7:25pm: Talks between the two sides have also involved Minnesota closer Taylor Rogers, report Kevin Acee and Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link). There are certainly more players than just Paddack and Rogers in discussions, but the clubs are evidently contemplating scenarios that could see either team land immediate big league help.
6:36pm: The Twins and Padres are working on a trade that would send right-hander Chris Paddack to Minnesota, reports Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic (Twitter link). San Diego has been kicking the tires on possible Paddack deals in recent days.
Paddack, 26, has spent the past three years in the San Diego rotation. The Padres acquired the Texas native from the Marlins in a 2016 trade that sent closer Fernando Rodney to South Florida. It quickly became apparent that was a heist for San Diego, as Paddack developed into one of the sport’s better pitching prospects not long after.
The Friars carried Paddack on their Opening Day roster in 2019. He looked like a mid-rotation arm in the making as a rookie, working 140 2/3 innings of 3.33 ERA ball. Paddack punched out a strong 26.9% of batters faced that year while only walking 5.5% of opponents. The 21.5 point gap between his strikeout and walk percentages checked in 17th among 130 hurlers with 100+ innings pitched.
Unfortunately, Paddack hasn’t built upon that success in the past two seasons. He pitched to a 4.73 ERA over 12 starts during the truncated 2020 schedule. That looked to be a possible small-sample blip, inflated by the fact that one in every four fly balls he allowed cleared the fences. Yet his ERA jumped again last year, checking in at 5.07 in 108 1/3 frames.
Paddack’s home run rate came back to earth, but he allowed nearly 40% of baserunners to score. That’s more a product of poor sequencing than anything else, and the Twins presumably believe he’ll more closely approximate his 76.4% strand rate of 2019-20 than last season’s mark moving forward. That said, one can’t approximate Paddack’s recent struggles entirely to home run and baserunner luck.
In each of the past two seasons, Paddack’s strikeout rate has dipped relative to the year prior. Last year’s 21.6% mark was a couple points below the league average, although his swinging strike rate has held steady in the 11% range. Perhaps even more concerning, he has allowed hard contact well above the league mark in each of the past two years. Paddack particularly struggled with right-handed batters last season, allowing same-handed opponents to put up a .325/.354/.547 line.
Those factors make him a difficult pitcher to value. He still sports excellent control, throws in the mid-90s, and owns an excellent changeup. Yet he’s also prone to a lot of hard contact and has seen his results go downhill over the past couple years. Moreover, he ended last season on the injured list due to inflammation in his throwing elbow. That hasn’t impacted him this spring, but it’s at least of moderate concern to any team considering acquiring him.
Paddack and the Padres agreed to a $2.25MM salary to avoid arbitration. He’ll be controllable via that process through 2024. There’s a case for the Padres to hold onto him in hopes of a bounceback, but it’s not clear there’s room for him in the rotation. Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, the recently-acquired Sean Manaea and Nick Martínez (whom they signed to a four-year deal this offseason) look like the season-opening starting five. Mike Clevinger will begin the year on the IL but will have a rotation spot whenever he returns. The Friars also have Ryan Weathers, one-time top prospect MacKenzie Gore and Reiss Knehr as depth options for any inevitable injury concerns.
Given that plethora of arms, the Friars have contemplated dealing from both their rotation depth. San Diego has reportedly been looking to upgrade in the corner outfield, but Rogers’ inclusion in talks with the Twins demonstrates the possibility for upgrades on other areas of the roster.
Rogers, 31, has emerged as one of the sport’s better late-inning arms. He posted an ERA between 2.61 and 3.07 in each season between 2017-19, tossing 55+ innings in all three years. The southpaw allowed a bit more than four runs per nine in the shortened 2020 season, but his underlying numbers remained excellent and he returned to form last year.
In 2021, the University of Kentucky product worked to a 3.35 mark over 40 1/3 innings. He punched out a career-high 35.5% of batters faced while walking only 4.8% of opponents, averaging a personal-best 95.5 MPH on his heater. Among relievers with 40+ frames, only Liam Hendriks, Josh Hader, Raisel Iglesias and Craig Kimbrel had a bigger strikeout/walk rate differential than Rogers’ 30.7 point gap.
With the Twins reeling towards a last-place finish, Rogers was a frequently-mentioned trade target leading up to the summer trade deadline. He sprained the middle finger on his pitching hand in late July, though, essentially killing any chance of a midseason deal. That proved a season-ending malady.
The Twins have been aggressive this offseason in an attempt to immediately bounce back. There’s not been much indication Rogers was available in trade this winter, yet he’s entering his final year of club control. He’ll play the 2022 campaign on a $7.3MM salary before hitting the open market, where he’s on track to be one of the top relievers available.
That dwindling window of control could increase Minnesota’ comfort parting with Rogers, particularly if the deal allows them to address a rotation that looks like the club’s weak point. The Twins have added Sonny Gray, Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer to join Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober in the starting five.
Both Bundy and Archer are coming off miserable 2021 seasons tarnished by injury. Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey has expressed confidence in the internal options, particularly with highly-regarded prospect Josh Winder on hand as the likely first call in the event of injury. Still, there’s enough uncertainty that adding to that group if the opportunity presented itself always seemed likely. There’s no guarantee a deal will get across the finish line, but the Twins pursuit of Paddack reflects they’re not averse to picking up another arm.