With Manny Machado agreeing to a 10-year deal worth a record-breaking $300 million, the San Diego Padres are taking monumental steps towards fielding a competitive ball club. But if they’re truly serious about contending this season, they’ll need starting pitching – and Dallas Keuchel is available.
After months of speculation, it’s San Diego that Manny Machado will call home after the Padres wedged themselves into the forefront of the negotiation process and it paid off as they come away winners fo the Machado sweepstakes.
The Padres already boasted the No.1 farm system baseball, featuring No. 7 overall prospect SS Fernando Tatis Jr. as well as top pitching prospect Mckenzie Gore, but in terms of big-league talent, the current roster lacks in that department. Eric Hosmer will begin the second year of his 8 year deal worth $144, Wil Myers is still a thing and apparently moving to the outfield again, and Hunter Renfroe is coming off his best season as a Padre with a 2.4 bWAR. The team did add veteran infielder Ian Kinsler on a two-year $8 mil deal, giving them a surprisingly respectable lineup when Machado is added to the mix.
And while that list of players may be underwhelming, just take a gander at who the Padres consistently started on the mound last season. Clayton Richard led the team in innings pitched at 158.2, Joey Lucchesi led the staff with a 4.08 ERA, and Tyson Ross returned for a lackluster homecoming season in San Diego. And only Lucchesi is set to return to the club this year, along with Eric Lauer who started 23 games and finished with a 4.34 ERA in 2018. To put it simply: The Padres are hurting for starting pitching.
The Padres, who didn’t want to wade into the free agency waters until Machado was guaranteed in-tow, need a front-line starter. Luckily the market is chock-full of starting options, but none are at the level of former AL Cy- Young and current free agent Dallas Keuchel. With a career 3.66 ERA and 7.2 K/9, Keuchel isn’t exactly the typical ace a team expects to have at the top of their rotation. But a move like this would the Padres would be similar to the Cubs signing Jon Lester in 2015.
The then 31-year-old Lester, while not the elite strike-out machine Keuchel was the same season, the veteran helped guide a young collection of pitchers including Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks and elevate their play as the season went on. Adding Keuchel, who is also suffering from a severe decrease in strikeouts since mowing down a career-high 216 batters in 2015, just having a veteran presence of someone like Keuchel improves this club.
Keuchel is represented by super agent Scott Boras, and despite the slow market, it’s hard to envision Boras not landing the top free agent starter a multi-year contract worth at least $100+ mil. But with the market of interested teams thinning out and San Diego still with money to spend despite projections having surpassed the second luxury tax bracket.
But the Padres are serious about making this club a competitor now, this would be the time to invest in talent like Machado and Keuchel – while their budding farm system is about to start producing talent. If the Padres can find the perfect balance of young prospects and veteran free agents to infuse with the hold-overs from last season, San Diego may be more than just a pretty place to watch a baseball game.