After their most successful season since 1998, there’s no question that this off-season will be pivotal to San Diego Padres’ championship aspirations.
Bob Melvin’s squad pushed themselves to the National League Championship Series after an 89-win campaign, and after that initial taste of winning, this organization is certainly hungry for more of it.
Now, A.J. Preller and company have fully turned their attention to improving this roster and building a machine capable of competing for the World Series on a year-to-year basis.
The strength of the Padres this year was their pitching staff – a group that featured three true top-of-the-rotation type arms and an electric bullpen that, at one point, was playing like the sport’s most complete unit. With that said, it’s a bit ironic that this staff’s depth, which was once viewed as a major strength, led to their eventual demise.
There are several questions surrounding San Diego’s starting rotation, in particular, heading into 2023. Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove all return, but the final two spots are more than up in the air. Mike Clevinger and Sean Manaea depart, while Nick Martinez is expected to exercise his player option and test the free-agent market. Martinez could return to the team on a higher price tag, but the possibility of losing him stands true should he opt out.
Retaining Martinez and adding at least one more arm to this staff seems to be the most effective and realistic strategy for this club. And, while this free agent market is a strong one from a pitching standpoint, the Padres probably won’t add a high-price-tag arm like Carlos Rodon or Jacob deGrom.
One name that is especially interesting for San Diego is 29-year-old Japanese star Kodai Senga.
To begin with, the Padres have been really successful in their recent signings from the KBO and NPB. The aforementioned Martinez, Robert Suarez, and Ha-Seong Kim all played huge roles in this year’s team and were stars in their respective leagues overseas. It’s a market that Preller himself has become fully entrenched in, and the Padres place a greater value on than other teams.
Senga has been one of Japan’s most dominant arms throughout his entire 11-year career. He’s logged 1,340 innings over that span, striking out 1,486 batters to a 2.42 ERA, and has allowed less than a home run per nine innings pitched. Consistency, swing-and-miss stuff, and limiting the long ball have all contributed to Senga’s success.
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The question with international arms is always how their stuff will translate to the big league game, but that shouldn’t ever be a thought with Senga. He regularly pitches in the mid-to-high-90s with his heater, breaking the triple-digit mark last season, and pairs it with a soul-stealing splitter, as well as a power slider in the low-80s. Though Senga does have some control issues, just like every single arm with stuff like his does, he should have zero issue missing bats at the big league level.
Kodai Senga, 99mph Fastball and 84mph Slider, Individual Pitches + Overlay. pic.twitter.com/nF60sUBvED
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) November 2, 2022
As for his price, Senga likely figures to be in the second tier of free agent arms this winter and should garner somewhere in the $15 million annual average value range. If that’s the case, there’s no reason why the Padres shouldn’t offer a three-to-four year contract for his services. Keeping Martinez while adding Senga to their Darvish-Musgrove-Snell trio gives San Diego arguably the best rotation in all of baseball while eliminating any depth concerns come the post-season.
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.