Padres ‘Pen Continues To Thrive After Winter Trades

Bullpens don’t get much better than the one the Padres had last year. Led by Heath Bell, Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson, Padres relievers combined for over 500 innings of 2.81 ERA ball, averaging more than one strikeout per inning while allowing the fewest walks per frame of any MLB bullpen. But the Padres had weaknesses elsewhere and teams were interested in San Diego’s relievers, so GM Jed Hoyer faced a decision last offseason. 


“We traded a bunch of quality arms, but that was our area of depth,” Hoyer told MLBTR. “We were quite weak up the middle a year ago.”

So the Padres parted with five of their relievers in the deals that brought Cameron Maybin and Jason Bartlett to San Diego. Gone are Edward Mujica, Ryan Webb, Cesar Ramos and Adam Russell, four pitchers who combined for 152 2/3 MLB innings last year, and Brandon Gomes, who struck out 93 batters in 72 1/2 Double-A innings and is now in the majors with the Rays.

The results – at least to this point – have Padres relievers among the league leaders in a number of categories. They’re first in MLB with a 2.10 ERA, second with 124 innings and 3.0 BB/9 and fourth with a 3.34 xFIP. (However, the relievers’ home run per fly ball rate is just 4.0% and opponents are hitting only .265 on balls in play, so luck appears to have been on the Padres’ side so far). 

Bell, Adams and Gregerson are back, which gives manager Bud Black three premium options to call on. Southpaw Cory Luebke, who made all of four appearances in 2010, leads San Diego relievers with 19 2/3 innings this year (9.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 3.66 ERA, 47% ground ball rate). Developing relievers like Luebke (pictured) and finding others on waivers or in free agency has helped the Padres replace Webb, Mujica and others.

“Our biggest challenge has been trying to replenish the depth we lost by trading so many arms,” Hoyer said. “That is something that we continue to do and will be an ongoing issue.” 

So far, the Padres signed Chad Qualls (5.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 2.33 ERA, 61% ground ball rate), claimed Pat Neshek and Samuel Deduno and promoted Luebke, Ernesto Frieri and Evan Scribner into more prominent roles. 

A lot is going wrong for the Padres, who have slipped to the bottom of their division and are last in the National League in scoring. But their offseason trades are paying off, as they strengthened his team at two premium positions without weakening their bullpen.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI. Click here for analysis of the Rays' remade 'pen.

14 Responses to Padres ‘Pen Continues To Thrive After Winter Trades Leave a Reply

  1. Bell trade proposals ad nauseum in 3-2-1.

    • AirmanSD 4 years ago

      I think even as Padres fans we have to admit that its more likely than not that Bell will be dealt this year. I for one would like to see the Padres lock him up for 3 years, but I can understand why the front office would rather not. So its hard to blame other fans from speculating on a rumor site about trades for Bell. Just hope that they can keep it reasonable, along with the Padres fans with what they should expect in a Bell deal.

      Hell its nice to see the Padres mentioned in something other then being lam-blasted for their offense. Its going to be a long couple of months for the Padres and us fans, but that the price you pay with how they got out of the gates.

    • marinest21 4 years ago

      I am thinking with all their talent in the minors and somewhat of a thin ‘pen, the Rangers look like the best fit. I have my ideas (“preferences”) of who I’d like back, but first I want to hear what you have in mind Mick.

      • I honestly have no idea at this point, it’s still fairly early. I will refer to a previous comment I had made, responding to someone essentially summing up my thoughts on the situation to avoid being redundant.

        Tim Valencia 3 days ago in reply to Bender44 “he isnt valuable to a team whose biggest strength is pitching. When you have the worst offense in the Majors there is no way you trade a top 3 closer for another starting pitcher.”

        Essentially I agree. I mean, the preference would be to acquire an offensive threat, or high upside offensive minded prospect. That’s what I would do. However, the Padres will go after the best player, or package period. I don’t believe that necessarily rules them out of acquiring a starting pitcher depending on the prospect and upside. Another thing to keep in mind, the outfielders or position players in general who will be coming up at the end of this year and to start next year.

        I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rizzo (the obvious one) and Darnell up this year. You will see Aaron Cunningham at some point. Jaff Decker and Blake Tekotte possibly some time next year. It really depends on how the Padres feel about the internal options. Which, right now many are playing extremely well. Pitching is still going to be a priority. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Padres acquire a highly touted starting pitcher if they believe internally there is not a match with certain teams for an outfielder or an offensive player that fits their specific philosophy.

        I would hardly say there is “no way” that happens.

        Again, it depends on the return.

  2. AirmanSD,

    I believe there is no doubt that he is dealt. With the depth in the pen, Adams just dominating. Heath is one of my favorite players. Like you, I would just hope to see realistic trade proposals.

    I once joked about Dominic Brown, people went crazy. lol. We (the Padres) are not receiving a top 20 prospect in return. I don’t see a top 50 prospect for him necessarily, as far as that goes. Of course as a Padre fan I hope a team will over pay. And that is not inconceivable.

  3. Kevin Charity 4 years ago

    It depends on which contending team is desperate enough. I say St. Louis, the Angels, Atlanta and Texas would have varying degrees of interest. Im sure the Padres would like a major league ready bat in return. I was hoping for Peter Bourjous, but Im sure theres no chance he comes back in a deal. It is inevitable that Heath is traded…

    • disgruntledreader 4 years ago

      Peter Burjous is the brass ring.

    • Ohhhplease 4 years ago

      Where do you put Bourjous? You don’t need another centerfielder, another Maybin, Denorfia unless Jed plans on having an entire outfield of gap hitters.

      • Sd_brain 4 years ago

        you do know we play in petco, right?

        • Ohhhplease 4 years ago

          Of course, but “we” play 81 games on the road also. I am not sure that you don’t attempt to have at least one “big bat”, instead of a complete lineup of gap hitters. Getting someone like Bourjous in return for Bell just seems redundant.

          I am not sure who “we” get in return, just not liking the Bourjous thought.

          • Sd_brain 4 years ago

            good point but i find it unrealistic that we could acquire a big bat as opposed to a player like Bourjous. To me i say acquire the player with the most upside that any team offers, regardless if it has to be straight up for bell.

  4. Mario Saavedra 4 years ago

    Yeah, trading 3 very useful young players and Cesar Ramos for Jason Bartlett is sure paying off… u__u’

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