12:35pm: The Padres have agreed to re-sign lefty Clayton Richard to a one-year deal, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. He’ll earn $1.75MM, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter).
Richard and the Padres have already had their formal reunion, so this move represents a continuation of a revived partnership that began way back at the 2009 trade deadline. San Diego picked up Richard as a big part of the swap that sent righty Jake Peavy to the White Sox.
Long a member of the Padres rotation, Richard turned in some quality seasons but left the organization after his shoulder issues resurfaced in 2013. After a brief 2014 appearance in the minors with the Diamondbacks, he joined the Pirates in advance of the 2015 season. With Richard showing well at Triple-A, he was able to make use of an “upward mobility” clause in his contract; when the Cubs showed interest in adding him to their MLB roster, he was back in the bigs.
That 2015 campaign was a good one for the veteran, though he returned primarily in a long relief role. Over his 42 1/3 innings, Richard worked to a 3.83 ERA with 4.7 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9. That led to a $2MM major-league contract in the ensuing winter. But things didn’t work out quite as well the second time around in Chicago; over his 14 frames in 25 appearances, he managed only a 6.43 ERA with as many walks as strikeouts (seven apiece).
Cut loose by the Cubs, Richard headed back to San Diego and turned things around — at least in terms of the bottom-line results. Over nine starts and a pair of relief appearances, he turned in 53 2/3 innings of 2.52 ERA ball. Of course, it’s important to bear in mind that he still managed only 5.7 K/9 to go with 4.0 BB/9, though Richard also ended the year with a career-best 65.1% groundball rate over his 67 2/3 total frames.
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With opportunity aplenty in the Padres’ rotation, it seems likely that Richard will enter camp with the expectation of securing a starting job. But if that doesn’t work out, or if he falters during the season, it’s certainly possible that he could end up spending time in the pen as well. Despite the middling K/BB numbers last year, Richard did show signs of hope for the coming season. Beyond the groundball advances, Richard also sported an average fastball velocity in his typical career range (91.2 mph) and boasted a personal-best swinging-strike rate of 8.5%, due in part to the fact that he got hitters to chase and whiff even as he worked out of the zone at by far the lowest levels of his career (42.6%).