With the clock ticking heading to the inevitable December 1 MLB lockout, San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller was able to complete two necessary goals for his offseason- Acquiring rotation depth and high-velocity options for the backend of his bullpen.
While unable to be officially completed due to the lockout, the Padres signed 31-year-old right-handed starting pitcher Nick Martinez to a four-year, $20 million contract that contains multiple opt-outs. Martinez, a product of the Texas Rangers organization during Preller’s tenure, posted an outstanding 1.62 ERA in 23 starts in Japan after seeing his average fastball velocity jump from around 90 mph to 94 mph, topping out at 96-97 mph.
This newfound life, combined with a plus changeup at 79-80 mph and two average breaking pitches, gives Martinez a mix of pitches similar to that of White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito and should make him an intriguing option at the backend of San Diego’s rotation.
Preller was also able to add three relief pitchers, capable of throwing 100 mph or more consistently, to a Padres bullpen that severely lacked pitchers of that style in 2021. Left-hander Ray Kerr, acquired from the Seattle Mariners for Adam Fraizer, turned heads in Triple-A Tacoma this year after regularly sitting 100-102 and flashing a plus slider.
Journeyman reliever Luis Garcia signed to a two-year/$7-million contract.
Last season, he enjoyed a career year in the backend of the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen after switching from a four-seam fastball to a sinker. Garcia regularly hit 99-100 mph with movement on this sinker, flashing a plus slider and changeup while showing drastically improved command. Lastly, right-hander Robert Suarez, who signed a one-year contract believed to be in the $ 7-million range with a 2023 player option included, hit 100-101 mph in Japan and flashed a plus changeup on route to a sterling 1.16 ERA without allowing a single home run in 2021.
With the pitching staff seemingly squared away, A.J. Preller’s focus will now turn to an offense desperately in need of a power upgrade after ranking 20th in MLB in slugging percentage in 2021. Talks of big names such as Nick Castellanos, Kris Bryant, Nelson Cruz, and Matt Olson are at the forefront of fans’ minds, but there is a need for caution.
With the trade for Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro and the signings of Martinez, Suarez, and Garcia, the Padres 2022 payroll sits at around $200 million. This number will almost certainly come down as Eric Hosmer, and Wil Myers are actively being shopped in salary dump trade talks. The acquisition of Alfaro seems like a strong indicator that Preller will likely move prized catching prospect Luis Campusano in an attempt to shed salary. Moving the $43.5 million owed to Hosmer and Myers combined in 2022 is the goal.
All things considered, if they do, in fact, move Hosmer and Myers, the Padres will have several open positions in need of an upgrade. First or second base (depending on where Jake Cronenworth plays in 2022), designated hitter (assuming the likely outcome of it being adopted in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement), and both corner outfield spots would need to be addressed, and with a remaining budget presumably in the $40-50 million range with Hosmer and Myers gone. A $20 million AAV deal to someone like Nick Castellanos would eat up half of that for one of these four spots.
It’s clear that the Padres will need to look below the top of the market to fill at least one of these spots in order to effectively fill the lineup this offseason.
Let’s take a look at some of the cheaper names on the market this winter.
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