So far this offseason has been a doozy for Padres fans. We lost Sunshine to Tommy John surgery, and await the fate of Dinelson Lamet feeling as if something season-ending is just around the corner.
However, we also picked up certified ace and former Cy Young Award-Winner, Blake Snell, signed Korean superstar Ha-seong Kim, and oh, completed one of the more lopsided trades in recent history for one of the best pitchers of the last decade Yu Darvish.
Despite the ups and downs there is still one thing nagging at me that I can’t seem to shake. It glares at me with every single Baseball experts Padres starting rotation tweets – Chris Paddack.
Paddack started his Padres career on the highest of high notes. Mowing down batters with an overwhelming confidence and a country swagger that earned him the nickname “The Sheriff”. He was also mystifying analysts with a 2-pitch arsenal that was destined to bring him back down to Earth at some point.
In 2020 it did just that. Although he tried to mix in a 3rd pitch to his limited bag of tricks it never really panned out. All the back roads country bravado in the world wasn’t going to overshadow the ballooning stats.
The confidence the fans had placed in him also quickly faded, and despite short-lived glimpses into his 2019 form Paddack went from Sheriff to Deputy real quick. The biggest issue in all of Paddack’s 2020 woes was finding the one thing to blame it on, and the lack of pitches seemed to be the main culprit. The league figured him out, his adjustments seemed half-hearted and his confidence was nowhere to be found.
This is where I find myself confused when almost every single Baseball talking-head and writer has him locked in the rotation for the Padres in 2021. Why? What did they see in 2020 that would in their minds GUARANTEE him that spot? Yes, a sophomore slump could have definitely been the case, but nothing about the way Paddack carried himself would indicate he tried to snap out of it. If Paddack is what he is then wouldn’t we be better served to pitch Gore or Morejon or Weathers in those spots? I think so, yes.
Then what do you do with Paddack? Well, he’s not gonna like it, and a lot of Padres fans aren’t going to either:
I know, I know – what? He isn’t gonna want to go to the bullpen! I hear you! Where’s he gonna pitch we have two closers, a setup guy, and somewhat solid middle relief! I realize that.
However, Paddack’s limited arsenal, hyper-confidence and blown-out-of-proportion character all but beg him to be a closer. And, he could be quite affective in that role. Especially since right now we don’t really have a closer. Of course if Kirby Yates re-signs, who is beloved on this team, he would be the closer. We also might hold on to Trevor Rosenthal who took to Padres Twitter with a fury not seen since Padres former ace Phil Hughes. If Yates is a Padre in 2021, he would hold onto the closer role as long as talent allowed, pushing Rosenthal to the 8th or 7th and alternating that spot with Drew Pomeranz. Again, this is all assuming Yates, Rosenthal and Pomeranz are in the brown and gold next season.
So, where does that leave Paddack in 2021? Well, it leaves him in middle relief. Honestly, it leaves him in the spot he should be in. He’s shown he can’t be an innings eater, and he’s shown his age is still dictating his intensity, which in turn is affecting his pitching. He has a lot to learn, and with the Padres continuing to push for a World Series run every season, we can’t have a less talented Jake Peavy getting in the way of team success because he can’t get a grip on his emotions.
Ultimately, after a planned season in the bullpen a few things will need to be figured out. But, this is where unlike right now Paddack will have choices. It would be impossible to not see him start a few games in 2021 even if he was relegated to the bullpen and that’s because injuries are going to happen. Let’s say he crushes those starts, and forces ownerships hands into another shot at the rotation. Awesome! No one would be upset with that result. However, let’s say he does well in the bullpen. Nothing flashy per se, but is solid. Great! He could be the guy in relief we can’t wait to get to!
But, let’s say he’s lights-out in relief. He’s relentless. When he comes in you know the other team is fucked. If that becomes the case it would only make sense to try him in the lockdown role, and at that point there could be a new Sheriff in town. This would also be a win, because the team at that point could trade some pieces or Paddack himself since they now have a surplus of closers.
Or Paddack says no to this idea of going to the bullpen in general. Not that he necessarily can, but he could make life miserable for a lot of people. He is still coveted around the league, and of course by the Padres, but forcing a trade wouldn’t be unlikely or even frowned upon, and in that scenario I like Preller’s chances at landing some low-level talent in exchange. Another win!
I made this case for Andrew Cashner years ago, and was told I was an idiot mainly because guys want to be starters not closers. I was told a starter’s payday is vastly larger, but that really only matters if you’re a good to great starter, not a mediocre one who can’t stop giving up homeruns. And, even though the Cashner days weren’t that long ago, the payday for lights-out relievers has skyrocketed since especially given the way starters are being used nowadays. So, the “starters make more money” argument only really counts if the people think the starter might make it out of the 4th inning.
If you’re Paddack would you rather be a sought after reliever or whoever the 5th starter for the Orioles is? That’s a real question. Money is a factor, but for guys like Paddack who get off on the hype, the emotions, being fawned after and celebrated, being Josh Hader has to carry more appeal than being Jordan Lyles.
Of course there’s a lot to still be figured out. We still might snag Trevor Bauer or another veteran arm further pushing Paddack’s future in to question. We could head into Spring Training and Paddack could be mowing down dudes once again. Paddack has a lot of talent, and he’s passionate about being dominate, which you should never discount. No one wants him to fail, but he now finds himself in the backend of one of the better rotations in Baseball and few bad starts from being relegated to the bullpen or back to the minors.
Will the Sheriff reclaim his badge and get back to cleaning up the NL West?
I guess we’ll find out, but personally, I’d like to see him slow walking from the bullpen in the 9th, while he hear sound effects of old west shootouts and snippets of monologues from Tombstone, Unforgiven, Shane, and of course ending with unforgettable line from Young Guns II, “I’ll make ya famous.” echoing throughout Petco.
For more expert sports stuff, and things you probably won’t care about, follow me on Twitter @dallas_mc