The San Diego Padres need to focus on getting more starting pitchers, as Nick Martinez and Seth Lugo are two huge question marks at the back end of their rotation. Having said that, there exists a universe in which AJ Preller decides to move forward with those two pitchers and build an unbstoppable bullpen.
The Padres have one of the game's best closers in Josh Hader, and the five-year contract given to Robert Suarez shows an investment in their standout free agent find. That still might not be enough to complete their bullpen totally. One more veteran arm is needed.
Despite the fact that the Boston Red Sox have had one of the worst bullpens in the league for the last two seasons, the team decided to part ways with veteran relief pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura. The latest reports suggest that the 34-year-old would prefer to find MLB offers over returning to Japan.
The Padres might be able to get a quality MLB reliever for a fraction of what it would normally cost to add someone with his numbers. Sawamura is a quality veteran who should be able to come right in and get big outs for a Padres team that needs that experienced edge.
Can the San Diego Padres add Hirokazu Sawamura?
Sawamura posted a 3.39 ERA and 132 ERA+ in the last two seasons, making it even more confusing as to why the Red Sox decided to part ways with him. His hard splitter and quality fastball control make him a difficult pitcher to stand in against when he's locating.
Sawamura's big problem last year was getting swings and misses with his fastball, as batters hit .298 against that pitch. If he can get that issue corrected while keeping his batting average against under .200 for both his splitter and slider, he could once again become a near-elite middle reliever.
In a league where having a deep bullpen is more valuable than ever before, and with a rotation that is low on innings eaters, being able to pitch for six frames might be a winning formula. Sawamura in the seventh, Suarez in the eighth, and Hader in the ninth is quite a trio.
With Hader a free agent after this season and the possibility of resigning him potentially lined with financial troubles due to the club's big balance sheet, this is Preller's one chance to build a bullpen that completely shuts down the rest of the NL West. Sawamura could be key to unlocking their full potential.