With the trade of Joaquin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel, the San Diego Padres find themselves with no proven closer. The team will most likely expect Brandon Maurer to step into the role. He is more than capable, but is still very raw as a Major League pitcher. Jon Edwards is another strong possibility to close, but it is unknown if he is ready to perform at the Major League level.
The loss of Kimbrel is big but the Padres got a deal they simply could not walk away from. The package of prospects the Padres got in return for Kimbrel is a perfect fit for the teams needs. Manuel Margot is a defensive minded center fielder and shortstop prospect Javier Guerra is also known for his defense. That just happens to be two problems with the team both at the Major League level and in the Minor Leagues as well. The needs at both positions were addressed in one deal.
18-year-old left-handed pitcher Logan Allen could be a special prize. He was just drafted last season and has a great arsenal of pitches that could develop under Darren Balsley‘s tutelage. Utility man Carlos Asuaje is deemed the closest to being ready to contribute at the Major League level. A.J. Preller even indicated that the infielder will be given an opportunity to win a Major League job during spring training.
The 25 year Maurer pitched very well out of the bullpen last year for the Padres. In a stretch from Late April to Early July Maurer was quite dominant. He went 4-0 during that time with a 0.98 ERA and a 0.703 WHIP in 27 games and 28 innings. Maurer only gave up 15 hits in that time while striking out 24. He was never given an opportunity to close out a game, but he has the stuff capable of doing so if needed.
The Padres could also lean on Kevin Quackenbush who closed for the Padres briefly his rookie year in 2014. Quackenbush closed out six games for the Friars that year and went 3-3 with a 2.48 ERA. This past season Quackenbush struggled more with his command and spent time up and down between Triple-A and the Major Leagues. He finished the year 3-2 with a 4.01 ERA and a 1.234 WHIP. The 26-year-old has the mentality to close, but his stuff is just not overly dominant. His fastball sits in the low to mid 90’s.
Shawn Kelley is a possibility if the club decides to re-sign the free agent right-handed pitcher. He pitched well for the Padres last season despite starting off very shaky in the month of April. Kelley went 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP. He should be brought back by the club as they need every arm they can get in the bullpen.
No matter who the closer ultimately is in 2016, the Padres will surely give Brandon Maurer every opportunity to win the job. He is young and has an outstanding arm. He also has the moxie needed to get the final outs of a ball game. If Maurer can succeed, Padres fans will hardly miss Craig Kimbrel or Joaquin Benoit in 2016.