Padres sign best remaining free agent to bolster starting rotation

Sep 27, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) throws
Sep 27, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Michael Wacha (52) throws / Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres starting rotation spearheaded their run to the NLCS last season. While the offense struggled to cobble together consistent dominant performance, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and Blake Snell brought their best seemingly every time they toed the rubber in October.

The hope is the Padres' starting staff will be as good, if not better, in 2023.

So much of the discourse surrounding San Diego has surrounded the offense, and understandably so after they signed Xander Bogaerts to an 11-year contract to team up with Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Juan Soto.

Only just recently have folks started to focus on the pitching staff. That'll happen when you sign your de facto ace to a six-year extension that will take him through his age-42 season. It's a gamble, but one the Padres are counting on paying off given Darvish's commitment to his craft and age-friendly mechanics.

Incredibly, Darvish will have a new running mate in San Diego's rotation in 2023. Did you really think AJ Preller was done making moves?

According to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, the Padres have agreed to a deal with starter Michael Wacha, pending a physical.

The Padres have reportedly signed RHP Michael Wacha

For the second time this offseason -- Bogaerts marking the first instance -- Preller has signed the best free agent on the market.

If Wacha wasn't the top free agent left standing, he's certainly the best starting pitcher after a resurgent 2022 in Boston. After a forgettable three-year stretch spanning 2019-21, Wacha produced a 3.32 ERA over 127.1 innings for the Red Sox. His 6% walk rate was a sight to behold, and his home runs per nine innings dropped to 1.27 after it was up near 1.90 in the previous three seasons.

Though a signing worth celebrating, we wouldn't go penciling Wacha into the rotation to start the season. Nick Martinez and Seth Lugo are expected to assume the No. 4 and 5 rotation spots out of the gates. Once one of them convert back to the bullpen, Wacha will likely be the next man up in the rotation.

Lugo hasn't topped 100 innings since 2018, or started more more than seven games since 2017, so odds are he'll give way to Wacha.

Who knows? Maybe Bob Melvin goes with a six-man rotation to start the year -- akin to the start of last season -- and Wacha gets the nod. The Padres other internal options for a spot in the rotation include Julio Teheran, Pedro Avila, Adrian Morejon, Reiss Knehr, and Jay Groome.

A former All-Star in 2015, Wacha's advanced metrics in 2022 weren't pretty, and he'll allow traffic on the bases (7.8 hits per nine innings), but Padres fans couldn't have dreamed of a better addition to the pitching staff this late in the offseason.

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