Clayton Richard first arrived in San Diego thanks to one of the most reviled trades in Padres’ history. Symbolic of the penny-pinching Jeff Moorad era, the Padres sent homegrown ace Jake Peavy to the Chicago White Sox at the trade deadline in 2009 in exchange for Richard, Aaron Poreda, Dexter Carter, and Adam Russell.
Drafted by the Padres in 1999 in the 15th round, Peavy made his debut on June 22, 2002, at home against the Yankees. Although Peavy allowed only one run in six innings, the Padres lost the game 1-0. Just two years later, he had become the staff ace thanks to his 15-6 record and MLB-leading ERA of 2.27.
By 2007, Peavy had won the Triple Crown (19-6, 2.54 ERA, 240 strikeouts), and in December he signed $52 million, 4-year extension. He has since told multiple sources that he expected to be a Padre for life, like Tony Gwynn. However, thanks to that trade, Peavy does possess two World Series rings (one with the Boston Red Sox, the other with the San Francisco Giants).
Of the four players traded to the Padres for Peavy, only Clayton Richard has had much of a career. Drafted by the White Sox in 2005, he started pitching out of the bullpen in 2008, but later moved into the starting rotation. Less than a year later, he had been shipped off to San Diego.
In 2010, Richard’s best year with the Padres, he had a 14-9 record, 3.75 ERA, 1.408 WHIP in 33 games. By 2013 he’d become the number two starter, but illness and injury shortened his season. In the offseason, he had surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and worked his way back into baseball by signing minor league deals with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 2015, he landed a spot in the bullpen with the Chicago Cubs, and he received a World Series ring the following year despite the fact that he’d been designated for assignment when the club landed Aroldis Chapman. On August 6, 2016, the Padres reunited with Richard, and he is signed with the club through 2019 at $3 million a year. Richard’s less than stellar record last year (8-15, 4.79 ERA, 1.515 WHIP) tells only part of the story.
Although the team needs an innings-eater like Richard in the rotation, his real value has more to do with his legendary work ethic and his leadership abilities. Last year, the Padres had an average age of 26.9, the youngest roster in MLB. Richard can serve as an example to those young players, especially the pitchers at the major and minor league level.
In fact, this off-season, high-ranking pitching prospects Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi, who have received invitations to spring training, experienced Richard’s idea of preparing for the season at his home in Lafayette, Ind. As reported by Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune recently, that preparation began at 7:30 a.m. and continued into the afternoon each day. Somehow the two survived and learned from the grueling experience.
Last year on opening day, Richard provided all his teammates with the Dr. Seuss book “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” In April, after a night game in Atlanta, he presented the entire team with pajamas for the long, red-eye flight home. Richard’s true value lies in thoughtful acts like these, in his work ethic, and in his willingness to reach out to the young players, especially the pitchers, in the Padres’ highly-rated farm system.