There is still time for the San Diego Padres to improve their 2019 starting rotation. Here is a list of some players who could be key additions for the Friars.
During the 2018 season, the San Diego Padres’ starting pitchers posted a collective ERA of 5.09, which was the fourth-highest in the league.
For the team to take the next step towards contention, their starting pitching must improve. In order to do so, they will likely need to acquire more talented pitchers during this offseason.
With strong starting pitching options available via trade as well as the free agent market, the Padres certainly shouldn’t have trouble upgrading the rotation before next season. Let’s dive into an investigation of the various pitchers the Padres should reasonably consider adding this offseason.
Free Agent Signing
Although he’ll be 31 in January, only throws a sinker with an average velocity of 90 mph, and will probably never be as good as he was during his 2015 Cy Young campaign. Keuchel still has plenty of solid pitching left in the tank, and has a good chance to pitch over 200 innings next season.
He isn’t a sexy acquisition for the rotation, but he quietly was worth 3.6 fWAR in 2018. For a Padres team led by Clayton Richard‘s 158.2 innings pitched last season, getting a guy like Keuchel would certainly help ease some of the pressure on the bullpen. While the Padres would be hesitant to pay him $20 million a year if he remains on the market until mid-January, look for the team to make an offer in the ten to fifteen million dollar range for three to four years.
As a young pitcher coming over from Japan, there is not as much knowledge about how his stuff will play in the major leagues. What we do know about his stuff is that he throws a mid-90s fastball, with strong secondary pitches in a slider and curveball. If it all comes together, we may see him develop into a number-two-type starter in the Padres’ rotation.
He has been reported to prefer playing for a west coast team due to their close proximity to Japan, and San Diego would provide a low-pressure environment in which he would have time to adjust to American life and major league baseball. For ten to fifteen million per year, at around five years total, the Padres would be happy to take a chance on Kikuchi and improve their rotation.
Those are the primary targets left available whom the Padres could target via free agency. There are other pitchers with lesser track records and abilities, yet they only represent marginal improvements over many pitchers the Padres already have on the roster.
While he clearly has a big personality that rubs some people the wrong way, Bauer’s pitching capabilities are undeniable. He just posted a 6.1 fWAR season and has thrown over 175 innings in every year, dating back to 2015. Considering that Syndergaard is off the table, Bauer is now the best starting pitcher available in baseball right now.
If the Padres were to trade for him, they would only have control over him through the 2020 season. This means that it would be a very bold move for the team to strike a deal for him, and likely one the team is not seriously considering. The Indians’ asking price for a player of his caliber has been rumored to be very high, and would likely include one of the top five prospects in San Diego’s minor league system. Given the situation, and considering that the Padres were unwilling to meet the Mets’ asking price for Noah Syndergaard, it’s hard to see them going after Bauer.
While there has been a significant conversation in trade rumors surrounding his teammates, Kluber and Bauer, Cleveland’s third-best starter posted 4.3 fWAR in 2018! For a likely lesser price, the Padres have the chance to add a high-quality starting pitcher to their rotation. As a guy controlled through the 2022 season, the team would be acquiring a pitcher who they could build their pitching around.
If Mike Clevinger could be had for a more reasonable return than is being rumored for Bauer, we shouldn’t be surprised to see the Padres make a move for him. His season last year was vastly better than his 2017 performance, yet many of his other statistics didn’t change, so it truly does seem like he has taken the next step as a pitcher. His groundball rate only went from 39.5% in 2017 to 40.5% last season, his home runs allowed per nine innings in 2017 was 0.96 and decreased to 0.95 in 2018, which show that he did a better job of locating his pitches to improve last season. His decrease in walk rate from 4.44 to 3.02 between 2017 and 2018, is indicative of Clevinger having improved his command of pitches.
All of the pitchers listed above are not necessarily the best options for the Padres to acquire as far as the future is concerned. However, when we look at what pitchers are available, it is clear that the pitchers above would be most easily acquired by the Padres today.
The team has publicly spoken considerably about their interest in becoming more competitive in 2019, and doing so requires the team to have starting pitching that is better than the current staff provides them with. While the pitching prospects such as Logan Allen, Cal Quantrill, Chris Paddack, and others are due for their debuts next season, they have yet to prove themselves at the major league level. If the team truly wants to compete during the coming year, acquiring one of the pitchers above would go a long way towards helping them do so.