San Diego Padres: Projecting the 2024 starting rotation possibilities

Before projecting the 2024 San Diego Padres starting rotation, the front office must answer questions about the starting pitching depth or potentially the lack of.

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Pedro Avila
San Diego Padres starting pitcher Pedro Avila / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Should Blake Snell stay or go?

In 2023, Blake Snell lived up to expectations. He dominated (14-9 with a 2.25 ERA) on the mound and enjoyed his best season since winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2018. But Snell is a pending free agent, so the Padres must decide if they will offer him a long-term deal to remain in San Diego.

Even though Snell seems to have checked all the boxes, the Friars may not have enough room on the 2024 projected payroll budget to make such a big-money commitment.

Unknown status of Wacha and Lugo in 2024

The Padres are in the market for one starting pitcher, but that number could grow to three as we move further along this offseason. The area of concern is the future of Wacha and Lugo as the fourth and fifth starter in the rotation. Both pitchers are expected to opt out of their deals to test the free-agent market.

First, Lugo will decline his player option ($7.5 million 2024 salary) to seek a longer guarantee deal on the open market. Wacha’s contract is a little more complicated as the Padres hold a two-year, $32 million option. First, the organization must decline their option before Wacha can decline his three-year, $18.5 million option. Rejecting his contract would give the Friars more financial flexibility to improve the roster.

Wacha was the Padres' most consistent starting pitcher (14-4 with a 3.22 ERA) not named Snell. He rediscovered himself as a serviceable starting pitcher. Wacha struggled at the tail end of his St. Louis Cardinals career and the time spent with the New York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays. Surprisingly, he added more velocity on his fastball, but Wacha still is nothing more than a 5+ innings starter.

Lugo is coming off a successful first season as a full-time starter. He did miss time due to a calf injury, but Lugo showed he was an innings-eater. Lugo pitched 146.1 innings in 26 starts. He never lost confidence in his attempt to become an effective starting pitcher. Some questioned the motivation, especially after having great success coming out of the bullpen. The Padres offered an opportunity, and Lugo showed his worth.

There is no guarantee that Wacha and Lugo will wear the brown and gold next Opening Day. Each pitcher should have a fair number of suitors this winter.