The Padres are shutting down Yu Darvish for the rest of the season, skipper Bob Melvin told reporters (including Dennis Lin of the Athletic). Testing revealed an olecranon stress reaction in the veteran righty’s throwing elbow.
Darvish has been on the injured list since August 26. The issue was first diagnosed as inflammation. The stress reaction is more serious, though it’s expected that Darvish will be able to rehab the injury without surgery. There’s little reason for the Friars to take chances with any notable player now that their playoff hopes are dashed.
The 37-year-old Darvish is a key rotation member beyond this season. Last winter, San Diego signed him to an extension which tacked on five years and $90MM in new money. It’s a bold investment that runs through the pitcher’s age-41 campaign.
While Darvish was coming off a 3.10 ERA showing last season, he didn’t replicate that production in 2023. He concludes his year with a 4.56 ERA across 24 starts and 136 1/3 innings. His underlying marks didn’t have the same level of decline, however. Darvish’s fastball velocity still sat just under 95 MPH on average. His strikeout rate dropped just one percentage point from 25.6% to 24.6%, while he lost less than one point on his swinging strike percentage. He issued a few more walks and allowed a bit more hard contact, but his profile beyond the ERA doesn’t look all that different from prior seasons.
It’s crucial for the Padres that Darvish perform at a mid-rotation or better level next year. The Friars have plenty of uncertainty in the starting staff. Blake Snell is headed to free agency. Seth Lugo is almost certain to join him by declining a $7.5MM player option. Each of Michael Wacha and Nick Martinez (the latter of whom has again worked almost exclusively in relief anyways) have complex options on their contracts but could potentially hit free agency themselves.
Darvish and Joe Musgrove — who is also on the injured list and might not return this season — are the only pitchers assured of spots in next year’s rotation. The upcoming free agent class is deep in starting pitching, so president of baseball operations A.J. Preller and his staff figure to add two or more arms from the open market.