As we have documented on Chicken Friars multiple times over the last two months, the Padres have been in need of some roster upgrades this offseason, particularly in the area of Starting Pitching. To their credit, G.M. Josh Byrnes and the rest of the Front Office have already started to accumulate arms for competition and depth purposes. Last month they acquired Tyson Ross (could also help in Long Relief) from the Athletics. In addition to Ross, the Friars tried to solidify their staff when they signed 2012 mid-season veteran pickup Jason Marquis to a one-year deal as well. Although small, I must admit that the Marquis-signing was particularly helpful because of the fact that possible 2013 Starter Andrew Cashner recently injured his thumb in a bizarre “meat dressing” accident after a hunting trip.
Regardless of the recent additions, the Padres’ brass have appeared intent on exploring all sorts of Starting Pitching options over the last month. Names like Dan Haren, Shaun Marcum, and even Daisuke Matsuzaka have been linked to the Padres as possible acquisitions. And even if none of these guys don a Padres uniform, I am sure that Byrnes & Co. are not done in their efforts to add more competition and talent to Bud Black’s Starting Staff. With their efforts to fix the 2012 season’s enormous weakness in mind, more names have started to surface this week as possible trade targets for San Diego: Starting Pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson.
According to Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer (and MLBTradeRumors.com), the Indians are in a bit of a “firesale” mode right now, and it seems that Cleveland is looking to rebuild and subsequently wants to unload some of their veteran and higher priced players in the very near future. Although Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is the “hot ticket item” the Indians are currently dangling in front of teams as trade bait, Cleveland’s Front Office has apparently received interest in Jimenez and Masterson from the Padres.
Jimenez, entering the final year of his contract, and Masterson, entering the second to last year of his contract, could be intriguing options for the Padres to pursue, especially as 2013 or 2014 and beyond solutions. While Jimenez and Masterson did have their fair share of struggles last year (20-32 combined record, Jimenez 5.40 ERA, Masterson 4.93 ERA) with the Tribe, a change of scenery could help the duo and San Diego might be just the place.
For Jimenez, a return to the National League, and the National League West would be enormous. After Ubaldo put up a 56-45 record and 3.66 ERA in six seasons with the Rockies, Jimenez took a nose-dive when he was traded at mid-season to Cleveland in 2011. The former All-Star who won 19 Games and threw a No-Hitter in 2010 has been rocked by American League hitting over the last season and a half to the tune of a 13-21 record and a 5.32 ERA in only 242.0 Innings of work. A trip back to the National League West and the spacious ball-parks of San Diego and San Francisco could be just what Jimenez needs to get his confidence back, and the ability to face familiar hitters should surely work in his favor as well. If Jimenez still has the ability to revert back to his smoke-throwing 2007-2010 form, the Padres might find themselves a solid mid-Rotation starter for a bargain ($5.75 million 2013 option).
Like Jimenez, Masterson had some struggles last season and saw his Win total drop from 12 to 11, and his ERA balloon from 3.21 to 4.93. While the former S.D.S.U. Aztec Masterson can reap the benefits of the bigger ballparks of the National League West, he could be an enormous asset to the team because of his ability to “eat Innings.” Since 2010, Masterson has done a solid job of going out every 5th day and producing for Cleveland in said department. After he pitched 180.0 Innings in 2010, Masterson logged 216.0 during 2011, and 206.1 more last year and started a combined 96 games during said span. For a Staff that last year struggled so mightily just to find healthy participants over the 162 game-haul, it could not hurt the Padres to consider a player like Masterson. Plus, with Masterson’s contract not set to expire until after the 2014 season ends, he could either parlay a strong stint with the Padres into a new deal with the club or elsewhere like so many veteran starters have done in recent seasons (Garland, Harang, and Volquez).
I cannot speak for all Padres fans, but I am sure that I speak for many when I say that I am glad that the Front Office is continuing to try and add depth to the Starting Rotation. Between Cashner’s injury, the fact that some starters will not be ready until mid-season or later (Luebke, Wieland), and the Staff having one or two spots open for competition during camp, any and all arms will help if they are brought in at this point. I would hate to see 2013 ruined because the Starting Staff lacks depth and/or is bitten mercilessly by the “injury bug” like they were in 2012.
The 162-game season is a marathon and not a sprint, and I just hope that Byrnes & Co. can find the right pieces this offseason to at least bring in a stable Staff of Starters for the 2013 regular season.