Makita could play big role in Padres' bullpen

January 10th, 2018

The Padres' biggest need this offseason has always been pitching, and general manager A.J. Preller has made a number of moves to bolster the bullpen. San Diego brought back on a two-year pact, signed Japanese submariner Kazuhisa Makita to a two-year deal, avoided arbitration with and inked to a one-year contract.

Brad Hand has proven to be a dominant closer, so the success of the Padres' 2018 bullpen may come down to how efficiently newcomer Makita and Co. can get the ball to the All-Star lefty.

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected bullpen of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Padres might stack up:

BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY

Brad Hand, LHP

, RHP

Craig Stammen, RHP

Kazuhisa Makita, RHP

Colten Brewer, RHP

, RHP

Carter Capps, RHP

, LHP

STRENGTH

With Hand, the Padres have one of the top closers in the Major Leagues. The left-hander was an All-Star in 2017, and he owns a 2.56 ERA and an 11.5 K/9 rate in two seasons with San Diego. If the Padres can get the ball to Hand in the ninth inning with a lead, they have to like their chances. Hand also possesses one of the best sliders in baseball, and he converted 21 of 26 save opportunities last season.

QUESTION MARK

It will be interesting to see how Makita transitions to the big leagues after spending the last seven seasons with the Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball. Makita has pitched exclusively in relief the past two years after beginning his career as a starter. The 33-year-old has a submarine delivery, which appealed to Preller and manager Andy Green. Makita is not overpowering, but more of a ground-ball pitcher who can induce weak contact. While his numbers in Japan were solid, Makita will face the best hitters in the world when he reaches MLB.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE

While the trade chatter surrounding Hand has quieted, there's still a chance Preller is blown away by a proposal and makes a deal for his top trade chip before Opening Day. The Padres' asking price for Hand is understandably high. As of yet, nobody has met it. Hand, who has two years of team control remaining, has said he'd be happy to remain in San Diego, but that won't stop the rumors from circulating.