General manager A.J. Preller hasn’t made any major free agent pitcher signings since the offseason began. Although, before the season ended, Clayton Richard was signed to a two-year extension worth $6 million through the 2019 season. The Padres’ management stated Richard would get a spot in the rotation to start the 2018 season, but wouldn’t be guaranteed the spot if he isn’t performing well enough.
Other notable minor offseason signings include right-hander Jordan Lyles, who signed a one-year deal worth $1 million, with a $3.5 million club option for the 2019 season. The Padres also signed RHP Colten Brewer to a 1-year deal, but he is believed to pitch out of the bullpen.
Preller and Co. pulled a winter meetings trade with the Yankees, acquiring RHP Bryan Mitchell, who is believed to compete for a rotation spot, for Jabari Blash. Also acquired in the trade was Chase Headley and his $13 million contract.
On top of the four pitchers named above competing for a spot in the rotation, the Padres have three potential candidates returning from injury to compete for a rotation spot. That includes RHP Colin Rea, LHP Robbie Erlin, and LHP Matt Strahm, who was acquired from the Royals during last year’s deadline.
The Padres also have internal candidates in the minors who will also compete. The big three, Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, and Joey Lucchesi, have ascended quickly through the minors since being drafted by the Padres in 2016. The three likely will not make the big league club out of the spring, but a call-up during the year isn’t out of question. One interesting name who may be a dark horse for a rotation spot is RHP Walker Lockett.
Looking at the Padres’ 2018 rotation, it is likely they will have three returning starters that are essentially locks to begin the season in the rotation. Previously mentioned Clayton Richard will be assured to start the 2018 campaign in the rotation. Youngsters Luis Perdomo and Dinelson Lamet are the other two locked in for the 2018 rotation barring a major setback.
That leaves two spots in the rotation for the eight previous mentioned candidates. Taking a glance at the eight names including Lyles, Mitchell, Ross, Young, Rea, Erlin, Strahm, and Lockett, the battle is clearly up in the air. Let’s take a deeper glance at the potential candidates.
The 27-year-old will be entering his eighth season in the majors in 2018. He previously spent time with the Houston Astros and the Colorado Rockies. Lyles has struggled for much of his major league career, posting a 5.42 career ERA over 182 games and 107 starts. He has only once posted a an ERA sub-5.00, which came in 2014 when he posted a 4.33 ERA over 22 starts for the Rockies.
Lyles was signed by the Padres last August after he was released by the Rockies. He started five games for the Padres, posting a 1-3 record with a 9.39 ERA over just 23 innings. In 2017, with the Rockies, he wasn’t much better coming out of the bullpen as he recorded a 6.94 ERA over 33 appearances. He also allowed a .316 batting average and a 1.56 WHIP out of the bullpen. He didn’t strike many people out either, with only 33 over 46.2 innings.
So why did the Padres sign Lyles for 2018? Padres management must have seen something they liked in Lyles and believe he is a low-risk, high-reward signing. If Lyles can return to his 2014 form, he will be a steal for the Padres in 2018 for the salary of $1 million. Lyles is also still young in age at just 27, and has good velocity on his fastball that sits in the mid-90’s. It seems as though Lyles has struggled with consistency over the years. In 2017, Lyles had an awful April with the Rockies posting a 10.03 ERA. He made a few adjustments on the mound and bounced back to the tune of a 3.86 ERA in May. That shows tremendous resilience from the right-hander and the ability to make necessary adjustments.
If Lyles can figure out his mechanics and approach, he is a very viable option for the Padres’ rotation in 2018. Lyles is signed to a major league contract by the Padres, so if he is beaten out for a rotation spot, he may reside in the bullpen, although that isn’t even a given.
Mitchell is viewed very highly by Preller and was on his radar for quite some time. The youngster is out of minor league options, and the Yankees didn’t really have room for him on their major league roster. The Padres swung a trade for him, and he figures to be one of the more likely candidates to fill out the rotation in 2018.
Mitchell has had limited opportunities in the big leagues so far, accumulating just over 32 innings in his career. He has appeared in 20 games, starting just once, posting a 5.79 ERA. Much like Lyles, Mitchell may find a spot in the bullpen if he is beaten out for a rotation spot, as he has no more minor league options.
Mitchell was tremendous for Triple-A Scranton in 2017. Over 63.2 innings pitched, Mitchell had a 3.25 ERA, with 66 strikeouts and only 13 walks, proving he has great control and feel for the strike zone. The most impressive aspect of Mitchell’s game in 2017 was the fact he allowed just one home run over his 63.2 innings pitched. There is a lot to like about the 26-year-old.
The time is now for Mitchell to translate his success from the minors to the majors. The Padres hope is that Mitchell can make that major stride and make an immediate impact for the Padres in the present. Mitchell is also under team control through 2021, and figures to be a part of the Padres’ future plans.
Rea made his major league debut for the Padres in 2015. Over 26 appearances in the major leagues, Rea has accumulated a 4.69 ERA across 134.1 innings. Rea created a big buzz in 2015, as he enhanced his value tremendously with domination in the minors. Once called up by the Padres in 2015, Rea started six games, posting a 4.26 ERA, and was effective. Rea earned a spot in the rotation for the 2016 season, but struggled a bit, posting a 4.98 ERA across 102 innings and 19 starts.
Rea was traded to Miami at the deadline, but was removed from his first start with his new club after three shutout innings. It was feared he hurt his arm and would need Tommy John surgery. The following days, Rea was traded back to the Padres for the young pitching prospect included in the initial trade, fireballer Luis Castillo. It is speculated the Padres made the exchange to avoid any further investigation on withholding medical records. Preller received a 30-game suspension in the offseason for the Pomeranz trade with the Red Sox.
The Padres are hoping Rea can bounce back from injury and produce again. Rea doesn’t have dominating stuff on the mound, but balances his pitches well to keep hitters off-balance. With a solid spring, Rea could return to the Padres’ rotation in 2018. If he doesn’t, he will likely pitch in the minors. but will be one of the first in line for a call-up with any injuries and changes to the rotation.
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