Padres Notes: Suzuki, Closer Situation, Abrams
In a Monday mailbag, Dennis Lin of The Athletic poured cold water on pre-lockout reports that the Padres had targeted Nick Castellanos to fill an outfield/DH vacancy, but he did suggest the club might enter the sweepstakes for Japanese slugger Seiya Suzuki when free agency resumes. While fitting Suzuki into their payroll might require finding a taker for at least a portion of the salary due to Eric Hosmer or Wil Myers on the trade market, principal owner Peter Seidler has indicated the club’s budget has at least a bit of room for growth, though this could depend on luxury tax provisions in the new CBA (the Padres slightly exceeded the threshold last season, and the previous deal included escalating penalties for repeat offenders). The longtime Hiroshima Toyo Carp outfielder, who might offer the highest bang-for-the-buck potential among remaining free agent outfielders, won’t command nearly the salary sought by Castellanos or Kris Bryant (MLBTR projects Suzuki will sign for five years and $55MM). Including projections for arbitration-eligible players, the Padres are presently on the hook for just shy of $199MM in 2022 salary (via Jason Martinez of Roster Resource).
Though the Giants and Mariners appear to be the industry favorites to sign Suzuki, Padres fans have learned never to put anything past GM and president of baseball operations A. J. Preller, particularly given Seidler’s repeated willingness to green-light moves that commit the club to significant years and dollars. As Lin notes, the Padres had only three above-average lineup regulars (Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and Jake Cronenworth) in 2021. Suzuki’s bat is hardly a sure thing — Friars fans will note the significant adjustment difficulties of KBO import Ha-Seong Kim in 2021, though the versatile infielder did provide significant value with his glove — but his career .315/.414/.541 line at Japan’s highest level (.317/.433/.539 in 2021) offers plenty to dream on.
A few other Padres notes as we wait out the (rather bleak) CBA negotiations:
- In the same mailbag, Lin discussed the Padres’ closer situation, which remains unsettled following the departure of 2021 NL saves leader Mark Melancon to the Diamondbacks. Drew Pomeranz is the obvious choice for a ninth-inning role, but he’s coming off surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon that ended his 2021 season in August. Lin notes that both Emilio Pagan and the recently signed Robert Suarez have experience in the role, but Pagan had a less-than-stellar 2021 (4.83 ERA, 5.22 FIP) and all of Suarez’s 68 career saves came in Japan, where he’s played since 2016. Should the Padres no longer view him as a starter, Dinelson Lamet could also be an option, though new manager Bob Melvin may prefer to use him in a multi-inning role. In any event, Lin expects the Padres to address lineup questions before turning to the bullpen. They could turn to one or several of low-cost options with histories of big-league success, a list that includes Brad Hand, Chris Martin, Archie Bradley, Adam Ottavino, Sergio Romo, Yusmeiro Petit, Mychal Givens, Sean Doolittle, Pedro Strop, Richard Rodriguez, and Tyler Clippard.
- Consensus top-10 prospect CJ Abrams, who missed the second half of the 2021 season after suffering a broken tibia and torn MCL in late-June infield collision and had recently dealt with shoulder issues, has been cleared to resume baseball activities, reports Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Prior to the injury, the 21-year-old shortstop compiled a .296/.363/.420 batting line in a 42-game sample at Double-A San Antonio. As he’s not yet on the Padres’ 40-man roster, Abrams is not affected by the lockout and could play in mini-camp games in short order. Though he’s certain to begin 2022 in the minors, Abrams is a potential candidate for a late-season call-up should his bat continue to show life in the upper minors, particularly if Fernando Tatis Jr.’s shoulder issues persist or manager Bob Melvin revisits plans to deploy Tatis in the outfield.