Do the San Diego Padres need to bring in a free agent closer? Most signs are leaning toward the team going with current bullpen makeup.
The Padres’ bullpen ranked 8th in ERA in 2020 at 3.86. The group effort saw 20 different relievers contribute to finishing off games with over 234 innings pitched combined.
San Diego finished in the middle of the pack in saves with a combined total of 13. Drew Pomeranz and Trevor Rosenthal ended with four each, which led the team.
Early indications are that Kirby Yates will not return to the Padres. The closer is a free-agent and has reportedly priced himself out of the Padres’ budget. Since 2017, Yates saved 56 games with 41 alone in 2019. The former saves leader will be missed in San Diego.
Rosenthal has yet to make his free-agent decision. It is still possible he returns to San Diego. Rosenthal finished with a 0.00 ERA and enjoyed a dominant showing in the Padres’ brown uniforms.
If the former All-Star decides to sign elsewhere, the Padres have plenty of options to replace him.
Let’s examine some of the candidates.
Pomeranz seems to be the likely option to start the season at closer. The lefty didn’t allow a run until late in the season in 2020. His 1.45 ERA put him among the top in the MLB. He finished with four saves and only one blown save in 2020.
Pomeranz can pitch multiple innings, which could keep him in his usual set-up role if needed as well.
— James E. Clark 3 (@EVT_JClark) February 28, 2020
In his second stint with San Diego, Pomeranz continues to pitch well. Remember, he represented the Padres in the 2016 All-Star game.
Pagán finished two innings shy of the team lead behind Crag Stammen (24.0) with 22.0 in his first season with the Padres. Pagán contributed to saving two games but overall had a down year, compared to 2019.
His 4.50 ERA placed him ninth on the team but he proved to be available throughout the season.
#Padres fans, you’re gonna love this Emilio Pagán kid.
Just threw two straight fastballs right by Mike Trout for the strikeout. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/LB9PWYSRyO
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) February 27, 2020
Pagán had 20 saves for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019.
Adams has filthy stuff. Outside of Yates, Adams led the team in k/9 at a whopping 15.75.
In 4.0 innings, he struck out seven with two walks and two earned runs.
There are three pitches in Adam’s arsenal. His fastball and slider are his go-to pitches. He threw his slider 83% of the time last year, and rarely issues his sinker.
— Fox Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) September 26, 2020
Adam’s makeup shows qualities to become a closer, and if the Padres decide to go the group-effort route again this year, he may need to close a game, or even a few.
Castillo needs to prove he can escape the injury bug before he secures a role in the bullpen.
If he stays healthy and shows improvement, Castillo also has the makeup to finish off games.
The lefty pitched 38 innings his rookie year in 2018, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the mound since then.
During his rookie year, he showed potential signs by striking out 52 batters and finishing with a 12.21 k/9. He issued his fastball and slider 99% of the time but does have a changeup.
Like Adams, Castillo may be forced to close a game if he needed, but the priority will be making the roster first.
In 2017, Castillo saved games representing his home country of Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) March 12, 2017
Altavilla is an unlikely option to close for the Padres but does have one career save with the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners traded him to the Padres along with Adams, Austin Nola, and Taylor Williams.
The right-hander pitched over 20 innings in 2020, with 8.2 innings in San Diego.
Williams only appeared in one game for the Padres last year. Despite not having the experience with this bullpen, Williams saved six games for the Mariners in 2020.
Williams is unlikely to close unless injuries force him to the bullpen.
The Padres are known for creating All-Star closers. Trevor Hoffman, Brad Hand, and Kirby Yates are all examples of it. If the Padres decide to go with the next-man-up mentality like they recently have been, don’t be surprised if one of these players or someone not mentioned turns into a dominant closer.