While the San Diego Padres have had to watch multiple key players depart in free agency this offseason and the team traded away Juan Soto to provide some payroll relief, the one area that they have seemingly addressed is the backend of their bullpen. Given that Josh Hader is very likely to have a new team for 2024 and beyond, covering that loss is at least a start.
When the Padres signed Yuki Matsui out of Japan to a five year deal towards the end of December, most observers just assumed that he would be the prohibitive favorite to be the team's closer. Nothing can be certain for a guy that hasn't pitched in the big leagues before, but everything about that deal suggested that San Diego was going to push for Matsui to be their high leverage situation guy.
All of that makes it even more curious that the Padres went out and signed Woo-Suk Go to a two year deal which was just made official. Go also doesn't have any MLB experience, but at least one report has him pegged as a closing option for San Diego as well, so what gives?
Padres signing Woo-Suk Go could cost Matsui some serious money
What matters here is the terms of Matsui's contract as he has several escalators in his deal that are contingent on him closing out games from 2024 to 2027. If he finishes 15 games, he gets an extra $150,000 and the money scales up every 10 games finished after that all the way to $500,000 if he finishes 55 games. If he doesn't end up closing games out, that is a few million bucks that doesn't go into his pocket.
These things have a way of sorting themselves out most of the time. Matsui is still probably the favorite to be the team's primary closer with Go as well as Robert Suarez being in the mix as well for high leverage opportunities. If Matsui doesn't end up sticking at closer, it will likely be for baseball reasons (performance, injury, etc.) and San Diego will look smart for not committing that money to him up front.
That said, there is a chance that things could get awkward pretty quickly if Matsui pitches well and he still ends up losing late game opportunities to other bullpen arms. Given that he can opt out of the deal after the 2026 season assuming his elbow stays healthy, the team is going to want to at least be purposeful in how they manage their bullpen this season especially when it comes to who is coming out of the 'pen and when.