3. Test the Market on Other Relief Options
Aside from Brad Hand, who is the obvious standout in the Padres bullpen, there are a trio of other relief pitchers that may be of interest to contending teams. With a variety of teams looking for relief pitching help, the Padres should be more than willing to test the market on Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter, and Kirby Yates in the coming weeks.
At the top of that list is Brandon Maurer, who has had a bit of a wild season as the Padres’ primary closer. Hand has gotten some opportunities for saves in the first half of the season, but Maurer has operated in that role almost exclusively for much of the season. If you look at Brandon Maurer’s FIP, 2.95, and K/BB rate, 19.5 percent, you would think he is having a stellar season. However, his ERA, 5.60, tells an entirely different story. So who is the real Brandon Maurer? Well, the easiest way to answer that question is by saying he is somewhere in between those two. In low leverage, 2.40 FIP, and medium leverage, 1.65 FIP, Maurer has been a rather elite bullpen arm.
However, in high leverage situations, which are situations where the leverage index is over 2.00, Maurer has a 4.35 FIP. Maurer similarly has a FIP over five, both when men are on base and when men are in scoring position. Despite operating in the closer role, Maurer has not been really great in those tough, high leverage situations. Even so, Maurer is still a valuable asset given his overall performance this year, and his contract status, as the right-hander is under team control through the 2019 season. He won’t fetch the return of Hand, but he could net the Padres an interesting package if he is added in with Hand or one of the other Padres’ relief options to be discussed.
Beyond Maurer, the Padres also have a pair of interesting late-inning options in Kirby Yates and Ryan Buchter, both of whom could be sought after trade candidates. Similarly to Hand, Yates has come from waiver wire obscurity to success story in the Padres bullpen. After being claimed off waivers by the Padres on April 26, Yates has given up only six earned runs in 28 innings pitched for the Padres, good for a 1.93 ERA and 2.40 FIP. On top of that, Yates has a 30.1 K/BB ratio, as the right-hander has struck out over 37 percent of batters faced. The track record sample is small, but if he is thrown in a package with Hand or Maurer, the Padres could get a more intriguing return.
Last but not least in terms of bullpen arms, is Ryan Buchter, who hasn’t been nearly as good as he was last year, but still represents a valuable left-handed relief option for contending teams. The strikeout rate, walkout rate, and ERA are all around the same for Buchter that they were last year, but his FIP has taken a rather big step back. Even so, Buchter still has shown he can get outs, even with the high walk rates. Some team should come knocking once Hand and other left-handed reliever options like Justin Wilson are off the market.
4. Field Calls on Yangervis Solarte
Once the Padres move all their obvious pieces, or at least gauge interest in those seven or eight pitchers, the Padres should field some calls on infielder Yangervis Solarte. Prior to going down with an oblique injury, Solarte was slashing .317/.394/.667 in 71 June plate appearances with a .436 woBA and 174 wRC+. Obviously Solarte struggled through the first two months of the season, but that June bounce-back led to his name being brought up more frequently in trade rumors. Given the plethora of teams looking for infield help, which includes several American League East teams, Solarte had the potential of being a trade piece for the Padres.
However, given his injury, a wrench has been thrown in those plans. Even so, the Padres should still gauge interest in the infielder in the coming weeks. It’s unclear when Solarte will return, as oblique injuries can sometimes linger, but he still could be a valuable trade asset even with the injury. The Padres should not be inclined to give Solarte away just because, as he is still under team control through 2020 at a very affordable rate. Even if the Padres don’t intend on trading Solarte when he is injured, they should at least field offers for him in the next few weeks.
5. Think Outside of the Box
After the Padres finish most of their moving and shaking at this year’s trade deadline, the last thing on their to-do list has to be thinking outside of the box. This involves potentially making some more out of the box trades, or at least fielding offers on other players. For a team in the Padres’ position, no player should really be completely off-limits, although arguments can be made that the trio of Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, and Austin Hedges, and to an extent, Wil Myers, should be completely off-limits. However, players like Cory Spangenberg or Ryan Schimpf could be guys that are floated in trade offers. Neither are really hot ticket trade items, but the Padres have to be willing to look at all possibilities this year. Heck, Wil Myers shouldn’t even be entirely off-limits, although he has struggled in the first half of the year and the Padres did just ink him to a long-term extension, so there would obviously be some serious fan backlash to that type of trade. I am not saying the Padres should trade Myers, or even that I would want them to, but at this point they need to be creative, and need to be considering all options. With just 18 days until August baseball, the trade deadline is quickly approaching. Let’s see how it all plays out.