The San Diego Padres made (local) headlines last Friday, when it was announced that they had signed former top-of-the-rotation starter, Tyson Ross, to a minor league contract for the 2018 season.
Mere hours later, members of Padres’ twitter collectively wondered if they had entered the Twilight Zone, when it was reported that the team had also reached a minor league agreement with another former Padre ace-like pitcher, Chris Young.
The team has quietly been collecting a pool of starters to construct a rotation from in 2018. Sure, there’s really no frills (not even a Jhoulys Chacin), but the team will have some arms to test out this year.
Incumbents include Dinelson Lamet, Luis Perdomo, and Clayton Richard, who will surely be given first looks at the top three spots. Then there’s Bryan Mitchell, who came over to the team from the Yankees with Chase Headley for Jabari Blash. The front office is high on him, so he’ll have a shot. Matt Strahm is another newcomer whom the team obtained at last year’s trade deadline from the Kansas City Royals as part of the Brandon Maurer/ Ryan Buchter/ Trevor Cahill deal. He’s in the running. Ross and Young will be given opportunities to earn roster spots in spring training. And then there’s Robbie Erlin and Colin Rea, both coming back from Tommy John surgery, hoping to earn back their short-lived spots in the rotation.
Erlin is an interesting player to consider. He had some success with the Padres at the beginning of the 2016 season, but I would like to focus specifically on Rea today.
Rea will be 27 at the start of the season. The RHP was the 383rd overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft, selected by the Padres. He had some success in the minors and a very good season in 2015, during which he rose through two levels to eventually make his MLB debut on August 11. He features a four-seam fastball and a sinker, both of which reach 93 mph. He also has a cutter, a curveball, and a rarely used splitter and changeup.
In 2015-16 combined, Rea produced a 4.69 ERA, 4.35 FIP and 1.38 WHIP in 134.1 innings pitched. He made 25 starts in 26 games played at the Major League level. He wasn’t a top-end guy by any means, but he was solid enough and his ceiling was worth exploring.
On July 29, 2016, he was packaged with Andrew Cashner and Tayron Guerrero and sent over to the Miami Marlins for Carter Capps, Jarred Cosart, Luis Castillo, and Josh Naylor. He made his Marlins debut on July 30, during which the Marlins beat the St. Louis Cardinals 11-0. Rea didn’t make it past the fourth inning, however. He was pulled after reporting an elbow strain. He was put on the 15-day disabled list the next day. The Marlins cried foul, claiming that the Padres had traded them an injured player. On August 1, Rea was returned to the Padres and Castillo was returned to the Marlins. The rest of the deal stayed intact.
On August 5, Rea was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament of the elbow. After first trying a platelet-rich plasma injection, which was unsuccessful, he underwent Tommy John surgery in November, administered by Dr. James Andrews. The surgery caused him to miss all of the 2017 season.
On March 12, 2017, Rea was cleared to play catch by Dr. Andrews, as was reported by Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. He plans to make his full comeback in spring training 2018, but does he have a place left on this team?
It seems that Rea will have just as much of an opportunity as any of the names previously listed, save maybe Perdomo and Lamet. Right now, the team is really trying to fill out the rotation with lottery tickets. They will try to hit on as many low-risk, high-reward pitchers as they can, hence the acquisition of past-their-prime guys like Ross and Young and haven’t-reached-their-potential guys like Strahm and Mitchell. If Rea comes back and has some success, he could earn a spot in the rotation for the near and potentially considerable future.
The team is looking forward to 2019 when the first wave of highly touted pitching prospects will be breaking into the Majors. Guys like Cal Quantrill, Joey Lucchesi, and Eric Lauer are knocking on the door. Until then, the team will be trying to find the supporting arms to surround those youngsters. Who knows, maybe if one or more of this year’s staff catch fire, the prospects will be supporting them.
The truth is, you can never have too much pitching. Colin Rea has an opportunity to come back strong from Tommy John and take back his spot in the rotation.