Padres should take chance on Danny Salazar in 2020

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Right-handed pitcher Danny Salazar could be an excellent signing for the San Diego Padres this winter.

Throughout the years, A.J. Preller and his San Diego Padres’ staff have done well to find unheralded pitchers. Kirby Yates and Brad Hand are perfect examples of this, as each pitcher took their game to a whole new level after signing in San Diego.

The Padres will again be on the lookout for pitchers who are undervalued this winter.

Motivation is a massive thing in the game of baseball. The value of a pitcher can fluctuate more frequently than a position players’ value. For that reason, it is always wise to sell high on pitchers and buy low in any transaction. One task of a general manager is to go out and locate pitchers that are trending the right way and, more importantly, are motivated to perform at the highest level.

When you examine pitchers’ names that are currently on the market and available, one name stands out in terms of overall stuff. Danny Salazar, formerly of the Cleveland Indians, has some of the filthiest stuff in the Major Leagues. His spin ratio is considered one of the best in the game and Salazar can top out in the upper 90’s with his fastball when he is throwing well. The stuff has never been a problem with this soon to be 30-year-old Dominican pitcher. Consistently stepping out onto the field has been his main issue.

The Indians released the pitcher earlier this month as he has simply failed to stay healthy, and the franchise needed to move on with their roster. Salazar is coming off two injury-marred seasons in Cleveland. He missed the entire 2018 season with a shoulder issue that lingered the whole year. The power pitcher had exploratory surgery that July, and it took him until August of 2019 to return to the Majors. He started one game last year and then went down with a groin injury.

Salazar is a walking injury. But on a minor league deal, he could be a steal for the Padres. A spot on the 40-man roster is valuable at this point to San Diego, so a Major League deal seems unlikely. The Padres will have to act fast, though, as Salazar will not be left a free agent for long. A team looking for pitching will undoubtedly take a chance on him relatively soon.

In 2015, Salazar’s most successful year at the Major League level, he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.130 WHIP in 185 innings pitched. He struck out 195 in that time and walked 53 batters. The following year he was named to the AL All-Star team for the game in San Diego, but it has been all downhill since.

I would not expect Danny Salazar to return to his dominant form as a starting pitcher for the Padres, but he might be salvageable as a high-leverage reliever. His high-velocity fastball plays late in the game, and this might be a better way to minimize the injury risk with him. The hurler could resurrect his career in the bullpen as Brandon Morrow did for the Padres in 2015 and 2016. Like Salazar, Morrow had injury problems but excellent stuff. He was able to come back and perform at a high level as a relief pitcher. Salazar could easily do the same thing for San Diego in 2020.

There is no doubt that A.J. Preller and his Padres’ staff are exploring all options. Not all of them are sexy, like signing Stephen Strasburg or Gerrit Cole. For a complete team, it takes the low-level signings to put you over the top as far as contending is concerned. Danny Salazar on a low-risk deal would be an excellent option for the San Diego Padres.

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