San Diego Padres Need to Continue Hunting for a Starting Pitcher
By Tim Ryder
Potential San Diego Padres’ target, Jake Arrieta, has signed with the Phillies. The Friars’ young pitchers may not be ready for prime-time just yet, so the Pads should go after Jeremy Hellickson or Alex Cobb.
If the San Diego Padres want to take advantage of the talent they have on their roster this year, they’ll need to continue their ongoing hunt for an upgrade to their starting rotation in free-agency. Jake Arrieta is off the board but there are a couple of other names out there who could possibly make a world of difference.
Some Friars’ young hurlers like Luis Perdomo, Matt Strahm, and Bryan Mitchell, while being extremely talented and will certainly contribute to the big-league club at some point soon, just may not be ready to take on the responsibility of starting in the majors every five days.
Don’t get me wrong, all three of the guys I just mentioned would most-likely adapt to their new surroundings very quickly and begin to show progress after probably getting beat up for a while at this level, but after Perdomo’s tough spring, a front-line reinforcement couldn’t hurt.
Go ahead, AJ, do it
But with the level of talent that’s on this Padres roster, right now, they may be letting an opportunity get away from them if they don’t upgrade to a solid number-one-or-two guy.
While the cost would be considerably more than heading into the regular-season with the above-mentioned cast of characters, but would it really benefit this team?
There are two schools of thought there, and I see good points on both sides of that argument. One side is saying, “Let the kids pitch. That’s the only way they’ll get better”. I get that, I truly do. But what if these guys get knocked around for two months before heading back to El Paso to get things right again?
Their confidence would understandably be shot after an experience like that and there is really no telling if they would be able to come back from that. All three have boatloads of potential and should turn into solid, middle-rotation pitchers in the very near future. So why rush it?
The Padres need to go after Hellickson or Cobb
Since Arrieta has decided to head to Philly, the San Diego Padres need to move to Plan B. General Manager AJ Preller likely has tossed the above paragraphs, in some form, around that brilliant head of his at least a hundred times over the last few months. He knows the score.
Going after an ace like Arrieta signifies that Preller is most-certainly all-in on this season, and on the future of this ballclub. Now that that ship has sailed (in JA), Padres’ team brass must set their sights on a couple of different, less-expensive, starting pitching options.
Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb, both 30-years-old, remain unsigned with just weeks to go until Opening Day. Granted, neither of them is at the “ace” level that Arrieta is, but either would solidify this Friars’ young rotation, no doubt.
Hellickson, coming off of a tough 2017 (8-11. 5.43 ERA) is still a more-than-decent pitcher who, only a few years ago, was still very much a force. Spending his first five MLB seasons in Tampa Bay, then a season-plus in Philly and the second-half of last year in Baltimore, Hellickson owns a career 4.12 ERA and a career ERA+ of 97 (averaged ERA+ of 121.6 from ’10-’12).
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What would it cost the San Diego Padres?
Spotrac.com has his estimated market-value at $16.3 million per season, which is a lot of money to spend but is still a far cry from the $25 per year that Arrieta got.
Even a guy like Alex Cobb, who has similar career numbers to Hellickson, would be affordable enough. Spotrac has Cobb’s EMV at around $18 million, practically the same type of investment as Helly.
But for that extra $2 million and change, the pitcher the Padres would be bringing on board, in my opinion, is head-and-shoulders above any other option out there.
Since making his debut in 2011 with the Tampa Bay Rays, Cobb has pitched to a 3.50 ERA with a 1.217 WHIP and a 7.3 K/9 rate. In his six seasons in Tampa, his ERA+ is a darn-respectable 111.
Next: Perdomo Falters, Padres Lose
There’s no reason for the Padres to pass on guys like these when they were ready to spend even more to bring in a guy like Jake Arrieta who’s two years older and has produced at virtually the same level as, well, one of them last season.