With recent acquisitions, the Padres appear to want to approach their closer role by committee.
Hader remains a free agent but will likely single-handedly command more money than the Padres are willing to spend on any free agents combined.
The limited budget seems to have generated the need for creativity for A.J. Preller and company.
Who will be the Padres closer in 2024?
With the recent signings, it appears like the Padres are either welcoming open competition for the role or may even go closer by committee.
They signed Japanese lefty Yuki Matsui on December 23. He is fresh off of a 39-save campaign for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japan Pacific League. He posted a stifling 1.57 ERA in 57 innings as their main closer. He offers a low-90s fastball and the rare splitter, giving hitters a different look.
This week, the Padres also signed Woo Suk Go of the KBO. For the better part of the last five seasons, he has been the closer for the KBO’s LG Twins. He notched 139 saves between 2019 and 2023. He owns a four-pitch mix with a bit more velocity than Matsui from the opposite side of the rubber.
Reports came in once the Padres signed him that he would be the closer or at least be in the mix.
On top of those two, the Padres already have a fireballer with late-inning experience. Robert Suarez‘s fastball is in the 94th percentile for velocity. He pairs that with a changeup against which batters hit .080 last season and a sinker that only one batter all season got an extra-base hit against.
The right-hander owns a 2.99 ERA and 131 ERA+ in 71 games between 2022 and 2023. He also was instrumental in getting the Padres to the NLCS in 2022, with nine innings pitched over that postseason.
Now, with a healthy offseason after battling injuries last year, Suarez is set for a bigger role in the bullpen.
Not only can new manager Mike Shildt have his pick of late-inning relievers, but he can play matchups as well. Obviously, Matsui matches up better with the big lefty hitters San Diego will face in the postseason. Go comes from the right side and could handle the big right-handed hitters.
Suarez’s splits are near dead, even for his career between lefties and righties.
All that and it cost the Padres around $15 million combined towards the payroll in 2024 for these three relievers. That is less than what Hader alone will command.
Now, of course, Matsui and Go are not proven arms against MLB talent. However, pitching coach Ruben Niebla should be able to get the most out of these talented Asian hurlers.
At the very least, Preller has given Shildt options and competition for the closer role heading into Spring Training. But if they wanted to go with the committee approach, they have a variety of angles, repertoires and experience to throw at opposing hitters with the game on the line.
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.