Even with the exciting news of Manny Machado coming to San Diego, the Padres are a far cry from having a quality starting rotation. They will likely need to acquire a starter or two by trade to be relevant in the division in 2019.
The Padres saw a few young arms emerge last season.
Joey Lucchesi made 26 starts recording a 4.08 ERA and 1.1 WAR. Eric Lauer made 23 starts producing a 4.34 ERA and a 0.8 WAR. Each should build on getting their feet wet in the major leagues and improve those numbers this season.
It is projected that the Padres rotation will be the two before mentioned pitchers and Robbie Erlin, Bryan Mitchell and Luis Perdomo. Of course, that can change over the spring with the development of the likes of Jacob Nix, Logan Allen, Chris Paddack, and several others. Matt Strahm will also be a factor before it is all said and done.
The Padres are a far cry from having one of the best rotations in baseball like the Indians, Red Sox and Mets.
It’s a bummer Manny Machado can’t pitch because, according to FanGraphs’ Steamer projections, the Padres rank 26th in baseball for projected WAR of the starting rotation. They are also dead last in the National League.
Team Total Proj. WAR
1 Indians 18.3
2 Red Sox 16.7
3 Yankees 15.2
4 Mets 14.8
5 Nationals 14.6
6 Astros 14
7 Dodgers 13.4
8 Rockies 12.6
9 Cubs 12.2
10 Phillies 11.4
11 D-backs 11.3
12 Pirates 11.3
13 Cardinals 10.2
14 Rays 10.2
15 Reds 10.2
16 Twins 9.5
17 Braves 7.8
18 Angels 7.2
19 Giants 6.4
20 Rangers 6.2
21 Mariners 6
22 Marlins 5.9
23 Brewers 5.9
24 Blue Jays 5.8
25 Royals 5.7
26 Padres 5.6
27 Tigers 5.5
28 White Sox 4
29 Athletics 3.6
30 Orioles 3.2
According to reports, the Padres are not content with the remaining free agent options as far as starting pitchers, which includes Dallas Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez and Clay Buchholz. The feeling is that none of these are true front-line starters that could lead this young, budding rotation into the future.
This is why the Padres will likely look to trade for a veteran starting pitcher to lead the rotation. Dallas Keuchel is on the wrong side of 30 years old and led the entire league with 211 hits allowed last season. Rumor has it he is also wanting something around $20 million per year, which, after ponying up for Machado, does not sound appetizing to the Padres.
Gio Gonzalez is clearly on the downswing and will likely turn out just as a good or worse than most of the in-house candidates the Padres have for the rotation when counting the prospects. He had a stellar 2017 with a 6.4 WAR but it has been sandwiched by a 0.9 WAR 2016 season and 1.5 in 2018. Plus he will be 34 years old by season’s end.
Clay Buchholz can’t stay healthy as he hasn’t started more than 21 games since 2014. He will be 35 years old in August.
These are not pitchers than instill confidence that they can lead a young rotation through a playoff run.
The trade options are too numerous to mention all of them. The Indians would make sense as they need outfielders, something the Padres have plenty of. However, the Indians have been hot and cold when talking trading their top pitchers like Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer. Mike Clevinger could be an option. He does not have the track record of his two teammates mentioned but his 2018 was as good as anyone in baseball. Clevinger posted a 4.3 WAR with a stingy 3.52 FIP (anything below 4.20 being above average).
Perhaps if the Twins are not optimistic about their chances in the AL Central, they would be willing to part with Jake Odorizzi, who has had an ERA+ above 102 in three of the past four seasons.
Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers is another possible option at not quite 26 years old. He pitched well enough in 2016 to win AL Rookie of the Year, although he has come back down to earth some the last two seasons. Still, over three years, a 3.81 ERA with a 115 ERA+ would be most welcome in this rotation.
One thing that all these pitchers mentioned have in common is that they are right-handed. The Padres are very low on quality righties, with their best right-handed starters on the big league roster would be Luis Perdomo and Bryan Mitchell.
It’s almost a given that A.J. Preller has something up his sleeve. He has shown his tendencies and they are not to just make one big splash move, like Machado, then disappear into the shadows. The NL West is trending the right direction for the Padres and 2019 may be an opportunity to make some noise if they can get more pitching.