The San Diego Padres acquired Garrett Richards yesterday on a 2-year/$15.5 million deal. Signing the former Los Angeles Angels ace, even with his injury history, is a smart move by AJ Preller.
While it hasn’t been made official yet by the San Diego Padres, Garrett Richards has already confirmed that he will be joining the Padres this season, even if he won’t pitch until 2020. Richards has spent his entire career up to this point as a member of the Los Angeles Angels. Drafted by the Angels in 2009, he quickly rose through the minors and made his major league debut in 2011. However, he did not contribute significantly to the Angels until 2012.
When he was healthy, Richards was the ace of the LA staff. His best year in a Halo’s uniform came in 2014, where he posted a 2.61 ERA over 168.2 innings before a knee injury prematurely ended his 2014 season and caused him to begin the 2015 campaign on the disabled list.
Even after beginning the season on the DL, Richards managed to pitch 207.1 innings during 2015, his largest workload of any season. He finished 2015 with an ERA of 3.65. However, since 2015 Richards has been bitten by the injury bug. The former Angel threw a total of 138 innings from 2016-2018.
In 2016 he was sidelined when he was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his pitching elbow, which he chose to have stem-cell treatment for, and not Tommy John surgery. In 2017 he suffered from nerve irritation in his throwing arm. Finally, in 2018, he was forced into Tommy John surgery. While he could begin making rehab starts by late 2019, odds are he doesn’t make his San Diego Padres debut until 2020.
What to like about Garrett Richards.
When healthy, Richards has the making of an ace. At 30, he is just now entering his prime years, with little usage on his arm. As MLB.com Padres reporter AJ Cassavell pointed out earlier, his spin rate on his pitches is absolutely incredible.
A major reason the Padres were willing to eat a few bucks this season and let him rehab his arm is because of the movement he has his pitches and previous success, even if it is a small sample. One issue the Padres haven’t been able to solve over the years is a starting pitcher who throws consistently hard and effective. For example, Bryan Mitchell and Luis Perdomo lead Padres starters in fastball velocity at 94.0 and 93.4 mph according to Fangraphs, not exactly a list that the Friar faithful will think of too fondly of.
A pitcher who throws hard is by no stretch of the imagination guaranteed to be a successful manor league pitcher, but that is where spin rate comes in. Richards will be able to deceive hitters, get swings and misses, as well as ground balls, with the spin rate he is able to generate.
Padres have a history with Tommy John survivors.
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Chris Paddack had one of the most dominant seasons in minor league baseball last year, his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery. Paddack was recently added to the 40-man roster and could make his MLB debut at some point during the 2019 season. Fans will get another glimpse at a post-Tommy John pitcher when Anderson Espinoza finally takes the mound in 2019.
While the Padres may not have had the greatest success with pitchers who have tried to come-back from the surgery in the past, Robbie Erlin was a welcome change to that trend. Erlin was able to put together a quietly productive season, especially when he came out of the bullpen.
Richards may not pitch this season, but this move was clearly made with an eye towards 2020. Adding Richards to a rotation including Joey Luchessi, Eric Lauer, Matt Strahm, and high potential prospects such as Logan Allen, Chris Paddock, Anderson Espinoza, Michel Baez, and others; the Padres will have plenty of options to look to in the coming years when it comes to starting pitching.
Richards has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, but if he can prove he can stay healthy in San Diego he will be an incredible asset for the Padres.