San Diego Padres: This offseason move looks like a mistake

Championship Series - San Diego Padres v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Five
Championship Series - San Diego Padres v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Five / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The San Diego Padres have played decent but not great baseball. At times, the team has the look of having a clear path to the National League West division crown. On other days, the wheels come off before the seventh-inning stretch.

What is the problem? Sometimes, an offseason move has the makings of being a mistake due to circumstances beyond everyone's control. And the biggest for the Padres is re-signing relief pitcher Robert Suarez to a five-year, $46 million deal. It is a name that we have not heard this season, but you cannot write Suarez off for 2023 just yet.

San Diego Padres: Robert Suarez arrives as reliever after disastrous start

In 2022, Suarez had more to prove than anyone on the Friars roster. But he struggled in the closer’s role, which forced the Friars to trade for Josh Hader before the deadline. Instead of sulking, Suarez changed his approach on the mound. It transformed him into a quality setup reliever.

He struggled to locate his pitches that gave hitters the advantage in the at-bat. Suarez became more aggressive in throwing strikes early in the count. This adjustment allowed him to pump the ball into the high 90s for strikes. His new demeanor on the mound proved him to be a valuable piece of the Friars' memorable postseason run.

By season's end, he finished with an outstanding rookie campaign. Suarez recorded a 2.27 ERA and 1.049 WHIP in 45 appearances. The Friars rewarded him with a new contract, which confirmed that last season was no fluke.

Elbow injury could derail 2023 season for Suarez

Injuries have a lot to do with San Diego's troubles, especially losing Suarez, who was placed on the 15-day injured list toward the end of March after experiencing tightness in his right elbow. However, in late April, he was transferred to the 60-day IL.

The Padres sent Suarez for an MRI, and the imaging showed joint inflammation in the back of the elbow but no structural damage. The doctors suggested keeping Suarez off a throwing program until his arm is fully healed. It sounds like the injury could be far worse than diagnosed originally.

Right now, there is no ideal scenario. Injuries of this nature need time to heal. Suarez cannot participate in baseball activities until his elbow is 100 percent. Thus, no definitive timeline for his return to the roster has been set. Suarez will be out long enough to build his arm strength back. It will take time for him to find a rhythm on the mound again.

The Padres are wise to exercise caution, but his absence has hurt the bullpen's effectiveness late in games. If Suarez cannot return, it may force the Friars to be in the market for a late-inning specialist.

However, all plans are put on hold until the Padres get a definitive diagnosis of Suarez's ailing elbow. Hopefully, the answer does not come too late.