Padres looking for inexpensive choices for rotation

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres need pitching.

With virtually their entire 2023 starting staff now free agents, they will need bodies in the rotation to compete.

Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, and Nick Martinez will all look for a promising payday this offseason, and the Padres will not bring them all back. Snell is a longshot, given that he is looking at a payday close to $200 million on the open market. The Padres have financial issues, and the lefty may have priced himself out of returning to San Diego. Wacha and Martinez are probably signing elsewhere, given their asking price. Lugo is an inexpensive option, but it remains to be seen if he will get more on the open market.

There will be several additions this winter.

Adding relevant starting pitchers isn’t an easy task, so the Padres will need to do their homework. Especially if you consider the team is trying to save money on payroll.

At this point, San Diego will be on the lookout for starting pitchers that won’t break the bank.

Let’s take a look at how they can do it.


Veteran arms that are free agents

The Padres will likely not be players in Blake Snell, Aaron Nola, or Yoshinobu Yamamoto this winter, but you never know. With payroll issues and Juan Soto unsigned beyond the coming season, the Padres may choose a different route in looking for pitching via free agency.

There are some veteran arms available on the open market. Pitchers that won’t break the bank. All come with uncertainty and risk, though.

Corey Kluber, James Paxton, and Eric Lauer all have injury concerns. Lauer is the youngest of the bunch and has ties to the Padres, but it remains to be seen if the team will have any interest in the southpaw. Kluber and Paxton’s best years are clearly behind them, but each could be serviceable in the correct situation. They could also hurt themselves in the spring and never throw a pitch for the franchise. They come with that kind of risk.

Michael Lorenzen is an interesting case, as the 2023 MLB All-Star enjoyed a great season during his walk year. He was solid in Detroit and earned his all-star honors, but the right-handed pitcher was knocked around after being traded to the Phillies in August. Lorenzen will be 32 next season and should be due for a raise from the $8.5 million he made last season. A multiple-year deal would land this pitcher, but is he worth it? He is relatively new to starting and threw 153 innings last year, which was a big jump from his previous high for a season.

There are other names like Frankie Montas, Luke Weaver, Jamie Barria, and Domingo German. None of which really provide stability for a rotation in flux. The Padres will have a difficult time looking for a pitcher on the open market who is undervalued. The biggest name who may be secured relatively cheap is arguably Jack Flaherty. There is an upside with this right-handed pitcher, and he could sign a one-year deal to boost his value. But he could also be in high demand in a market weak of free agents. Only time will tell.

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Trading for young pitchers who are inexpensive

This idea seems like the best way to get value from the rotation.

If the Padres can obtain two or three young arms who have major league experience and are under team control cheaply, it will be a win for the team. The Padres minor league system is flourishing once again, and the formula for their GM is to trade valued young players for established major league talent. The Padres have a roster full of superstars on the offensive side. They do not need more. The new goal is to attempt to pry young arms with great upside away from other teams.

Most teams are not willing to part with young pitchers, so this will be a difficult task for the Padres.

Look for Preller to package several prospects for young pitchers who will compete for a rotation spot this spring. The Padres need to fill three or four positions in the staff, and internal candidates really don’t seem likely. Pedro Avila, Matt Waldron, Adrian Morejon, Jay Groome, and Reiss Knehr are young pitchers capable of starting, but they all have huge question marks attached to their names.

Keep in mind that Preller works in bunches. If a domino falls, expect the Padres to acquire a few pitchers in a few separate trades. This will be an interesting offseason for the Padres. There is a lot of work to be done for this team without a current manager or coaching staff. Building the staff is a top priority, and the Padres will need to be creative.

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