The San Diego Padres have made a lot of headlines this off-season. That’s what happens when you absolutely dominate the trade market and acquire a trio of heavy-hitting outfielders in Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers as well as one of the game’s best catchers in Derek Norris. Under General Manager A.J. Preller, the Friars have reshaped their offense. But, in the past week or so, Preller has shifted his focus from the offense to the bullpen and has worked hard to add pieces to the main corp of relievers. The value of the bullpen has reached new levels in recent seasons and the success of the Kansas City Royals in 2014 has made put relievers near the top of the team’s list of priorities.
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Where the roster stands now, (You never know with Preller) this is what the bullpen could possibly look like:
- Closer: Joaquin Benoit– RHP
- Setup Man: Kevin Quackenbush– RHP
- Middle Reliever: Shawn Kelley– RHP
- Middle Reliever: Alex Torres– LHP
- Middle Reliever: Dale Thayer– RHP
- Long Reliever: Brandon Maurer– RHP
Benoit is of course the closer. After taking over the position when Huston Street was traded to the Los Angeles Angeles, he pitched extremely well, not allowing a run and notching 10 saves as the closer. Despite trade rumors surrounding him, the Padres held on to him and will look to him to lock down the ninth once again.
While there is still a spot or two that could be thrown into the mix, this is likely the core of the what the Padres bullpen will look like in 2015. While many see Shawn Kelley, who was recently acquired from the New York Yankees, as a setup man, I see him more as a middle reliever due to his ability to throw more than one inning if
Sep 15, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcherShawn Kelley
(27) throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the New York Yankees 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
needed. He has also displayed a knack for getting out of jams in the past. This puts his greatest value in the middle innings.
I like the idea of Kevin Qucakenbush, who was a breakout rookie in 2014, as the setup man behind closer Joaquin Benoit because I think the 27-year old has the talent to be a closer in the near future. Kelley can get outs and should improve now that the fly ball pitcher is out of Yankee Stadium and in the pitcher-friendly Petco Park, but the Padres should look towards the future and begin grooming Quackenbush for a possible future as a closer.
Dale Thayer had a big season last year, posting an ERA of 2.34 with 62 strikeouts, in 70 games and has been a very consistent reliever in three years with the Padres. The lone lefty, Alex Torres, was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays before the start of last season and posted a 3.33 ERA in 70 games. While he may actually end up competing for a spot in the starting rotation, he is better suited for the bullpen and will likely stay there. As for Brandon Maurer, the young right-hander has both started and thrown out of the bullpen in his career, but has seen little success, posting a 5.58 ERA in parts of two seasons with the Seattle Mariners. But his career 4.29 FIP suggests he’s a better pitcher than his ERA indicates and after being acquired from Seattle in exchange for Seth Smith; the Padres will be looking for him to shake off those struggles.
One of the biggest movements this off-season has been the intense value given towards relievers. The Houston Astros broke out the checkbook to acquire Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson. The Chicago White Sox brought in Zach Duke and closer David Robertson, while the Yankees have totally reworked their bullpen, acquiring the likes of Andrew Miller and David Carpenter among others. Due to some of the larger moves this off-season, the Padres’ bullpen has been overlooked. But, San Diego’s bullpen figures to be very effective in 2015 and the two moves they’ve made in recent weeks only makes it even stronger. It’s just another win for A.J. Preller this off-season.