Here’s a look at why Stephen Strasburg should return home to San Diego and pitch for the Padres.
When Stephen Strasburg opted out of his contract with the Washington Nationals he became one of the top available free agents.
Strasburg had a great 2019 that included a 3.32 ERA over 32 games and he was worth 5.7 WAR, according to fangraphs.com. At 31 years old, he’s still young enough to expect him to pitch at a high level for multiple years to come. Any team should want to have a pitcher like Stephen Strasburg. However, not all teams can both afford him and have the pieces in place to attract a player of his caliber. The San Diego Padres are one of those teams. But why would Strasburg sign with the Padres? Let’s take a look at some of the critical points A.J. Preller (and Padres fans) may use to try to convince Stephen Strasburg to sign in San Diego.
One of the best draws to playing for the Padres has nothing to do with the team. San Diego is a beautiful place to live with great weather year-round. Strasburg is well aware of this, as he was born and raised in San Diego. He attended West Hills High School in Santee, CA. Strasburg then went on to play for Padres legend Tony Gwynn at San Diego State University. Strasburg has been quoted in several interviews that he grew up a Tony Gwynn fan and wanted to play for the Padres just like he did.
Strasburg did sell his San Diego home this past April, moving his family to Washington in the process. Had he kept the house, it would’ve made the transition to the Padres easier, but house shopping can be fun as well. His old house was the better part of an hour’s drive to Petco, and he may want to look for a place with a shorter commute anyway.
A pitcher’s best friend is a good catcher. The Padres are deep at catcher with good prospects at all levels of the minors. They also have recent Gold Glove snub Austin Hedges. Hedges is well-liked among pitchers, and his defensive abilities and game-calling are renowned. Hedges had trouble offensively last season, but pitchers, in general, care a lot more about a catcher’s defensive ability than how much he produces offensively. Even if the Padres use Francisco Mejia as the primary catcher, Strasburg should easily be able to request Hedges catch his games, should he want to do so. The Padres would be eager to please their ace should he choose to sign in San Diego. A catcher of Hedges caliber would help ensure Strasburg has a smooth transition to the Padres and keep his performances top-notch. He may even help him achieve new career highs.
Ownership has made it clear they are willing to increase spending yet again this year and are committed to winning. They expect it. Ron Fowler has put AJ Preller and new Manager Jayce Tingler on notice if the team doesn’t compete as he was quoted as saying “heads will roll.” Strasburg will not only know this team is expected to compete this year, but it is also likely to continue fighting for a long time to come.
The team, as it is today, is very talented. The left side of the infield is one of the best in baseball with Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. The rest of the rotation is full of young, promising prospects like Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet. The team does have its holes, mainly in the outfield, but AJ Preller will be busy this offseason acquiring new talent. We can expect the Padres to make multiple significant moves this offseason. Even though Strasburg does not make the Padres a sure-fire contender, Preller and co. will make the necessary steps to get to that point. Or they will lose their jobs trying.
The Padres also expect big things from the bullpen. Kirby Yates is the best closer in baseball even though he was snubbed for the Trevor Hoffman award this season. Yates had a career year with dominant performances all season. In addition to Yates, the bullpen is loaded with good pitchers like Andres Muñoz, Michel Baez, Jose Castillo, and Matt Strahm. Those five are the makings of a dominant bullpen that will not let excellent starting pitching performances be wasted.
Not only do the Padres have great players already on the roster, but the Padres also boast one of the most talented farm systems in all of baseball. With such a stacked system, the expectation is that the Padres aren’t just competing for a year or two but for the better part of the decade. A.J. Preller has shown an outstanding eye for prospects and is expected to continue to replenish the ranks as prospects graduate to the MLB club. Other teams may have a window of competition as well, but the Padres are looking to be competitive even after the conclusion of Strasburg’s next contract.
The Padres also have been recently investing more in research and analytics. The team is currently looking to hire at least two new high-level research analysts to help bring the team into the lead of the analytics era. This new investment into technology and technology-driven coaching will help the Padres keep pace with the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, and even the rival Dodgers among more analytically driven teams. Using and understanding new age equipment like the Rapsodo machines and others will ensure players are getting the best possible feedback and given the most excellent chance to perform at the highest level.
To summarize, the San Diego Padres should be a pretty intriguing option for Stephen Strasburg. From being his hometown to joining a club that is committed to competing, Strasburg should consider coming home to San Diego.