Shortly after the Cubs designated left-hander Clayton Richard for assignment July 26, the 33-year-old rejoined the Padres, with whom he spent parts of five seasons from 2009-13. Richard fared respectably in his second stint in San Diego, which began Aug. 6, and he and manager Andy Green confirmed Saturday that there’s mutual interest in a new deal for the impending free agent, reports Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link).
In a disastrous final start of the season on Saturday, Richard allowed seven runs (four earned) on six hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings of a 9-5 loss to Arizona. But that outing wasn’t enough to sully the run-prevention numbers Richard posted with the Padres in just under two months. Overall, Richard threw 53 2/3 innings with the Friars and recorded a terrific 2.52 ERA, though he struck out only 34 hitters and issued 24 walks. Richard also logged below-average strikeout numbers in his first go-around with the Padres, yet he helped his cause with a 50.3 percent ground-ball rate and managed a usable 4.16 ERA across 636 2/3 innings. Richard’s trend of inducing grounders has continued since, as he registered a career-best 65.1 percent rate in 67 2/3 frames with the Cubs and Padres this season.
If the Padres do re-sign Richard, who made $2MM this year, he’ll likely factor into their rotation plans again in 2017. Richard was almost exclusively a reliever as a member of the Cubs, with whom he came out of the bullpen in 45 of 48 appearances, but has otherwise worked mostly as a starter since debuting with the White Sox in 2008. Notably, the rebuilding Padres aren’t exactly loaded with quality rotation options going into next year, and their best starter, Tyson Ross, could face surgery after missing nearly all of this season with shoulder issues. Christian Friedrich and Luis Perdomo look likely to take rotation spots in 2017 after combining for 43 starts this year, while Jarred Cosart and Paul Clemens represent a pair of other possibilities under team control.
Aside from a healthy version of Ross – something no one has seen since 2015 – that group inspires little confidence, which explains why the Padres’ rotation is among the league’s worst this year. That instability could lead the Padres to bring back Richard on a cheap deal to take the ball every fifth day and, if he continues producing decent results, perhaps turn into a trade chip around next summer’s deadline.