Ever since the Padres traded Joe Thatcher as part of the Ian Kennedy deal late last season, they have been without a true left-handed relief specialist. General Manager Josh Byrnes may be content to head in to next season with basically the same roster and hope for better luck with health and passing drug tests. Though the Padres are most likely going to trade for the bat they need at a corner infield or outfield spot. Left handed relief could be the one where they spend a little. It wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg if they were able to find the right “starter on the down slope” or “AAAA lefty”. Here is a brief look at a few of the candidates, should the Padres choose to go the free agent route.
Recently Barry Zito and Tsuyoshi Wada both became free agents. Zito started 25 games last year for the Giants at the age of 35. He was pretty ineffective to the tune of a 5.74 ERA and a WHIP of 1.703. That being said, we have all seen what Zito can do. If he was to rededicate himself to becoming a left handed specialist, he could probably turn his career 18.4 K% and .242 BA for lefty’s into a great asset for any club that would have him. Coming off last year’s performance there may be a discount to be had. Who knows, maybe the Padres could even get a home town discount from the University High grad.
Tsuyoshi Wada signed as a free agent with the Orioles two seasons ago but had to have Tommy John surgery shortly after signing. He never pitched in the majors for the O’s. In Japan, Wada was known as “Dr. K” for having over 1300 strikeouts in his 8 seasons. All of Wada’s games in AAA for the Orioles were starts. He posted a 7.01 K/9 with a 4.03 ERA last season. Having your contract option declined can really humble someone however, and Wada may be persuaded to become a lefty relief specialist. Like almost every left handed pitcher, Wada does a very good job of negating any batter’s power from the left side.
There are other left handed specialist available who have been doing it longer but, converting a starter to a reliever could leave the Padres with the option of having an extra lefty starter to fall back on. Zito and Wada are only two options. There are a lot of available specialists and starters who could fill the role for the Padres. Whether it’s by trade or free agent signing, there will be a new lefty joining the pen. The Padres were quick to deal Thatcher in order to secure Kennedy, no doubt because Josh Byrnes knew that a lefty specialist could be had this off-season with little fuss.