The San Diego Padres bullpen was to be a huge strength for the team in the 2015 season. With the addition of Craig Kimbrel, the entire bullpen seemed poised to have a great year. Joaquin Benoit was supposed to be the Padres closer, but now slid into a set up role with the addition of Kimbrel. Both pitchers had decent years, but the teams deficiencies translated into a bullpen that was less than stellar.
In reality the Padres struggled all over the place. The defense was atrocious and the offense lacked any sense of consistency. Kimbrel and Benoit were both dealt early this offseason to shore up the farm system. With their departure the team has an obvious need in the relief pitcher department.
Brandon Maurer, Jon Edwards and Kevin Quackenbush get the first shot at closing for the Padres. Each have the ability, but all three have minimal to zero experience doing so at the major league level. Only Quackenbush has any career saves, as he earned six his rookie season in 2014. Maurer could still pitch in the rotation so a bullpen position is not assured for him. Edwards is a late bloomer who was an all-star closer at the Triple-A level last season. He needs to throw more strikes in order to be a useful pitcher. Edwards could easily be a wildcard in the Padres closer battle, but the team is sure to add more players to the equation.
With some valuable free agents still out there the Padres could easily pick up a worthy pitcher in Tyler Clippard. The right handed pitcher has a rubber arm out of the bullpen and has closer experience. The Padres could always use another veteran right handed pitcher and he has had minimal reported interest so far this winter. Things could heat up for him eventually though.
He has thrown at least 70 innings in each of the last five years and maintains a 2.88 ERA in his nine-year career. Clippard is a durable pitcher and at the age of 30, he should easily be productive for the next three to five seasons. The two-time all-star was 5-4 last season with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.127 WHIP with 19 saves. He spent the season split between the Oakland Athletics and New York Mets.
Clippard is a fly ball pitcher traditionally who utilizes a four seem fastball along with an above average change up. He began throwing a splitter last season which has translate into slightly more ground balls from this right hander. He has excellent command and the most important thing is he continues to pitch with no physical limitations. His durability and experience will get the pitcher a decent payday this winter.
He made $8.3 million last season and will seek a three or four-year contract at the very least. You are looking at $25-35 million for the pitcher. That seems pricey, but he has a great track record and has continued to trend in the right direction. The Padres will have a hard time gathering up that kind of pay for Clippard. They just shed the salary of two relief pitcher, so it really seems unlikely they take on more with Clippard. Still if the team can shed some of its hefty contracted players like James Shields, Matt Kemp or Melvin Upton Jr. then anything can happen. That is a big if though.
Clippard would make an excellent addition but you have to figure he will be too pricey for the Padres. The team has been rumored to be interested in Fernando Rodney as a possible late inning solution. He would be much cheaper for the Padres. A.J. Preller is doing tons of homework in trying to find relief pitchers. There will likely be a huge audition this spring with a bunch of veterans in the mix. Those names will sign and surface in the coming weeks. Stay tuned, and we will keep you updated.