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The Padres Have been Busy in the Arm Barn

The National League West has been busy this offseason. The Los Angeles Dodgers committed over $1 billion to free agents, while the San Francisco Giants have tried to spend, but have settled for lesser deals and trades to try and build a contender. The Colorado Rockies have done their best to accumulate arms for depth while the Arizona Diamondbacks look to supplement their young core with impactful veterans. The San Diego Padres have been trying to drift away from the extensive payroll they employed the last few seasons, and have instead tried to be savvy in their free-agent and trade market with cost-effective deals. In the settling dust of the Juan Soto trade to New York, the Padres have kept a primary focus on their bullpen.

To put this fact into perspective, here are all the relievers the Padres have added this offseason thus far:

  • Yuki Matsui (5 yr, $28 million)
  • Woo Suk Go (2 yr, $4.5 million)
  • Wandy Peralta (4 yr $16.5 million)
  • Enyel De Los Santos (Trade)
  • Luis Patino (Waivers)
  • Jhony Brito (Trade)
  • Stephan Kolek (Rule-5)
  • Jeremiah Estrada (Waivers)
  • Logan Gillaspie (Waivers)
  • Tommy Nance (Minors)
  • Matt Festa (Minors)
  • Josh Roberson Minors)
  • Omar Cruz (Rule-5 AAA)
  • Jayvien Sandridge (Minors)
  • Yovanny Cruz (Minors)

The quest for depth has been admirable for the Padres after seeing an exodus of relief pitchers leave the roster in free agency. Our purpose here, however, is to focus on the arms that factor into being impactful for the big league roster immediately.

Matsui represented the first major free agent signing by the Padres this winter. The 28-year-old reliever spent nearly a decade as an elite closer for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He recorded a 2.40 ERA across 659 2/3 innings in 10 seasons. He mainly worked as a multi-inning reliever for most of his career but has been a closer for the past three seasons. During that stretch, he registered a 1.42 ERA and 214 strikeouts across 152 innings pitched and had a career-high 39 saves last season. Since 2015 he has had six seasons with at least 30 saves. He has a knack for wracking up strikeouts and limiting walks, all signs that point to a quality backend bullpen arm. It’s unclear if he factors in to be the closer from the get-go, but the Padres may pencil him in as a high-leverage arm to begin with, and eventually usurp the role from Robert Suarez.

Go, 25, on the other hand, has spent parts of seven seasons in the KBO. He’s also been a reliever for the majority of his time, and for the past five years acted as the closer for the LG Twins. Go has recorded four seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA, including three campaigns where he allowed fewer than 2.20 earned runs per nine. He had over 30 saves in 2019, 2021 and 2022 and just 15 in 44 appearances in 2023. He has stuck more than 26% of batters in each of the last five years but has struggled with walks from time to time. He’s walked 10% of batters in four of his seven seasons and in 2023 walked batters at an 11.6% clip. He factors to be a middle reliever as he tries to work on his command, but he could still be a solid pickup that the Padres got for quite a bargain.

Peralta is the most recent signing and his contract is quite unusual. It is a four-year deal, but he has the option to opt-out each year. Over the past the past several seasons, Peralta has been on of the most reliable relievers in the game. From 2021-23 with the Yankees, he had a 2.82 ERA in 153 innings with a 21% strikeout rate and a 10.2% walk rate. Additionally, Peralta had an incredible 56.5% ground ball rate, showcasing his ability to induce soft contact and use his defense behind him. He struggled with his command a bit in 2023 but managed to navigate those struggles to remain effective on the mound and limit damage. He brings some quality veteran influence to the Padres bullpen in the wake of Josh Hader leaving in free agency and joining the Houston Astros.

De Los Santos, 28, joined the Padres in a trade that sent reliever Scott Barlow to Cleveland. It’s a reunion of sorts after De Los Santos was in the Padres system for a bit before being traded for Freddy Galvis. He has spent the past two seasons in Cleveland, posting a 3.18 ERA in 119 appearances with the Guardians. Last season, De Los Santos made 70 appearances and worked to a 3.29 ERA through 65 2/3 innings. He also posted strong strikeout numbers with a 23.7% strikeout rate while also walking 9.5% of opposing hitters. He was quite effective against right-handers with a sub-.200 AVG against, and also has been effective at limiting hard contact. He’s another cost-effective move as he is still arbitration-eligible for a few more years. He’s another option that can range from middle relief to late relief as needed.

Beyond these four pitchers that are locks for the Opening Day roster, the Padres have done their best to fill out the depth and give themselves options. However, there are still plenty of questions that remain. Luis Patiño returns to the Padres organization after being traded away to Tampa Bay in exchange for Blake Snell. The 24-year-old has bounced around since 2021 and has struggled. His command suffered in 2023 but he is still young and at least can provide some depth in the rotation or the bullpen should he make the Opening Day roster or stick with the club if he doesn’t. Stephan Kolek was their Rule-5 pick and while he has posted some respectable numbers in the minors, it’s unclear if he has the stuff to make the leap to the big leagues and hold down a spot in the bullpen for the entire year. There is also the matter of whether the veterans on minor-league deals or other waiver claims have anything left in the tank, or can finally establish themselves as a big-league pitcher.

The Padres have failed incredibly the past few seasons after spending big. Now, they are trying to cut their costs while still bringing in decent talent. The rotation may still have question marks, but they said their focus would be on the bullpen and they have done an admirable job to fill out the arm barn and it could end up being one of the better bullpens in the league, let alone the division. There is a lot to like about their moves, and only time will tell if the moves will pan out as hoped.

 

 

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