The Padres should not rely on Garrett Richards’ health

Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Jerry Espinoza

The Padres are hoping to improve in 2020 towards contention and seem to be relying heavily on unknowns like Garrett Richards in the starting rotation.

San Diego Padres’ General Manager A.J. Preller mentioned to the media on Monday during Winter Meetings that they “feel good about pitchers we have in-house right now…we feel really confident with the group we have.” That seems to suggest the Friars may stand pat and keep the rotation they have heading into the 2020 season, with only minor tweaking here and there. This is a different tone than what was given out before the offseason got rolling.

So, where did that mentality come from?

The Friars traded for Brewers starter Zach Davies, who is an excellent addition to the rotation with a 2.5 WAR and 125 ERA+ last season in Milwaukee. If the season started today, he would likely join Chris Paddack atop the rotation as the one-two punch.

After those two hurlers, along with Joey Lucchesi and Dinelson Lamet, there are a lot of unknown and unproven players. Young guns like Cal Quantrill and Adrian Morejon will undoubtedly be in the mix despite a roller coaster 2019.

However, it seems like this cautious optimism is stemming from the Padres’ confidence in veteran Garrett Richards. The right-handed pitcher is recovering from Tommy John surgery, which he had in July of 2018. However, his injury concerns do not stop there, and the Padres should be very wary of relying on Richards to be a significant piece of the 2020 rotation.

Richards has not started more than 16 games since 2015, which was also his last season pitching more than 77 innings. He started just six games in 2016 and 2017 due to multiple issues, including a torn ligament in his pitching elbow, which he tried to pitch through instead of getting Tommy John surgery right from the start.

Richards has been a major league pitcher for the better part of nine seasons and has only started more than 17 games twice. Relying on Richards to summon his 2014-2015 self (averaged 29 starts, a 3.18 ERA, 116 ERA+, and 6.3 total WAR), five years removed from those seasons, is unwise.

The problem is that the Friars seem committed to Richards financially as well as he is owed $8.5 million in 2020, which would be the most San Diego is paying for any pitcher on their roster. That’s a lot of chips to put into a basket that has not shown he can stay healthy.

With that salary, the Padres are almost obligated to give Richards as many chances as possible.

Padres fans know the cautionary tale of Josh Johnson. Johnson was signed before the 2014 season to a one-year, $8 million deal. Of course, he was enticing, as a two-time All-Star and former ERA champion. However, he never threw a pitch for the Padres. He underwent a second Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2014 season. He never could get healthy, even opting for a third Tommy John surgery, and never saw another MLB pitcher’s mound.

Can Richards rebound and pitch a full season? Of course, no one should say that is impossible. When fully healthy, Richards is a solid second or third option in a starting rotation. However, the trend and track record are not promising, and the Padres should make other preparations for the back end of the rotation.

The Friars should seek insurance for the rotation by way of a trade or a middle or lower-tier free agent signing. It is a significant risk to pay $8.5 million to Richards and expect him to be a crucial part of the 2020 rotation given his health history.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.

12 thoughts on “The Padres should not rely on Garrett Richards’ health

  1. Remenber this team is deep in arms and some of them are ready ,i believe prodomo is is around ,castillo, contrell , may be wrong spelling ,and 3 or 4 young guns biteing at the bit.gore ,patino and at least three kther young guns.

  2. Remenber this team is deep in arms and some of them are ready ,i believe prodomo is is around ,castillo, contrell , msy be wrong spelling ,and 3 or 4 young guns biteing at the bit.

  3. Richards will be fine. All his problems came from his refusal to have TJ surgery after 2015 and attempt to rehab it. Now that he’s had the surgery and his velocity and stuff have returned, he’s a good bet to pitch over twice the 70 innings projected. Since he’s for all practical purposes on a one year contract, he’ll want to pitch more to set his value on his next contract, and barring complications, the Padres will let him.

  4. I get the sky is falling nature of Padres fan but cmon. If Jordan Lyles is getting a 2/16M deal in today’s market, Garrett Richards is worth what AJ is paying for a flyer to be the Vet leading the kids into 2020. BR projection says 70 inn which would be disappointing. I think the Chris Paddack range of 120 to 140 inns would be great. Also need to see how Rothchild affects the equation as well.

    To me if they must get a FA, Dallas Keuchel makes the best sense. The defense is set up for a groundball pitcher and health has never been an issue with Dallas. It the new coaching staff can keep the team from quitting in the second half this year is the year they get .500 or better.

    1. 70 innings? Really, wow. If so then that would be about $221,500 per inning that Preller is paying Richards (last years pitching was a wash/worthless).

      Or, 120 innings it would be about $130,000 per inning!

      FWIW, I would take Lyles over this any day

  5. Winning baseball is about Pitching. The Pads need to sign a veteran, innings eating pitcher to HELP this young pitching staff. It would not surprise me if we went to a six man rotation and rely heavily on the bullpen, especially with the new MLB rule to make a pitcher face 3 batters or finish an inning. Sign Kirby to an extension! Sign Ryu or Teheran or if you must Keukel. But help the team! Don’t overpay to trade Myers (keep the good young prospects)! Go Pads! Let the young kids play!

  6. Good article, and thanks for addressing this. Signing him was puzzling, particularly due to his past health problems, and the historic pattern of TJ recovery. Perhaps it was worth a shot. Even then, it does not seem he could possibly finish the full year due to the usual innings limitations because of TJ surgery. I always assumed they hoped/planned on having him pitch for the first few months…and then having a rookie (e.g. Gore) take over.

    On a side note, I was greatly relieved that MadBum signed elsewhere, and to know AJ did not go over 85 mil (some suggested a similar contract as Wheeler, which is CRAZY). I would still be down for Ryu, even at a slight overpay, for 3 years (and even with his health history).

    1. I don’t think an innings limit is nearly as important when he’s on his last year with the team. Sounds mean, but i doubt they’re half as careful with him as they were Paddack and Lamet.

      The closer they get to the end of the year, the more they should ride him.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.