Inbox: What are the Padres' rotation options?

October 18th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres enter the 2020-21 offseason with the goal of fine-tuning an already playoff-caliber roster.

That's a stark change from the past decade, when general manager A.J. Preller often set out in search of an overhaul.

But there are still plenty of questions surrounding Preller’s Padres following their National League Division Series exit at the hands of the Dodgers. Without further ado, let's get to a few of them:

Will the Padres look to add a starting pitcher this offseason, or will they fill the rotation with in-house options? Will this solely depend on the health of Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger, or will they look to add regardless? Who's in the running for the final spot with no additions?
-- @FriarBad

Regardless of the health status of Lamet and Clevinger (which currently looks positive) and regardless of the high-upside in-house options, the Padres are almost certainly going to look for starting pitching this winter.

"We continue to subscribe to the theory of: as many starters as possible," Preller said last week.

It seems unlikely that the Padres would pursue a front-line arm like Trevor Bauer, considering the price tag. But there are plenty of depth rotation options available to add to an already deep mix.

As things stand, the Padres are hoping for a rotation with Lamet, Clevinger, Chris Paddack and Zach Davies. That would leave a fun competition for the No. 5 spot among Luis Patiño, Joey Lucchesi, Ryan Weathers, Adrian Morejon and top prospect MacKenzie Gore.

Who could potentially be moved from the 40-man to make room for Rule 5 Draft eligible players?
-- Dominic S., Tempe, Ariz.

With one of the sport's deepest farm systems, the November roster crunch is nothing new for the Padres. But I'd argue that this is the first time it's truly mattered. This is the first time they'll be deciding between legitimate big league talent in the farm vs. legitimate big league talent on the fringe of the roster.

The Padres helped themselves a bit at the Trade Deadline by dealing Taylor Trammell, Gabriel Arias, Hudson Potts and Jeisson Rosario, who would've been eligible. Here's the list of MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Padres prospects who can be taken in the Rule 5 Draft:

Infielder Tucupita Marcano (No. 8)

Right-handed pitcher Reggie Lawson (No. 10)

Outfielder Tirso Ornelas (No. 17)

Infielder Esteury Ruiz (No. 19)

Right-handed pitcher Lake Bachar (No. 23)

Infielder Eguy Rosario (No. 28)

Infielder Jordy Barley (No. 29)

Once players hit free agency and the injured list is cleared, the Padres will have 38 of their 40 roster spots filled. Marcano is a lock to be added, and Lawson, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, probably will be, too. (He'd be too easy for an opposing team to stash on the injured list for most of the season.)

That's a full 40-man roster. If the Padres choose to add anyone else from that list -- or from their deep system in general -- they'd have to make a cut or a trade. Cuts wise: Greg Garcia and Luis Perdomo are arbitration eligible and stand to receive raises, while Javy Guerra is out of options and hasn't yet pieced it together in the 'pen.

Will Morejon and Patiño compete for a spot in the rotation? Or does Preller view them as part of the bullpen?
-- Donovan, San Diego

Patiño is absolutely in the rotation mix, and as things currently stand, it's fair to consider him the early favorite for the No. 5 starter role. Of course, that might change if the Padres can land some rotation depth this winter.

After an up-and-down debut for Patiño, the Padres think he's more than capable of winning that job. But they'd like to make him earn it. Patiño has electric stuff, but his 16.5 percent walk rate wasn't good enough. (Then again, that walk rate isn't in line with his Minor League numbers, so it's fair to expect a bounce back.)

Morejon is a different case. With a four-pitch mix, he obviously has a starter-caliber arsenal. But because of an assortment of injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic, he hasn't done much starting.

It's still possible the Padres build Morejon back to a starter's workload. But that might be dependent upon how they view the rest of their rotation. If they have enough starting caliber arms elsewhere, Morejon is an excellent lefty length option for the bullpen.

Is there a plan for Francisco Mejía?
**-- Will H.**

What is the Padres' plan at catcher?
-- @Dogg28Ponch

The Padres landed Austin Nola at the Trade Deadline, hoping he would anchor their No. 1 catcher role for the foreseeable future. Well, more like 1A. San Diego is still looking for a timeshare behind the plate, and Nola is capable of sliding to a handful of infield spots, as well.

So, with Jason Castro ticketed for free agency, who is the Padres' catcher?

It's telling that when they were looking for a third catcher on their postseason roster, the Padres called on No. 4 prospect Luis Campusano ahead of Mejía. If Weathers was the breakout star of the alternate training site on the pitching side, it was Campusano on the offensive end.

The Padres have been high on Campusano from the moment they drafted him. They'll go into Spring Training 2021 with every anticipation that the slugging 22-year-old seizes the job.

So where does that leave Mejía? He's been inconsistent, but his skill set remains tantalizing. That makes him an obvious trade candidate. If he stays, however, Mejía might be best served working things out at Triple-A El Paso. The Padres managed to preserve his final option year for 2021, and perhaps they convert him into a bat-first bench option capable of catching and playing both corner outfield spots.