According to MLB Trade Rumors and Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune, Josh Byrnes and the Padres have some interest in Joel Zumaya. Zumaya was once one of the most promising relief pitchers in the league. When he came up with the Tigers in 2006, he was able to touch 102 on the radar guns, and he could pull the string on wicked curves and change-ups. However, injuries essentially ruined any chance Zumaya had of developing into a perennial All-Star or the Tigers’ future closer. He is now attempting a come back, and that come back may be with the Padres.
Josh Byrnes told Bill Center the team has improved its lineup, but is still looking for some more pitching help. A little bullpen help can turn the Padres back into the best pen in the league. It’s just a matter of who the Padres will truly consider. Zumaya hasn’t pitched since 2010 when he had a devastating elbow injury. Since then, he’s been rehabbing and working towards a Major League come back. According to multiple reports, he can still hit the high 90’s with his fastball, but his durability is still in question.
Could Zumaya fit in with the Padres? He’s injury plagued, faces an unknown future, and has lost much of what made him so impressive in his first few years in the league. However, even if Zumaya can perform at 75% of his peak, he could be a welcome addition to the bullpen.
It’s virtually impossible to predict and evaluate Zumaya’s ability to contribute without seeing him in person. For those who wonder whether statistical analysis can replace baseball scouts need look no further than Zumaya’s situation. Traditional and advanced statistical analysis is almost useless in Zumaya’s case. For that reason, we will simply focus on Zumaya’s past and what we can hope to receive if he becomes a Padre.
When Zumaya broke into the league in 2006, he pitched in 62 games and posted a 1.94 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 83.1 innings pitched. He quickly racked up 3.4 WAR. From there, mostly due to a litany of injuries, Zumaya was up and down in ERA, innings pitched, and WAR. However, his K/9 ratio never dropped below 8.0. In five seasons, Zumaya has really only seen about a two years to two and a half years of Major League work. His career line is still relatively impressive considering all he went through. In 171 games, he accumulated 3.05 ERA, 210 strikeouts, just 0.8 HR per nine innings, and 4.4 WAR.
The conversation surrounding what we can expect from Zumaya going forward is a difficult one, but best case scenario, we could hope for some percentage of his peak year, 2006. If we say at best Zumaya can perform at 75% of his 2006 self, he may put up a 2.45 ERA, 7.9 K/9, and 2.5 WAR. Not bad numbers depending on the cost of his contract.
Zumaya will likely come cheap to any team that takes a chance on him. He hasn’t pitched since 2010, his ability to find success again is unknown, and he is basically holding open try-outs to garner attention from Major League clubs. Considering Zumaya never cracked $1 million in a season, any team that signs Zumaya has a decent shot at getting him for under a million for one year.
If the Padres can do this, it’s a low risk/high reward move. Exactly the combination Josh Byrnes has been trying to find this entire off-season.