The Padres, eyeing upgrades in their bullpen, are in talks with a pair of somewhat under-the-radar options on the free-agent market. FanSided’s Robert Murray tweets that San Diego is in talks with righty Luis Garcia, while The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports (also via Twitter) that the Friars are in serious discussions with right-hander Robert Suarez.
Garcia, 35 in January, had a resurgent with the Cardinals after joining the organization on a minor league deal over the summer. Through 33 1/3 innings, the former Phillies, Rangers and Angels hurler worked to a 3.24 ERA with a strong strikeout (25.2%), walk (5.9%) and ground-ball rates (45.7%) while quickly working his way up the ladder into high-leverage situations (11 holds, two saves).
While Garcia has had his share of success in the past, the 2021 version of the right-hander was the best yet. His 98.7 mph average fastball was a career-best, as were his 14.9% swinging-strike rate and that 25.2% strikeout rate. It’s still worth pointing out, however, that Garcia’s longstanding troubles against left-handed batters were as pronounced as ever in 2021. He overwhelmed opposing righties, holding them to a putrid .152/.190/.177 batting line in 84 plate appearances. However, lefties teed off at a .289/.353/.511 clip in 54 trips to the plate and tagged him for the only two long balls he yielded.
Suarez, 31 in March, is perhaps an unknown to many readers but is squarely on the radar of Major League clubs this winter. The Venezuelan-born righty has never pitched in the Majors but has spent several years in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, splitting his time between the SoftBank Hawks (2016-19) and the Hanshin Tigers (2020-21). The righty has an outstanding track record in general but enjoyed a dominant campaign in 2021, pitching to a 1.16 ERA with a 25.3% strikeout rate and a microscopic 3.5% walk rate with 42 saves in 62 1/3 frames.