It appears as if starting pitching will be the San Diego Padres main priority this off-season.
After the back half of their staff let them down in the National League Championship Series, Padres’ President of Baseball Operations, A.J. Preller, has made it known that the team will prioritize pitching depth this winter.
Whether that means trading for an arm or signing a few on the free agent market, expect San Diego’s stable of arms to be amongst the league’s best in 2023.
Below you’ll find four realistic starting pitching targets for Preller and company to acquire on the free agent market.
Bringing back Martinez is probably a good place to start, as the 32-year-old recently opted out of his contract with the Padres, though the expectation is he’ll return to the team. Martinez primarily worked out of the ‘pen last season for San Diego, clutching up in several key moments down the stretch and throughout the playoffs. He saw a brief cup of coffee as a starting pitcher early in the season, enjoying some success though enduring rough patches at times, too. Being able to throw all five pitches at any time for strikes gives Martinez a relatively high floor as a starting pitcher, and he’d fit in well toward the back end of San Diego’s rotation.
We recently wrote about why Senga would be a valuable addition to the Padres team here, but the fact is that Japan’s latest star should be at the top of Preller’s list. He throws upper-90s heat, owns a devastating swing-and-miss splitter, and should have no problem missing bats in a league that prioritizes arms who punch guys out. Senga’s market appears to be heating up across baseball, and that’s something that should only raise his price tag. Still, bringing home to San Diego on a three-or-four year deal makes perfect sense for this team.
Walker put an injury-riddled past behind him over the last two seasons, hurling 155+ innings in 2021 and this year. He’s only 29 years old and just made 29 starts for the Mets, pitching to a 3.49 ERA with a 3.65 FIP. Walker doesn’t make his money punching batters out but instead is a pitch-to-contact type of arm that could benefit from Petco Park’s environment. Factor the ballpark in with San Diego’s stellar infield defense, and while the league is moving away from this type of arm, it’s possible Walker could still succeed in the situation he’d be in with the Padres. Adding him to the back half of this rotation on a deal with an average annual value (AAV) in the $13-to-$15 million range would be beneficial.
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Like Walker, Taillon has moved past previous injury issues and put together back-to-back formidable seasons in the Bronx. He’s about to turn 31 years old and makes his money by inducing weak contact and ground balls rather than missing bats. Taillon has struggled with suppressing home runs since moving to the American League, but that could have been a result of him consistently pitching in New York, Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore before the fences were moved in. There’s reason to believe Taillon could return value on a two-year deal at market value – $14 to $15 million AAV, per Spotrac.
Diego works at Prep Baseball Report as an Area Scout in Illinois and Missouri. He graduated this spring with a Bachelor Degree in Communications and played four years of college baseball, logging nearly 50 innings of work in a relief role. Diego hopes to work in an MLB front office one day and has been a Padres fan since he was six years old.