Padres add catcher Alfaro in deal with Miami

Relievers Strahm, Wingenter, Castillo non-tendered by San Diego

December 1st, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- In search of more production at catcher, A.J. Preller is taking a chance on a familiar face.

San Diego acquired backstop in a trade with the Marlins on Tuesday evening, sending cash or a player to be named later to Miami in return.

Alfaro, 28, slashed .244/.283/.342 in 92 games with Miami last season. The six-year veteran was originally signed as an amateur free agent in 2010 by the Rangers, when Preller, now the Padres president of baseball operations, was a member of the Texas scouting department.

The Padres endured their share of issues behind the plate last season, mostly tied to injuries. Starter Austin Nola struggled to remain healthy and spent three stints on the injured list, including season-ending thumb surgery. With Victor Caratini thrust into a larger-than-expected role, the Padres' catchers combined to post a 76 wRC+ and were worth -0.2 WAR, according to FanGraphs.

Enter Alfaro, who has two seasons remaining until he hits free agency. He's arbitration-eligible this year, after the Padres tendered him a contract ahead of Tuesday's deadline.

Once a centerpiece prospect in two separate trades that included Cole Hamels and J.T. Realmuto, Alfaro hasn't quite lived up to his lofty expectations. But he still possesses several elite tools. In particular, Alfaro makes some of the hardest contact in the sport. His strikeout rate is a bit high, but the Padres remain hopeful he can tap into his offensive skill set with a few tweaks.

As for the Padres' current catching situation, Nola is still expected to be the starter. But there's some flexibility there, considering Nola's ability to play multiple positions in the infield. If more than one catcher is performing, Nola could slide to, say, first base. The possible presence of a universal designated hitter in the Collective Bargaining Agreement might also help the Padres find playing time for multiple backstops.

Still, it's worth wondering where this move leaves Luis Campusano, the organization's No. 3 prospect. The Padres remain high on the 22-year-old Campusano, and perhaps further Minor League development is needed. But it's impossible not to wonder whether the sudden glut of big league catching options might make Campusano more expendable in a deal.

Padres non-tender three relievers

There's little doubt that if Matt Strahm, Trey Wingenter and José Castillo were healthy, they'd be integral pieces in the San Diego bullpen.

But the fact remains: They haven't been. As such, the Padres non-tendered all three ahead of Tuesday night's deadline.

The lefty Strahm was entering his final season before free agency, having missed significant time in each of the past two years because of right knee inflammation. Across four seasons with the Padres, Strahm posted a 3.81 ERA.

Castillo and Wingenter, meanwhile, were each arbitration-eligible for the first time. But both have been beset by injuries. The lefty Castillo has pitched only one game since 2019 and is coming off Tommy John surgery. Wingenter, a righty, had Tommy John surgery in 2020 as well and had a setback during his recovery last season that required back surgery.

Those moves, coupled with the Alfaro signing, put the Padres’ 40-man roster at 38. That leaves two places open for free agent right-handers Luis García and Robert Suarez to sign. The Padres are currently deep in talks with both, but neither deal is final.

Lamet, others tendered; three sign deals

One injury-plagued pitcher with too much upside for the Padres to part with: Dinelson Lamet.

San Diego tendered the right-hander a contract on Tuesday, after he'd made $4.2 million a season ago. Lamet spent four stints on the IL last season with elbow trouble, but was electric in 2020, when he finished fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting.

In a bit of a formality, the Padres also tendered contracts to Alfaro, Caratini and right-handed starters Joe Musgrove and Chris Paddack. They agreed to one-year contracts with relievers Tim Hill, Austin Adams and Emilio Pagán as well.

If any of Lamet, Alfaro, Caratini, Musgrove and Paddack do not come to an agreement on a one-year deal with the Padres, their 2022 salaries would be decided with the team and the player submitting a proposed figure. An independent arbitrator would then choose between the two proposals.