Padres sign García, Suarez to bolster 'pen

December 2nd, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres needed pitching, so they went out and found a pair of high-upside right-handed arms to add to their bullpen.

San Diego has finalized deals with relievers Luis García and Robert Suarez, the team announced on Wednesday. García, coming off a strong season with the Cardinals, inked a two-year contract. Suarez’s pact is for one year, after he’d spent the past five seasons pitching in Japan.

Without question, pitching was the Padres' top priority entering the offseason, and although they still have some question marks in their rotation, these moves should go a long way toward solidifying their bullpen.

What are they getting?

Before hitting free agency this winter, García, 34, spent time with the Phillies, Angels, Rangers and Cardinals, amassing a 4.16 ERA over his nine seasons. Most recently, he put forth an impressive 2021 season, posting a 3.24 ERA and a sub-1 WHIP for St. Louis.

García's success was due in part to a heavy sinker that averaged 98.3 mph last season. He began throwing the pitch with much greater regularity in 2021 -- pairing it with an excellent slider -- and the results followed. He posted a 2.72 FIP, an indicator that the strides he made in ’21 are real.

Suarez, meanwhile, is a bit more of a mystery, as he has never pitched in the big leagues, but his success in Japan, with both SoftBank and Hanshin, speaks for itself. Across five seasons in NPB, Suarez posted a 2.81 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. Last year the 30-year-old notched a 1.16 ERA with a minuscule 0.77 WHIP. He didn’t allow a homer and permitted only six unintentional walks across 229 batters faced.

How do they fit?

The Padres have a deep group of relievers, with 27 of the places on their 40-man roster occupied by pitchers. But that relief corps comes with its share of concerns.

San Diego non-tendered Matt Strahm, Trey Wingenter and José Castillo on Tuesday. Entering the 2022 season, Drew Pomeranz and Dinelson Lamet have lingering health questions as well. Meanwhile, bullpen staples Emilio Pagán, Tim Hill and Austin Adams struggled down the stretch in ‘21.

As such, the Padres felt it was imperative to bolster their bullpen depth. They've done that in a big way over the past few days, first adding hard-throwing lefty Ray Kerr in the Adam Frazier trade with Seattle, then adding a pair of right-handers with upside.

What's next?

Even with these moves, the Padres' bullpen is by no means set in stone. After losing Mark Melancon to free agency, the closer spot is open. (Melancon signed with the D-backs on Wednesday.) Pomeranz would presumably handle that role if healthy, but he's coming off flexor surgery, and the Padres will likely need to wait until spring for his status.

Meanwhile, the Padres could still use a boost in their rotation, as a lack of depth cost them dearly last season. According to sources, nothing is imminent in regard to the team's search, but general manager A.J. Preller will continue to explore the trade market.

And while pitching remains a priority, the Padres could still shake things up on offense. Having lost Frazier via trade and Tommy Pham to free agency, San Diego hopes to add a power-hitting corner-outfield bat.