a good mentor for the youngsters. At the very least, his addition would provide some extra depth to a pitching staff notorious for injury. My real hope is that the 2017 rotation simply maintains stability. I would like to see the five best guys on the team starting games all season long. If De La Rosa became one of those guys, it would be great to have him. He may fit in with my formula of a capable, stable rotation, backed by a dominant, deep bullpen to shake up the N.L. West. A hold-steady rotation in 2017 can bridge the gap until prospects like Cal Quantrill and Anderson Espinoza are ready to be called up, and hopefully dominate for years to come. We will just have to wait and see.