Veteran starting pitching will be a focus of the Padres’ offseason, and the team appears prepared to shop in the high end of the free agent market. Kevin Acee of The San Diego Union-Tribune writes that Marcus Stroman has been “mentioned” as part of the Padres’ “preliminary deliberations” about targets this winter.
To be clear, it would be surprising if Stroman wasn’t at least on the radar for any pitching-needy team, and it is too early in the Padres’ offseason to tell if these in-house deliberations will result in concrete interest. That said, Stroman would be a logical upgrade for a San Diego team looking to bolster its pitching corps.
On paper, the Padres have a full rotation of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Chris Paddack, and (returning from Tommy John surgery) Mike Clevinger, plus Dinelson Lamet and Ryan Weathers as further depth and Adrian Morejon as a midseason reinforcement once he completes his own TJ rehab. However, given all the injury concerns and lack of overall performance from this group down the stretch, it isn’t surprising that San Diego’s front office is looking for reinforcements. Stroman has had his share of injuries, though for the most part has been a durable arm, tossing at least 179 innings in four of his last five seasons.
After opting out of the 2020 season and then accepting the Mets’ qualifying offer for 2021, Stroman delivered one of the best campaigns of his seven-year career. Stroman posted a 3.02 ERA/3.95 SIERA over 179 IP with a 50.8% grounder rate and a 5.9% walk rate that was both well above league average and Stroman’s best walk rate since his 2014 rookie season. The right-hander’s 21.7% strikeout rate was a career best, if still a below average figure overall, though a very strong 31.6% chase rate is indication that Stroman left his share of batters guessing.
Stroman turns 31 in May, but between his track record and his 2021 success, it seems quite likely that he’ll land at least a four-year contract this winter, and maybe as many as five years. (His market is also helped by the fact that he is ineligible for another QO.) Signing Stroman would represent yet another major contract on the Padres’ books, and between the pre-existing commitments and a big arbitration class, the Padres might not have a ton of room to operate underneath the next Competitive Balance Tax threshold.
Both Cot’s Baseball Contracts and Roster Resource calculate that the Padres managed to stay under the $210MM luxury tax threshold in 2021, though the margin is close enough that we’ll have to wait for the official league accounting to be certain. Then again, Padres ownership has indicated a willingness to pay the tax under the right circumstances, and it is possible the current CBT system is overhauled in collective bargaining talks. The club could also explore moving some other salary to free up payroll and tax space, such as how the Padres has looked into trading the likes of Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers in recent years.