The San Diego Padres are going to have a different look to them in 2016. Some new position players, a brand new manager, and a few upgrades to the already beautiful Petco Park. However, the biggest change is the reconstructed bullpen that General Manager, A.J. Preller has put together.
This offseason Preller traded all-star closer Craig Kimbrel and veteran Joaquin Benoit in order to obtain young talent and rebuild the farm system. Kimbrel and Benoit are two of the top relievers in baseball, and there is no doubt that they will help their clubs win ball games in 2016.
Seems pretty silly of Preller to do, right? Wrong. After going for it all in 2015 and coming up short, it was essential for the Padres to rebuild and replenish their farm system. In order to do this, good MLB players needed to be dealt. Preller was able to hang on to the strong top of the rotation(Ross, Shields, and Cashner) and still acquire difference makers that will help the club in years to come. He did this by trading away the position he felt could be revamped and replaced the easiest. That position happened to be the relief pitcher.
Last season the Padres ranked 23rd in relief pitching with a 4.02 ERA. That is not Padres baseball. In 2014, they were 2nd overall with a 2.73 ERA, and in 2013 they held a very respectable 3.39 ERA. If the Padres want to contend in 2016, the relief pitching is going to need to be a strength of their ball club.
The losses of Kimbrel, and Benoit may have fans panicking about the Padres bullpen. Padre fans, there is nothing to worry about. The Padres bullpen has a perfect mix of leadership, talent, and fire, that I believe will be good for one of the strongest bullpens in the National League.
Under the radar pick ups of Drew Pomeranz, Jon Edwards, Carlos Villanueva, and Fernando Rodney should go nicely with the pieces already in place from last season. The Padres were also able to bring in left-handed veteran, Matt Thornton who has been nothing but a great pitcher and teammate his entire career. Thornton, a non roster invitee, is actually older(age 39) than current manager, Andy Green.
There is a lot of competition in camp to see who will earn those 7 spots in the Padres bullpen. Someone to really keep an eye on is Jon Edwards who was acquired last season in the Will Venable trade. Edwards throws hard, and has an extremely high upside if he is able to keep the ball in the strike zone and in the ball park. Another guy that Padres fans should get to know is Carlos Villanueva. Villanueva had a career year last season with the St. Louis Cardinals, posting a 2.95 ERA.
The bullpen is filled with talent, and with guys who have done it at the big league level for many seasons. There is a lot of ball left to be played this Spring, but if I could predict the bullpen on Opening Day against our rival LA Dodgers it would be as followed:
- Fernando Rodney (RHP)
- Kevin Quackenbush (RHP)
- Drew Pomeranz (LHP)
- Carlos Villanueva (RHP)
- Jon Edwards (RHP)
- Nick Vincent (RHP)
- Matt Thornton (LHP)
The biggest thing with those seven guys is balance. Having two strong left-handed relievers in the bullpen I think can play big in divisional battles and down the stretch. Last season, the Padres were struggling to find one left-handed pitcher for their bullpen, in 2016 I believe they can and will carry two strong left-handed arms.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of Spring Training left to go. Injuries can go down, and trades can be made. If no trades or injuries(knock on wood) do occur, I believe the Padres have a great shot at being one of the top bullpens in the National League. Along with the fans, that will make the starting pitchers a very happy unit in 2016.