The San Diego Padres have approximately 1.37 legitimate starting pitchers. Volquez being the “1” and Clayton Richard being the “.37”. After these two, the 3 and 4 spots in the rotation are most likely going to be Eric Stults and Jason Marquis (at least to start the season). These latter two, I think of as magicians because of the smoke and mirrors show that they performed last season. Ok, ok, when I go back and look at Stults’ numbers, he wasn’t as bad as I remember. In fact, on a ‘per start’ basis, he had a higher WAR than Volquez, but take caution there because Stults only made 14 starts in 2012. Let’s hope the illusionists can sell a few more tickets to the magic show in 2013. And while we’re hoping for things, let’s hope that Black and Byrnes decide to get Andrew Cashner back in the starting rotation when he’s healthy. Please tell me they didn’t give up their top prospect for a relief pitcher. Cashner should be available to take the spot of a faltering magician by May. And Cory Luebke is out there… somewhere… at some point…. maybe.
Unless another pitcher is acquired, the fifth spot in the rotation will be up for grabs, most likely to come from one of Casey Kelly, Tyson Ross, Anthony Bass, or maybe even Robbie Erlin. Kelly didn’t show a whole lot in 6 starts last year, although he was coming off a significant injury that seemed to severely limit his velocity after the first inning. A good offseason of strength and conditioning may give Kelly a shot at the 5th spot. Bass pitched ok last season, splitting time between the rotation and the pen, although the ceiling isn’t very high. Ross may have the highest ceiling of these candidates, although he was turrrrrible (Charles Barkley voice) in 13 starts with the A’s last season. Erlin may need a little more time in the minors, although I would fully expect him in a major league uniform by the All-Star break.
A look at who’s available on the free agent market doesn’t take too long because there isn’t much there. I’m a Kyle Lohse fan but the Padres are not (and shouldn’t be) willing to give up the 1st round draft pick it will cost them to sign Lohse after he rejected the Cardinal’s qualifying offer (don’t get me started on how ridiculous this qualifying offer/draft pick compensation thing is, that’s another post). They couldn’t afford him anyway. Shaun Marcum? Meh. He’s basically on par with Edinson Volquez but with less strikeouts and less walks. Certainly an upgrade over what the Padres are throwing out there and if they could get him at a decent price for a year or two, then go for it. After that, it’s a bunch of guys that just fell out of the ugly-tree. Joe Saunders? Kevin Millwood? Chris Young? Thanks but no thanks. I’d expect better or similar results from one of the young guys currently in house at a fraction of the cost.
How about a trade? In 2013, Rick Porcello (supposedly available) had a higher WAR (2.9) than Volquez, Stults, Richard, and Marquis combined (2.8). And that wasn’t a fluke season because he’s had a WAR of 2.0 or greater for 4 straight years. So, why am I not clamoring for the Padres to acquire him? Beats me. Maybe, it’s because I know, deep down, that the Padres are in a really good division with little chance of contending this year and I don’t want them depleting their farm system for a guy with only 2 more years of team control. Trading players and GAINING years of team control is what the Padres should be doing, not vice versa.
In the end, I would wait as long as possible on Marcum to see if the Padres can get him cheap. If another team signs him, then they go with an open competition for that fifth spot, hoping to hang on until Cashner (and maybe Luebke) gets back.
NOTE: I’ve learned my first lesson in blogging: Don’t wait too long between writing a post and publishing it. Shaun Marcum signed a one-year deal with the Mets for $4 million. This is exactly the kind of deal I would have wanted for the Padres.