While opinions have varied in regards to the moves the San Diego Padres have made this offseason, one move in particular has received more positive than negative feedback, and rightfully so. The move I’m referring to is the acquisition of LHP Alex Torres as a result of a seven-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Outside of Rays’ fans and fantasy baseball owners, not too many people know about the Padres’ new 26-year-old lefty. For you Friar fans who happened to hear about the Torres trade, then quickly looked up his 2013 numbers and got excited upon seeing his 1.71 era and 62 strikeouts in 58 innings of work out of the Tampa Bay bullpen, followed by logging off feeling real good about the state of the Padres’ bullpen, let me be the first to say to you — not so fast.
Torres pitched exclusively out of the Tampa Bay bullpen in 2013 and is believed by many to be a huge factor while playing the same role for the Padres in 2014. I’m not completely on board with that belief. I firmly believe he will force his way into the starting rotation, and it will happen sooner rather than later. Despite the fact that Torres excelled as a reliever in 2013, Torres was a starting pitcher whose excellent pitching forced the hand of his organization into slotting him in the bullpen, mainly because he was pitching too well to keep in the minors and there was no rotation spot available for him on the team.
While there is a legit need for a dominate lefty in the Padres’ bullpen, Torres sounds like a waste of a great starting-caliber arm in the roatation, especially when there are some question marks in the starting rotation outside of Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy. While talented, Josh Johnson has major health concerns and although Tyson Ross pitched well in 2013, there is film available on him now and it remains to be seen how well he’ll adjust to opponent adjustments. Eric Stults somehow pitched over 200 innings and had a respectable 3.93 era while allowing the fourth-highest opponents batting average in the National League in 2013, which leads me to believe he could be headed for trouble this season.
A starter in 130 out of 153 total games played in the minors, Torres pitched to the tune of a 3.65 era, striking out 767 batters in 703.2 total innings, all while holding opponents to a .236 batter average. With excellent right vs. left hand opponent splits, Torres is not a guy that you would have to worry about pitching against any batter in any situation presented within an opposing lineup. While all those traits are that of a great reliever, they happen to be the traits of a great starter as well; and when you’re in a division full of dangerous offensive players like the Padres are, you need as many dominant arms in your rotation as possible.
While Padres general manager Josh Byrnes has said Torres will pitch out of the bullpen this season, he also left open the possibility of a return to starting for Torres. That possibility was all I needed to hear to convince me that somehow, someway Torres will force himself into the Padres’ rotation, and with his talent, the Padres will be better for it when it happens.