Before the Dodgers acquired Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Nationals at the trade deadline, the Padres were known to also be in the hunt for both players, with San Diego reportedly coming particularly close to landing Scherzer before the Nats pivoted towards the Dodgers’ offer. Top catching prospect Luis Campusano was discussed as part of the Padres’ negotiations with Washington, and The Athletic’s Dennis Lin reports that the Padres also “dangled” Chris Paddack as part of the Scherzer talks.
Paddack (who just turned 26 earlier this month) tossed 108 1/3 innings last season, as he was limited by three separate trips to the injured list due to COVID-19, an oblique strain, and then a slight UCL sprain that ended his season in mid-September. The timing of that oblique strain could’ve played a role in Paddack’s deadline fate, as he pitched on July 27 but was then placed on the IL on July 31, the day after the deadline — the Padres might have taken Paddack off the table in trade talks knowing that he was about to be sidelined with an injury.
After posting a solid 3.74 ERA over 174 innings in 2019-20, Paddack took a step backwards in 2021, and it’s fair to guess that his injuries likely played some role in his lesser numbers. Plus, Paddack’s 5.07 ERA was surely impacted by a very low 60.7% strand rate, and his 4.05 SIERA paints a more favorable impression of last season’s performance.
That said, Paddack’s Statcast metrics were decidedly subpar aside from his excellent walk rate, and his hard-contact and strikeout rates were also both troublesome in 2020. Between these numbers and his injuries, it still isn’t quite clear after parts of three MLB seasons if Paddack can be a solid contributor to a rotation, or if he might ultimately be a fringe fifth starter or depth arm.
For this reason, San Diego could opt to keep Paddack until they know exactly what they have in a hard-throwing, controllable (through 2024) starting pitcher. While Paddack might have been available as part of a Scherzer trade package, that doesn’t necessarily mean the right-hander would be available for just anything now, plus other teams would surely gauge Paddack a little differently given his post-deadline injury woes.
As MLBTR’s Steve Adams observed earlier this week, the Padres technically have a rather a large surplus of rotation candidates if everyone is healthy, so Paddack or another arm could possibly be available in trade talks as San Diego looks to make other roster upgrades after the lockout. On the other hand, “if everyone is healthy” is a big if for a Padres team that had so many pitchers sidelined with injuries last season.
Both Lin and Adams noted that the Padres might simply want to hang onto all their rotation depth until they know who or who isn’t healthy. Paddack has also shown a degree of success at the MLB level already, so the Friars could prefer to keep such a big league-ready arm around as a rotation candidate, and instead look to move a pitcher who has little or no Major League experience.
Turning back to the deadline talks, it’s hard to compare offers since we don’t know the full scope of what exactly the Padres offered the Nationals for Scherzer and/or Turner. The combo of Paddack and Campusano was certainly enough to get the ball rolling on talks, but obviously more was required to actually get Washington to part ways with either of its stars. The Nats ended up accepting a four-player package (Keibert Ruiz, Josiah Gray and prospects Gerardo Carrillo and Donovan Casey) from L.A. for both Scherzer and Turner, headlined by big league-ready youngsters in Ruiz and Gray.