The San Diego Padres remain active on all fronts this offseason. They signed Yu Darvish to an extension last week. Talks with Manny Machado are reportedly ongoing. And on Tuesday, they added an under-the-radar option to their starting rotation that many Los Angeles Dodgers fans figured would be a target for their team.
Per reports, the Padres have reached an agreement with right-hander Michael Wacha, who is coming off a resurgent season with the Boston Red Sox. He finished with a 3.32 ERA, 4.14 FIP and 1.12 WHIP across 23 starts (127.1 innings). The only issue were his advanced metrics, which weren't exactly pretty. He may have gotten a bit lucky in 2022.
Wacha's historically struggled with his health, but once upon a time was an All-Star back in 2015. He's improved upon his controll, issuing fewer walks over the years, but he remains prone to surrendering hits (9 per 9 IP).
Nonetheless, his five-pitch mix in the back end of any rotation feels like a considerable advantage. The Dodgers went with Noah Syndergaard for that role -- something we certainly can't argue with -- but Wacha as a potential sixth starter/first guy out of the bullpen, especially if LA wasn't going to get under the tax, felt like a prudent move, given all the injuries the pitching staff has battled through the past few seasons.
Instead, Wacha will join Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell and Seth Lugo/Nick Martinez in the Padres rotation as San Diego gears up for a promising 2023 season.
Padres sign Michael Wacha. Should he have been a Dodgers target?
What's promising about Wacha's bounce back in 2022 was the fact he made 10 of his starts in the league's most hitter-friendly ballpark and was better at Fenway Park than he was on the road. Throw in three other starts at Camden Yards and Yankee Stadium and more than half of his outings came in unfavorable environments.
The Red Sox had Wacha emphasize his sinker significantly and curveball a bit more while taking some reps off his cutter and fastball. The Dodgers are usually at the forefront of such alterations with pitchers looking for a renaissance, so a headstart in that department (coupled with the favorable price) made the free agent link to LA sensible.
The counterargument here is that the Dodgers have guys like Bobby Miller, Gavin Stone, Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove in line to possibly fill the role Wacha would've had if he'd landed in LA. The coaching staff can mold them in 2023 and have a plan for years in the future rather than inheriting a one-year project with Wacha, which has its potential pitfalls.
Props to the Pads for filling a need. And if any Dodgers fans are concerned, just know Wacha is 1-5 with a 7.54 ERA and 1.89 WHIP in eight career starts va LA.
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