Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why the Padres Should Sign: Brandon Beachy

Total Pro Sports
The San Diego Padres are in desperate need of offense, there is no denying that. The team had the single worst offense in the major leagues, and one of the worse offenses in major league history. Yasmani Grandal, arguably the team's best hitter, posted a .221 batting average. The team's pitching was strong, but they were burned when they signed former ace Josh Johnson (a deal I called for) to a one year contract, worth eight million dollars. Before opening day of 2014, it was announced that Johnson was slated for his second Tommy John surgery of his career. He did not throw a single pitch for the Padres. The deal was not insured, and the team declined its four million dollar option for the 2015 season on him. They paid eight million dollars to Johnson to rehab with them.

About six months before Johnson received his prognosis, another once promising pitcher had his second Tommy John surgery. Brandon Beachy came back from his first surgery, to make just fourteen starts (with just five coming in the major leagues) in 2013. He was forced to undergo a second operation, which took him out of commission for 2014 and beginning of the 2015 season. Now 28, Beachy will enter the free agent market for the first time in his career. In just 270 major league innings over four seasons, Beachy has struck out an impressive 275 and posted a 3.23 ERA. 

Where do the Padres and Brandon Beachy's paths intersect? An offense-starved team that has been burned by injury-prone starting pitchers and an injury-prone starting pitcher fit together? The Padres traded all-star closer Huston Street to the Angels at the trade deadline. They still have Joaquin Benoit, Alex Torres, and Kevin Quackenbush... but a bullpen can never be too good. If the Padres are serious about competing in 2015 (like the reports say), then they'd better pay attention to their bullpen.

Here is where Beachy fits in. A conversion to relief pitcher could inject his career with some much needed energy. Brandon Beachy has lost almost two miles an hour of velocity on his fastball. A move to the bullpen could help reverse that trend, while taking pressure off an already fragile arm. He has had major durability issues, evidenced by the fact that he hasn't exceeded one hundred fifty innings pitched in any season. According to some Fangraphs sabermetrics, Beachy has two above average pitches (his fastball and slider) and two below average pitches (his curveball and change-up). Eliminating his curveball and change-up, with an uptick in velocity, and the guidance of Bud Black and Darren Balsley could take Beachy to an elite level as a reliever.

The Padres are experienced in using starting pitchers as relievers. Burch Smith, Cory Luebke, Tim Stauffer, and Alex Torres all began their careers as starting pitchers, but ended up spending time in the bullpen. For the most part, they have all put together successful campaigns out of the bullpen, though few of the pitchers took a late inning relief role. Most of them slotted into a long relief role, and saw few high leverage situations. Alex Torres, an exception, made his transition with the Rays, and then came to the Padres as a late inning reliever. A move from starter to setup man (or closer) may be unprecedented for the Padres, but it could reap enormous benefits.

Both parties could see significant gains from a signing. Beachy could turn his career around, and re-enter the free agent market at the age of thirty, poised for a much larger contract. The Padres could gain an elite reliever to supplement an already strong bullpen. Beachy had a projected arbitration award of 1.5 million dollars, and the Braves non-tendered him. He would presumably cost less than this, bringing the Padres a cheap arm who would also have arbitration eligibility through 2016. He would be a very low risk, high reward investment... that would have little to no bearing on the team's hunt for offense.

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