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Jeff Suppan, the Padres Back-Up Plan


The Padres and Jeff Suppan agreed to a one-year, minor league deal yesterday. Before we look at the why, let’s explore the pros and the cons to Suppan.

Pros:

Veteran leadership
He’s another arm if needed

Cons:
He’s 37 years old
He has a career ERA of 4.69
His K/9 ratio has reduced from 5.3 in 2003 to 4.5 in 2010
He didn’t pitch in the Majors last season
He had a 4.78 ERA in Triple-A last season
He gives up 10.1 hits per nine innings in his career

I’ll stop the list there.  The cons are heavily out-weighing the pros for Jeff Suppan.  So why did the Padres sign him?  Injuries to a starting rotation can quickly derail a nice season.  If the Padres do put together a winning season in 2012 and are in the position to compete, Josh Byrnes and the entire front office want to make sure they have a back-up plan in place of injuries.

Last season alone, the Padres starting rotation saw injuries to Mat Latos (Spring Training), Tim Stauffer, Dustin Moseley, and Clayton Richard.  For a team looking to compete, the loss of four starters during the season can be devastating.  The Padres have options in the minor leagues, but Suppan adds another layer of depth.  He’s not taking up a spot on the 40-man roster as of yet, he isn’t taking up payroll space, and he really isn’t a risk.  He’s a back-up plan.

Should any of the Padres’ starting pitchers go down to injury next season, Suppan will offer a veteran arm in replacement.  Suppan was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the second round of the 2003 draft.  He made his Major League debut with Boston in 1995 and ultimately spent three seasons with the Red Sox.  In his 16 years in the league, Suppan played for six different teams; Boston, Arizona, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Milwaukee.  He also threw in another stop back in Boston in 2003.

Suppan never had great stuff.  He was never a star.  He didn’t rank in any of the end-of-year awards and was never an All-Star.  He was a work-horse though.  He found a way to stay in the big leagues, and that was by eating innings.  For five straight years from 1999 to 2003, he pitched at least 200 innings.  Overall, he pitched 200 inning six times, and he pitched at least 160 innings 11 times.  Yet Suppan was never more than average.  And that’s all the Padres need for this stop-gap.

Should anyone of the Padres starting pitchers go down to injury, Suppan may not even be the first choice to replace him.  Robbie Erlin or Joe Weiland or Casey Kelly may get their crack at a Major League debut first.  But if the Padres start to lose multiple pitchers, you can bet Suppan will be seeing time with the Major League team.  He’s been slightly above replacement level for his career, averaging 0.8 WAR per season in his career, and that makes his a valuable choice in a time of need.

Jeff Suppan’s signing may seem strange at surface level, but considering the injury history of this current Padres rotation (including Edinson Volquez who came from the Reds), Suppan provides a welcome level of insurance for a team trying to get out of the cellar.

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