"The price of relief pitching was through the roof," said Padres first-year manager Andy Green. "When you looked up, there were three-year [contracts] for $16-$17 million going to guys who are typically average relievers."
Tony Sipp got a three-year deal worth $18 million from the Astros this offseason. Former Padres relief pitcher Shawn Kelley got three years and $15 million from the Nationals, while Antonio Bastardo $12 million over two years from the Mets.
So the Padres, looking for relief help, went in a different direction -- plucking four players in the Rule 5 Draft, including three pitchers, right-handers Luis Perdomo, Blake Smith and Josh Martin. Outfielder Jabari Blash was the lone position player. Perdomo is the 12th-ranked Padres prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, and Blash is No. 16 on the list.
"If you take three of them [pitchers], it increases the chances of one of them may hit," Green said. "I think the market dictates it to some degree. So if one of them hits, we've basically paid $100,000 for a guy we control for six years.
"That's just good business. It makes sense."
All four have seen early playing time in spring, which makes sense as the Padres are trying to see if any of the four are possibilities to crack the Opening Day 25-man roster.
If not, and they don't remain on the roster for the entire season, these players have to be offered back to their original team.
Can the Padres carry all four? No way. Three may even be steep. Two of them? That's hard to say. Generally, it's easier to keep a Rule 5 pitcher than a position players, as bench jobs can be precious.
And consider this one: No team has ever carried four Rule 5 players for an entire season. The 2003 Tigers are the only team to carry three.
How have the players fared in camp thus far? This is what Green had to say about Blash, Perdomo, Martin and Smith (statistics through Friday):
Blash (.125, one home run, five walks nine strikeouts: "You can see the power potential. But the thing that's impressed me is even though he hasn't hit his stride yet offensively, when he has struggled, he still takes his walks. He's put together quality at-bats and hasn't chased too much out of the strike zone. He's shown some plate discipline. I think he's done a solid job in camp, but I don't think he's hit his stride yet," Green said.
Perdomo (14.40 ERA, 5 innings, 12 hits): "I thought we saw a substantial uptick in his stuff from his first outing to his second. I think there was a little bit of anxiety. But we saw the downhill plane a little more last time. He showed good bottom on his changeup and got good chases with it. He's still a young guy who definitely factors into the mix. He's still in that [competition] for the fifth starter spot, he might be a long guy, maybe pitch an inning out of the bullpen."
Smith (9.00 ERA, 3 innings, 6 hits): "I don't think he's hit his stride yet. We talk about his pitch mix. I think he's held his curveball back too much. It's a plus-plus curveball. He's used his fastball to get to two strikes and finish with the curveball. It's not working as much at the Major League level. He's going to have to introduce that pitch earlier."
Martin (3 1/3 scoreless innings, three strikeouts): "Martin has been good. We've moved him over to the other side of the rubber and that has allowed him to get to the glove side a little better. It's another plus-plus curveball. He's got a good look in his eye on the mound. It's a live arm. The ball is hopping. We are pleased with his early returns."