SAN DIEGO -- The Padres took a major step toward fortifying their pitching depth, bringing right-hander Nick Martinez back to San Diego.
Martinez and the Padres agreed on a three-year contract with options for the 2024 and '25 seasons, the club announced on Tuesday. The deal is worth $26 million, but the options could take it to $42 million, sources told MLB.com. The club did not disclose the terms.
Martinez was due $19.5 million over the next three years when he opted out of his previous deal ahead of last Thursday's deadline. That opt-out was something of a formality while the two sides restructured a contract, sources said. Martinez was always hopeful to return to San Diego.
“It was such a fun season, man,” Martinez said. “We meshed together so well. And with a lot of the core guys coming back, it felt like home, playing with those guys.”
Martinez is expected to pitch in a starting role after having served in multiple capacities last season. The Padres needed to fill out the back end of their rotation behind Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove. Martinez is the first step toward doing so.
After he’d spent four years pitching in Japan, the 32-year-old right-hander quickly became a versatile weapon on the Padres' staff in 2022, posting a 3.47 ERA in 47 appearances. He started 10 games, finished 15 and served in just about every spot imaginable.
"He filled a valuable role for us this year," said general manager A.J. Preller at his GM Meetings media availability. "The conversations with him have been getting a sense of what he wants to do, but also the need of our ballclub. Starting, for us, is something we really want to explore with him and something he wants to do. We also know throughout the year, depending on what happens in the offseason, he’s got the ability to do some different things.”
Martinez will make $10 million in 2023 and is slated to make $8 million in ‘24 and ’25, plus potential performance bonuses. He can opt out of his contract after the ’23 season, but the Padres also have a team option then that would pay Martinez $16 million in ’24 and ’25. In other words, the deal is worth up to $42 million, were Martinez to perform well in ’23 and prompt San Diego to pick up that team option.
“It’s a very interesting contract, and very unique in that it provides a lot of stability for my family and it reflects a lot of the work that I’ve done, and the success that I’ve had in some crucial roles,” Martinez said. “I think it rewards that versatility that I had last year and still leaves room for me to prove myself as a starter.”
Martinez began the 2022 season as a starter, spent time working in long relief, pitched hugely important innings down the stretch and even served as closer when Josh Hader was temporarily removed from that role in mid-August. He was lights out in the postseason, too, posting a 0.82 ERA, including scoreless ball against the Dodgers and Phillies.
“I’ve loved these guys man,” Martinez said after the National League Championship Series finale. “Couldn’t have handpicked a better group of guys. The camaraderie here was fantastic from Spring Training, everyone hungry to be in these big games, having the same goal in mind.”
Part of the appeal for the Padres in bringing back Martinez was his versatility and flexibility. While San Diego shuffled him into different roles, Martinez often said he cared exclusively about winning and would pitch wherever the team needed him.
Still, as the contract talks began, Martinez made it clear he'd like to start in 2023. Good news there. The Padres needed starters. They didn’t have to look far to find one.