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Makita could play big role in Padres' bullpen

MLB.com @JALaymance

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 Craig Stammen on a two-year pact, signed Japanese submariner Kazuhisa Makita to a two-year deal, avoided arbitration with Carter Capps and inked Colten Brewer 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.

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 Craig Stammen on a two-year pact, signed Japanese submariner Kazuhisa Makita to a two-year deal, avoided arbitration with Carter Capps and inked Colten Brewer 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
Kirby Yates, RHP
Craig Stammen, RHP
Kazuhisa Makita, RHP
Colten Brewer, RHP
Phil Maton, RHP
Carter Capps, RHP
Jose Torres, 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.

Video: SD@SF: Hand strikes out Panik to earn the save

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.

Video: ISR@JPN: Makita freezes Krieger to end the game

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.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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