SAN DIEGO -- Questions remain in their rotation and outfield, but the Padres have spent the past two months fortifying their bullpen in a big way.
They continued to do so on Friday, when they finalized a four-year contract with lefty reliever Wandy Peralta. The club did not disclose the terms of the deal, which contains opt-outs for Peralta after each of the contract's first three seasons.
The 32-year-old Peralta is coming off the best season of his eight-year career, having posted a 2.83 ERA and 1.4 WAR with 51 strikeouts across 54 innings for the Yankees.
What are the Padres getting?
For one, another former Yankee. In early December, San Diego added four pitchers in the deal that sent Juan Soto to New York -- Michael King, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez and Drew Thorpe. But Peralta is the only pitcher in that group assuredly destined for the bullpen.
He elevated his game after arriving in New York during the 2021 season, posting a 2.82 ERA in his time there. Peralta averages below a strikeout per inning, relying instead on a changeup/sinker combo that induces ground balls and plenty of weak contact.
His 13.2% walk rate was troubling, and he also plunked a career-high six batters in 2023. All of that led to an ugly 5.05 FIP. But if Peralta can harness his control, the Padres should be getting a reliable lefty arm who can get key outs -- in a division loaded with fearsome left-handed hitters. (Lefties batted just .138/.271/.213 against Peralta last season.)
How does he fit?
The Padres officially lost Josh Hader last week when he agreed to a five-year deal with the Astros. They haven't signed a bona fide closer to take Hader's spot. But they've added a number of high-leverage arms to shore up their bullpen in recent weeks -- perhaps pushing set-up man Robert Suarez into that closer role.
Peralta, Japanese left-hander Yuki Matsui and Korean right-hander Woo-Suk Go have all arrived since mid-December. That trio joins Tom Cosgrove, Steven Wilson and Enyel De Los Santos as likely set-up options. Brito and Vásquez are also bullpen candidates if they miss out on a spot in the rotation.
Peralta and Matsui help balance the San Diego bullpen in a big way. With the departures of Hader, Tim Hill, Ray Kerr and Drew Pomeranz, Cosgrove was once the only reliable lefty option remaining.
In the bullpen, where injuries and regression tend to hit hardest, you can’t have too many arms. This San Diego bullpen in particular appears volatile. Matsui and Go haven’t pitched in the Majors yet. Suarez must bounce back from an injury-riddled 2023 season.
But Peralta’s arrival helps stabilize things a bit, and the Padres have the numbers in their ‘pen where they can at least shift their focus elsewhere. The most pressing needs are in both the rotation and the outfield.
Presently, only two outfielders -- Fernando Tatis Jr. and José Azocar have places on the 40-man roster. It’s not a matter of "if" the Padres make an outfield addition. More a matter of "how many."
As for the rotation, the Peralta addition might clarify things slightly. There's one fewer place available in the 'pen. Perhaps the Padres are counting on a newcomer like Brito or Vásquez to win a place as a starter. Even still, they’ll be looking to add.