Padres running out of chances to upgrade starting rotation

Sep 23, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Carlos Rodon (16) throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Before the Winter Meetings, it was clear the Padres were in need of more pitching. With more and more free agents finding homes, the options are becoming scarce.

Indeed, the Padres did not leave the Winter Meetings without making a splash, signing Xander Bogaerts to a monster deal and adding to their lineup. However, the glaring weakness of this team remains depth in the starting rotation.

FanGraphs’ Free Agent Tracker states that 10 of the top 12 free-agent starting pitchers have been signed. Carlos Rodon and Nathan Eovaldi remain available from that list. Chris Bassitt became the most recent signing, inking a deal with the Blue Jays on Monday.

A.J. Preller and the Padres were hot on the trail for Kodai Senga before the Japanese star signed with the Mets over the weekend.

If the 2023 season started today, the Padres would be forced to roll out a very top-heavy starting rotation. Sure, having three former All-Stars at the top is a luxury. Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and Blake Snell offer the Padres a solid trio in a potential playoff series. However, over the burdensome load of a 162-game regular season, their lack of starting depth would be exposed.

Twelve different players made a start for San Diego last year. Seven had to make at least ten starts. Three of those seven are no longer with the team.

This team cannot go into the season with Nick Martinez as the next-best starting pitcher after their top three. Even with Martinez’s solid play, the drop-off after him for a potential fifth starter is steeper than Mount Soledad. The Padres face making one of Adrian Morejon, Nabil Crismatt, Reiss Knehr, or prospects like Jay Groome and Ryan Weathers their fifth starter with their lack of depth.

Credit: NBC7

The Padres do not necessarily need to make another splash signing or trade for another ace, but depth is desperately needed.

If we learned anything over the last few years, it is to never count out Preller and owner Peter Seidler. Do not underestimate their willingness to do whatever it takes to win. That could mean Carlos Rodon comes to town on a big deal. Even if not, the Padres need more arms.

Eovaldi would undoubtedly be cheaper, at almost 33 years old coming off of an injury-plagued season. He is projected to command around half of what Rodon would get yearly. If the Padres are willing to bet on a healthy season from the Texas native, he offers an above-average mix of a sharp fastball, a splitter, and curve. He had a 3.87 ERA, and 109 ERA+ in 20 starts last season. His 1.5 bWAR from last year would have been the fourth-best mark on the Padres’ starting rotation.

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If the Padres are looking to be more shrewd, they will need to turn to starters such as Corey Kluber, Ross Stripling, Noah Syndergaard, or Michael Wacha.

Of those, Stripling had the best 2022 season, with a 3.01 ERA and 129 ERA+ in just over 134 innings for Toronto.

This list of names that would make a significant difference seems to get shorter by the day. If they are wanting to be more financially conservative, they need to swing a trade or two.

Is it Rodon or bust for the Padres? Not necessarily. But if they miss out on the two-time All-Star, they will still need to making quality additions to boost their depth.

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