Padres Editorial: Free Agent Hunt – Pitchers

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Oct 8, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo throws a pitch in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays in game one of the ALDS at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Fred Thornhill-Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Earlier, I argued that the Padres need to go out and get another starter to follow up James Shields, Tyson Ross, and Andrew Cashner. With the trades of Joaquin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel, the Padres freed up $20.25 million for 2016. If General Manager A.J. Preller looks to the new free agent class, whom could he target?

Note: for all contract estimates, I used MLB Trade Rumors’ free agent predictions.

Let’s first rule out a few guys that are not or should not happen. David Price, Zack GreinkeJordan Zimmermann, and Johnny Cueto are going to command over $20 million per year. The Padres need a shortstop, which means that all of these guys are just too expensive. 

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After a bad 2015, Jeff Samardzija is not someone to target. His lively arm and good movement make baseball people drool. The problem is that beyond a good 2014, Samardzija has never really had a good season. The Padres should pass.

John Lackey will enter his age 37 season. The Padres are not in win-now mode to that extent. Pass on Lackey.

Doug Fister and Brett Anderson are too injury prone for the Padres to run the risk.

J.A. Happ had a fabulous second-half stretch in Pittsburgh. But he had only one good season – his rookie season in 2009.

With that, we come to viable options for the Padres. Note that this has multiple pages.

Ian Kennedy

Kennedy rejected the $15.8 million qualifying offer the Padres extended to him. However, he will likely be looking for a three- to four-year deal worth $13 million per year.

We are pretty familiar with his terrible start to 2015, which was followed by a very good stretch of 22 starts. If Kennedy were to replicate his three seasons as a Padre, manager Andy Green would be adding a below-average starter to the rotation. Kennedy has a 3.97 ERA and an ERA+ of 88 in his Padre career.

Preller would likely be signing him for his age 31-33 seasons. Can we expect him to improve north of 30?

By the adage of $6 million per win (WAR), based on his last three years, Kennedy should be paid just over $2 million per year. Is he worth $13 million per year? Unlikely.

Yovani Gallardo

Despite a 2015 in the hitters’ haven of Arlington and an ERA of 3.42, Gallardo is expected to sign in the same vicinity as Kennedy – four years, $13 million per season. In hitters’ parks, Gallardo consistently is above the league average in ERA, typically hovering in the mid- to high-3’s. His ERA+ over the past three seasons has been 107, with each year being better than the last.

Gallardo will turn 30 when pitchers and catchers meet. So why such a low estimated contract? Well, in each of the last three years, he has surrendered more hit than innings pitched. His 3.0 BB/9 and 6.6 K/9 are not particularly good. And his FIP of 3.95 indicates that his 3.70 ERA has been lower than expected over the past three seasons. His 5.8 innings per start over that same timespan is also unpleasant to look at.

Regardless, looking at his WAR over the past three seasons, Gallardo was worth $14.2 million per year. He seems on pace to be equally productive. If Gallardo is singable for $13 million per year over a few years, the Padres should go for it. Put him in a park that plays more even to pitchers, add in Darren Balsley, and he might very well flourish.

Next: Better Targets