San Diego Padres: The Case for Extending Clayton Richard

Sep 24, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Clayton Richard (27) pitches during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Clayton Richard (27) pitches during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

One free agent who may go under the radar is left-hander Clayton Richard. Even though the San Diego Padres are more concerned with developing their younger players, there are practical reasons to pursue an extension with Richard.

Nine players from the San Diego Padres‘ 2016 roster are currently free agents. None however may be worth more than left-handed starter Clayton Richard. Richard, who had the lowest ERA among Padre starters in 2016, has not yet made any indication of where his 2017 destination may be.

Based on how the Padres are currently managing their roster, it seems as if they would steer clear of another long term contract with Richard. Many fans support staying away from re-signing the lefty as well, as they don’t see the benefit he serves.

But there is a real case for re-signing Richard, and possibly even giving him a pay increase. After all, San Diego’s pitching staff is completely depleted. Injuries to Tyson Ross, Colin Rea, and Jarred Cosart have prolonged desired development. Also, with Edwin Jackson going into free agency, another 2016 rotation spot could become void.

Richard would provide depth, and could easily once again be the rotation’s most productive member. Not only this, he could fill the role of Opening Day starter much more easily than any other current member of the pitching staff. This is due to Richard’s dominant three pitch formula, as well as his experience.

The fact that Richard is left-handed is also significant. In a rotation which will most likely not contain another southpaw, allowing their lone lefty to get away would be a mistake. Richard gives opposing hitters an entirely different look, which will benefit San Diego in a series in which he starts. All rotations would like a left-hander, and the Padres are no different. Going after a different one in free agency doesn’t make as much sense as reaching out to Richard for a possible extension.

Some may argue that re-signing Richard would be counterproductive, as the team is looking to build for the future, not sign veterans. But even though Richard will celebrate his 34th birthday during the 2017 season, he is more beneficial to the future of the organization than many realize.

If the Padres were to follow the mold of the Chicago Cubs, they would make re-signing Richard a top priority. The Cubs were praised for their young talent, but the true anchor of their rotation was veteran ace Jon Lester. If San Diego wishes to mirror a Cubs team which quickly rose to become world champions, they need the Lester-like experienced starter at the front end of the rotation.

The Padres clearly have a very young rotation, all under the age of 30 as the entire roster currently is. They also do not have a starter with a career ERA under 4, which is concerning. Richard could be a much more efficient pitcher, setting the tone and taking the pressure off. Having an ace that a team can count on every five days to turn in a good start can change a team’s season.

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Above all, Richard is an affordable option which can provide the team with needed experience and stability. Making only two million dollars last season, the southpaw isn’t a pitcher who will break the bank. The Padres can sign Richard and still have the flexibility to make additional acquisitions.

The comfort level of Richard is also evident. When going to the Cubs for a short stint in 2016, the 33-year-old’s ERA ballooned to 6.43. Granted, he was in the bullpen, but still, Richard’s outings in San Diego appeared much more natural, as he had a very low ERA of 2.52.

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Of course, Richard would have to agree as well, which may be the hard part. Every veteran player wants to win, especially those who have spent the bulk of their career on non playoff rosters. This may make convincing Richard to return a challenge. Still, it is necessary for general manager A.J. Preller to pursue an extension. The value of Richard is just too irresistible for just several million dollars.