Padres sign former All-Star Michael Wacha

Jun 6, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) celebrates at the end of the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: AP Photo

According to the Athletic, free agent Michael Wacha, a veteran right-handed pitcher, is headed to San Diego. The terms of the contract, both in duration and compensation, are still unknown. 

Wacha is 31 and coming off a strong 2022 season in Boston. He posted a 3.32 ERA in 127.1 innings of work, which was good for a 127 ERA +.

After a rough 2021 campaign in Tampa Bay, Wacha revitalized his career by dramatically improving his home run allowed rate, as well as taking 1.4 miles per hour off his exit velocity. Those changes helped his OPS allowed drop from .784 to .693 between 2021 and 2022, earning him the contract with the Padres.

San Diego was desperately in need of pitching depth behind Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, and Blake Snell. Nick Martinez is expected to be the fourth starter, but Wacha, unlike Martinez and any of the other options to fill out the rotation, has been a starter for his whole career.

Wacha will pitch a lot for the Padres in Peoria, and he’ll be attempting to solidify his role in the rotation to begin the new campaign. He was an All-Star in 2015 with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he struggled drastically between 2019 and 2021. His best season in that stretch was a 4.76 ERA in 2019, with his ERA in the three campaigns being north of 5.00.

Concerningly, Wacha posted a 4.14 FIP in 2022, suggesting that he was fairly fortunate to have the strong season that he did. Opponents hit the ball often against him, he didn’t strike them out very much, and his expected slugging percentage against ranked in the 13th percentile.

There’s definitely going to be some major changes that need to be made if Wacha is going to continue his success. However, Ruben Niebla will work hard to ensure that the aging veteran can get the last dregs of his arm out of him. He’ll be a major depth player for the Padres, who needed that. 

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Wacha has been a ground ball heavy pitcher in the past, which could play well with the Padres’ shortstop-based infield, while his low hard-hit percentage could limit the extra-base hits to a minimum. If Wacha starts meaningful games in October, that means there were issues for the Padres starters, but he can play a big role in the early parts of the year.

It’ll be Wacha’s fifth team in his last five seasons, so he’s certainly able to adapt to new environments. He will certainly be someone to watch in Peoria as he seeks to earn one of the final spots in the Padres’ rotation.

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