San Diego’s bullpen currently projects to be anchored by closer Joaquin Benoit, who is earning $8MM in the second season of a two-year, $15.5MM pact. His contract comes with an $8MM club option ($1.5MM buyout). Beyond Benoit, Kevin Quackenbush, Brandon Maurer, Shawn Kelley, Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer, Frank Garces and Odrisamer Despaigne are all candidates for the bullpen, making for eight total relievers.
Of that group, Quackenbush, Vincent, Maurer and Garces are all relatively young and have several years of team control remaining, making them perhaps unlikelier to be dealt than their counterparts. (Then again, the same could have been said of Torres.) Despaigne seems likely to be the long man, though it wouldn’t be inconceivable for the Padres to find an alternative long relief option should he draw significant interest. Kelley was just acquired this offseason, so it seems unlikely that he’d be flipped again so close to the regular season. Thayer, earning $1.38MM after avoiding arbitration for the first time this winter at 34 years of age, might be the most logical trade candidate, but he was excellent in 2014 and has been a generally useful relief arm for the Friars over the past three seasons.
It’s unclear exactly how serious any talks regarding their relievers are, but the Friars do have options in the event that they part with one of their relievers. Robbie Erlin would seem capable of stepping into the bullpen, though he’s been optioned to Triple-A already this spring. Right-hander Jandel Gustave, a Rule 5 pick by the Royals (out of the Astros organization), was claimed by the Padres last week, and Lin tweeted earlier in the night that the team may be able to work out a trade with the Astros to keep him (he did characterize that scenario as “unlikely”). The Padres could also simply choose to hang onto the hard-throwing righty and use him in low-leverage situations, though it’s difficult for a team that plans to contend to justify using a roster spot in such a manner.
Of course, San Diego could potentially receive a different relief option back in a trade of one of their current ’pen members. Flipping someone like Thayer or Vincent for a second lefty behind Garces could make some sense, as he’s currently slotted to be the only left-handed option for manager Bud Black following the Torres trade. (Non-roster invitee Chris Rearick could factor into the equation as well.)
The Blue Jays and Tigers are two teams that are oft-cited as searching for bullpen help, though recent reports have indicated that the Twins, too, are on the hunt for relief upgrades. The Marlins were known to be looking at relief options late in the offseason, and the Dodgers have incurred multiple bullpen setbacks as well this spring. Suffice it to say, if the Padres are willing to deal from what should be a sound bullpen, they’ll likely have no shortage of interested parties with which to exchange ideas.