The San Diego Padres made a flurry of moves this winter, and they need to make one more to shore up the bullpen.
With the recent additions of Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, and Joe Musgrove, the Padres’ starting rotation looks to be as formidable as any in baseball. Dinelson Lamet turned into a legitimate ace, and if he’s healthy, he’s as good as any starting pitcher in Major League Baseball.
The lineup is basically a juggernaut, with two MVP finalists in the middle in Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado. Add in quality hitters up and down the lineup, including another recent addition, Ha-Seong Kim, a slugger from Korea, coming off of a .300-average, 30-homer campaign, and it’s a pitcher’s nightmare. San Diego’s lineup ranked fourth in OPS last season with essentially the entire lineup returning, including the versatile Jurickson Profar, who was announced to have signed a three-year contract on Friday morning . That unit finished with the best OPS in team history (.798).
The bullpen is the last frontier of unaltered land. The Friars’ relievers ranked 10th in WAR in 2020, with their top six relievers by appearances in 2020 returning this coming season. Plus, arms like Jose Castillo and Austin Adams will be fully back from injuries to join the ranks with their wicked stuff.
This Padres team is about as complete as any in franchise history. Save for one thing- Trevor Rosenthal.
Rosenthal came to San Diego from the Royals during A.J. Preller’s midseason trade palooza and made the most immediate impact of any of those deadline acquisitions, saving four games in nine appearances ahead of the playoffs.
Overall, he was stellar for the Friars during his brief stint. He did not allow a single run in 10 regular-season innings. The bullpen was overused and taxed in the playoffs, but he did earn a save in Game 2 of the Wild Card series, one of the most dramatic and important games in franchise history.
Rosenthal became a Padres Twitter darling as well, for his willingness to interact with fans and his affinity for Lolita’s Taco shop and San Diego jumbo-burritos. For that reason, along with his solid performance for the majority of his time in San Diego, fans want him back, and it seems like the feeling is mutual.
— Trevor Rosenthal (@TrevRosenthal) January 20, 2021
During the 2020 season, Rosenthal’s base salary was $2 million. The Friars certainly have enough flexibility to bring him back for a similar number. The trimmed-down front office seems willing to spend to get a World Series title in San Diego for the first time. A team can never have too much pitching.
That salary is a bargain for a hurler who has a career 3.36 ERA who had a whopping 240 ERA+ last season.
The peripheral numbers behind Rosenthal’s successful 2020 suggest can continue in 2021. He was in the 95th percentile for whiff rate and 99th percentile in expected ERA (xERA), expected batting average (xBA), strikeout rate, and fastball velocity. His sinking fastball averaged nearly 99 mph in 2020. His spin rate jumped over 100 rpm for all of his pitches from 2019 to 2020.
At 30 years old, Rosenthal looks to have plenty left in the tank.
If the Missouri native were to return to the fold, the Padres’ bullpen projects as a strength once again. Even without him, they likely will be solid, but if the Friars can find a way to bring him back, very few teams would match San Diego’s depth across the board.