The team also, of course, signed Brad Hand to an extension through the 2020 season, with an option for 2021. Without question this bullpen looks to be better, especially with Kirby Yates still under contract and another year of experience for Phil Maton.
The lineup could also be improved with the addition of shortstop Freddy Galvis. Compare his 2017 numbers with former Padres shortstop Erick Aybar: Galvis had a 1.3 WAR and an 83 OPS+ while Aybar was at 0.2 WAR and 74 OPS+.
So what’s up with the Padres’ rotation?
The clear leader is Clayton Richard, who is signed to a two-year, $6 million contract. Although he was a steady presence last season, making 32 starts in 197 innings, he put up numbers far from that of an “ace.” He had a 4.79 ERA with an 86 ERA+. He can certainly lead the young arms in showing them what it means to show up every fifth day and compete, just maybe not lead them with stellar numbers.
Dinelson Lamet may emerge as the Padres’ 2018 “ace.” I say “ace” lightly. We aren’t talking the next Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer…yet. Lamet was impressive at times in his first full season. He had 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings, which was fourth-best among rookies last season and he was actually the best rookie starting pitcher in that category. He could be the most exciting piece of the starting five for the Padres. After the steady veteran Richard and the up-and-coming top of the rotation guy in Lamet, what do the Padres have? Luis Perdomo struggled mightily at times last season after being a Rule 5 pick. He improved from his 2016 numbers, but he was still frustrating to watch.
Colin Rea can’t stay healthy enough to be properly evaluated. He hasn’t pitched since 2016 when he was returned from the Marlins in a trade gone bad, and then he needed Tommy John surgery. He had a 4.82 ERA that season in 20 total games. He has only made 25 major league starts and is mostly unproven.
Robbie Erlin is in a similar boat to Rea. He had Tommy John surgery after appearing in just three games in 2016. He too has made 25 major league starts and we just don’t know what we will get from him. He had a decent showing his rookie year of 2013, but hasn’t done much since.
Jordan Lyles signed a deal to bring him back this year. He started five games in 2017 for the Friars and was knocked around pretty good to the tune of a 9.39 ERA and a miserable 45 ERA+. He is also 27 and running out of time to really prove himself.
The Padres acquired Bryan Mitchell from the Yankees along with Chase Headley in that trade for Jabari Blash. Some are pretty excited about Mitchell, but like Lyles, he will be 27 this season and still has not reached his potential. He has made just nine major league starts.
Tyson Ross and Chris Young were signed to minor league deals this winter and each should be given an opportunity to earn a spot at the end of the rotation. Both veterans will need to show that they are healthy.
Matt Strahm is another name to throw out there. He came from Kansas City in the deal that sent Trevor Cahill, Brandon Mauer, and Ryan Buchter to KC. Strahm is a lefty with a lot of upside. He had a 5.45 ERA and 83 ERA+ in 24 appearances last season. He was shut down for an injury, but should be healthy by the start of the season. He may compete for one of the rotation spots.
In any case, the Padres are hoping for a lot to go right with the rotation in 2018. There are three spots of uncertainty in the rotation. The Padres rotation ranked 23rd with a 4.83 ERA last season. That was with a resurgent season from a now-departed Jhoulys Chacin and a traded Trevor Cahill.
A lot went right for the Padres last season to finish where they did and the rotation looks much worse this year. This clearly has not been a priority this offseason. A.J. Preller wanted to address shortstop and Brad Hand, along with the circus that is Eric Hosmer, and the rotation has taken a back seat.
The Padres might pay dearly for that. They would be lucky to be 23rd again in starter ERA again. This rotation could hold the Padres back from perhaps improving on their 71 wins from last season. If, somehow, they can improve their rotation between now and March (unlikely), this team could really take a step forward.