A look at who the San Diego Padres should seek out during the 2019-20 free agency period.
When building a championship contender, addressing the pitching staff is one of the primary targets for each general manager. Teams like the Dodgers, Astros, Nationals, and the majority of playoff contenders all boast some of the strongest overall staffs in the game.
Chinese philosopher Mencius stated, “The best things in life come in threes.” What a great baseball manager he was. The new standard for a playoff-ready team in the MLB is evident: put together a Big Three to head the pitching rotation and let the offense breathe easy at least three times every rotation cycle.
The 2020 San Diego Padres project to have only one pitcher of Big Three caliber, team ace Chris Paddack.
However, A.J. Preller must give Paddack his Buehler and his Corbin to effectively contend for a playoff spot next season. As the season approaches its final legs and San Diego misses the playoffs yet again, eyes turn to the future. Who will fill those other two spots?
Heading up the pack is an aforementioned member of the Houston Astros big three. At 4.1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), Gerrit Cole is one of the game’s most dominant pitchers. His selection on this list is less of a hot take, more of a foregone conclusion. Before even looking at his quantifiable excellence, observation of his winning mentality shows off exactly what Cole is all about. Saying, quote, “At least 50-percent of this league doesn’t give a [expletive] about winning,”. His desire to win is a trait that perfectly fits the Padres’ ambitions. If A.J Preller can land Gerrit Cole coming off of what is currently a 14-5, 2.87 ERA (Earned Run Average), and league-leading 226 strikeout season, the Padres will be well on their way to success in 2020.
About the only Mets starter the Padres weren’t involved in trade talks with this summer, Zack Wheeler is a big risk, big reward type of player. The risk? His vulnerability to injury. He hasn’t had an injury-free season since 2014, with a multitude of elbow problems in years leading up to that season as well. The reward? A pitcher averaging 6.1 IP (Innings Pitched) per start in 2019.
It is no secret that the Padres need starting pitching that can go deep into a game; their current top three starters average roughly 5.1 IP per start. Wheeler adds depth in two ways: depth to the rotation and depth into a game. A concern about Wheeler in the pitching department will be his 2019 ERA of 4.20, though the Padres’ front office, should they sign him, will be banking on him to come with his July-and-onward ERA of 3.13 as opposed to his March-June ERA: 4.51. The type of hit-or-miss player Preller loves going after; Wheeler will prove to be a big score the Padres pursue come November’s free agency filings.
Coming off back injuries that delayed his 2019 season debut, Alex Wood is a question mark to re-sign with the Cincinnati Reds. They are yet to offer a contract extension to the 29-year-old southpaw, a variable that will play a factor when Wood makes his decision on where to call home in 2020. With Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi lacking Big 3-caliber talent, the sinker and slider dominant southpaw perfectly compliment Paddack’s fastball dominant approach on the mound and a team facing these pitchers on back-to-back days is sure to find trouble adjusting. Similar to Wheeler, Wood’s pre-injury numbers are downright deadly. With a 2016-2018 combined winning percentage of .650 and combined ERA of 3.29, a clock-turned-back Alex Wood is sure to inject confidence into the Padres’ clubhouse, and pogo stick their win total in the coming seasons.
Rounding out the list of San Diego’s Most Wanted is Minnesota stud, repeat, stud Jake Odorizzi. A simple glance at his numbers in 2019 can drop jaws and raise eyebrows in befuddlement at the lack of conversation surrounding Odorizzi nationwide. With a 3.44 ERA and a Win-Loss of 13-5, he should hands-down be a contender for this year’s Cy Young award and be near, or at the top of every free agent board come November. Concerns may surround his 5.1 IP per start. However, his WAR of 2.8 and RAR (Runs Above Replacement) of 29 are key indicators of the talent this man brings to the table. Any GM in the league would be absurd not to give this righty at least a second glance when the question of who to contractually obligate themselves to arises. Jake Odorizzi will be a top-five pitcher in the MLB next season, and A.J. Preller needs to make sure he’s at least given Odorizzi a thought before moving on to other free agents.
As fans anxiously await the 2019 free agency period, the Padres need to recognize the small fortune of talent this offseason is blessed with and take complete advantage of it should they hope to be a serious contender in the 2020 MLB season.