Padres finalize deal with curveball maestro Lugo

December 22nd, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have found some of that much-needed pitching depth they've been searching for.

Right-hander Seth Lugo signed a one-year deal with San Diego that includes a player option for 2024, the team announced on Thursday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but a source told's Mark Feinsand that is worth $15 million.

The 33-year-old Lugo posted a 3.48 ERA across seven big league seasons with the Mets. He's spent the past two years pitching exclusively out of the bullpen, but sources familiar with the Padres’ decision-making noted that Lugo would be given a chance to start for San Diego.

At the very least, Lugo could fill a similar role to the one Nick Martinez filled in 2022. Martinez started games early in the year, then became an extremely serviceable swingman, pitching high-leverage innings whenever they arose. Lugo started 38 games during his tenure with the Mets, but none since '20.

What are the Padres getting?

There's obvious upside with Lugo, who has posted a sub-3.00 ERA on three occasions and owns a 3.56 ERA over the past two years. In fact, his only down year in the past five came during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. Otherwise, he's been a reliable presence on the Mets' pitching staff just about every season.

Lugo has a knack for missing bats, having posted a 29.3 percent K rate over the past four seasons. Most notably, he throws a high-spin curveball that induces whiffs at a 30.8 percent clip. Lugo pairs that with a four-seamer, a sinker and a slider.

That said, it's uncertain how Lugo's stuff would play were he to transition back into a starter role. He throws his curveball at a 34 percent clip, which works nicely in the 'pen. Perhaps his slider usage would tick back up were he to make a full-time return to the rotation.

How does Lugo fit?

Lugo's career numbers as a reliever (2.91 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 3.98 K/BB) are notably better than his numbers as a starter (4.35 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 3.28 K/BB). But the Padres have a much greater need in their rotation, having lost Sean Manaea and Mike Clevinger to free agency this offseason.

As things stand, San Diego boasts one of the best front ends for its rotation in baseball, with Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell. Beyond those three, there are question marks.

Martinez figures to occupy one of the remaining rotation vacancies. Lugo now has a chance to win another. The team’s other internal options include Adrian Morejon, Ryan Weathers, Reiss Knehr, Jay Groome and Julio Teheran (who agreed to a Minor League deal).

The back end of the Padres' bullpen remains formidable, with Robert Suarez and Josh Hader locking down the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. But the middle innings aren’t quite so secure. If Lugo were needed in relief, he specialized at covering multiple frames for New York.

What's next?

The Padres' search for pitching isn't done. They'd like to add at least one more starter, given the question marks at the back end of the rotation. It's possible San Diego will add to its bullpen as well.

Still, with the addition of Lugo, the Padres can start to feel a bit more comfortable about their depth -- whether he ends up starting or pitching in relief.

Realistically, the Padres' biggest needs now appear to be on offense -- where they'd like to add at least one corner bat and preferably two to a lineup that is fearsome but a bit top-heavy.