The San Diego Padres will bring 37 pitchers into camp during this Spring Training, but only two, Clayton Richard and Edinson Volquez, will have locks on a job in the starting rotation.
Team GM Josh Byrnes has said as such, which should give you an idea of both what the team is trying to accomplish (create a competitive environment), and what they have to work with (not a whole lot). Though the team is “comfortable” with seeing what they have, Byrnes is not oblivious to the latter fact.
Yes, the team might need to do a little better than Freddy Garcia and Jason Marquis to put a competitive starting rotation together and that might mean that the Padres will have to look for outside help. The GM was non-committal about if San Diego would necessarily take that step before the start of the season, but did say that “if [they] feel there’s an upgrade, someone with upside or a long-term guy,” that the team would probably be more inclined to engage in talks.
That’s not exactly going to help Kyle Lohse find a job out on the west coast because the team isn’t likely to commit a multi-year deal to a 34-year-old pitcher who has likely peaked, however much of an upgrade he might be. Jeff Todd of MLBTR astutely adding that the team could also kick around low-risk options like Roy Oswalt, Dallas Braden or former Padre Chris Young, but none appear to be ideal fits for the future, either.
As far as the free agent market goes, what long-term upside there might have been is all but tapped out. The trade market, though, is a different story.
Rick Porcello of the Detroit Tigers is a name that has drawn interest from the Padres earlier this off-season. That interest never materialized into any talks, but with Spring Training games set to begin, the teams have a clearer idea of what they want and could quickly find themselves a pretty ideal match.
The Tigers have made it known that they’re looking for a right-handed bat to platoon with the lefty Andy Dirks in the outfield and the Padres could have exactly what they’re looking for in outfielder/first baseman Jesus Guzman. Where Dirks began is particular proficiency towards smashing righties last season (.889 OPS), Guzman smashes lefties equally well (.895 OPS). The 28-year-old is cheap, comes with years of team control and serves almost exactly the purpose that the Tigers would want him for.
Of course, at just 24 years old, Porcello carries a bit more value than that because of his upside, even if he comes with a higher price tag. Guzman alone won’t get a deal done, but it’s a starting point for the Padres to get a pitcher that is a good fit for Petco, which has a way of making low-strikeout, ground ball types look good. If a mediocre Clayton Richard was a 218.2 IP, 14-win pitcher with an ERA below 4.00, imagine how Porcello’s stuff will play there.
With the Tigers, Porcello is a high-upside type whose infield defense holds him back. In San Diego, he could be a star for years.
Would a package with Guzman, one of the team’s middle infielders, and an lesser young arm get a deal done? It certainly seems like a win-win proposition could be worked out.