As fans look forward to the inevitable post-lockout transaction bonanza, those hoping to see their favorite teams add to the starting rotation are often focused on the Reds and Athletics as potential trade partners — and with good reason. Both Oakland (Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas) and Cincinnati (Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle) have three pitchers whom they could feasibly trade in order to cut payroll and add some young talent to the organization. The Marlins, too, are an oft-suggested trade partner for teams needing starting pitchers, even after already dealing Zach Thompson to the Pirates in December’s Jacob Stallings swap.
That said, while those three teams draw much of the focus, the asking prices there will be high. Teams will want alternatives, and the Padres are likely to receive a good bit of interest from those clubs. That’s not because San Diego is embarking on any sort of rebuilding effort, but rather because of the team’s plethora of rotation options and the ever-aggressive, never-rule-anything-out nature of president of baseball operations, A.J. Preller.
Since taking the reins in San Diego, Preller has taken multiple offseasons or trade deadlines by storm with a flurry of activity. The “rock star GM” moniker bestowed upon him by Matt Kemp has become infamous, but Preller repeatedly lives up to the spirit of the nickname by demonstrating a flair for bold, dramatic strikes that reshape the organization.
The Padres staff struggled through injuries and some surprising ineffectiveness in 2021 but is still deep with arms who either have ample big league success or considerable upside. San Diego’s 2022 rotation currently projects to include Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Mike Clevinger and NPB returnee Nick Martinez, who agreed to a surprising four-year, $20MM contract prior to the lockout after a dominant showing in Japan.
Beyond that quintet, the Padres could have another full rotation’s worth of intriguing arms, albeit some of whom have had some recent struggles and/or injuries. Right-hander Dinelson Lamet has had the most recent success of the bunch, utterly dominating in the shortened 2020 season — 2.09 ERA 34.8% strikeout rate, 7.5% walk rate in 69 innings — before a UCL strain kept him from contributing in the postseason. He missed much of the 2021 season on the injured list and wasn’t as effective upon his return, but he’d be a front-of-the-rotation talent if his arm held up. The Padres may use him in relief this season, but there’s a big ceiling to dream on with Lamet, who’s controlled via arbitration through 2023.
Righty Chris Paddack has yet to regain the form he showed in a 2019 debut campaign that saw him in Rookie of the Year contention before falling to injury. He was diagnosed with a slight UCL tear late last season but is expected ready for the ’22 campaign. Paddack registered a pedestrian 4.95 ERA in 167 1/3 innings from 2020-21, but he’s still only 26 years old and boasts one of MLB’s lowest walk rates, in addition to a fastball that averages nearly 95 mph. He’s controlled through 2024.
Lefty Adrian Morejon, one of the prize signings from Preller’s international signing blitz during the Padres’ rebuild, will be returning from Tommy John surgery in 2022.