Padres reportedly signal veteran reliever, plan to make use of him as starter

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The Padres are finalizing a contract with free-agent righty Seth Lugo, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Publish. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets the 2 sides agreed to a deal. The Publish’s Joel Sherman adds that the Padres plan for Lugo to hitch the beginning rotation. San Diego and the division-rival Dodgers had been reportedly the 2 likeliest touchdown spots for the Ballengee Group shopper.

Lugo will likely be assured $15M on the contract and might decide out of the deal following the 2023 season, tweets Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic. Heyman adds that the deal pays Lugo $7.5M in 2023 earlier than he’ll resolve on a $7.5M participant choice for 2024.

Lugo, 33, has been a dependable member of the Mets bullpen for the previous two seasons however has ample beginning expertise in his profession and had been hoping to land with a group that might give him a possibility to begin. The Padres can seemingly supply simply such a possibility, because the fifth spot of their rotation behind Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Nick Martinez is at the moment unsettled. Left-hander and former prime prospect Adrian Morejon was seen as a front-runner for that spot, however he’ll now act as a depth choice alongside minor league hurlers Ryan Weathers, Jay Groome, Pedro Avila and Reiss Knehr.

Over the previous two seasons within the Mets bullpen, Lugo has turned in a 3.56 ERA with a 26.6% strikeout fee towards a 7.9% stroll fee and a 44.4% ground-ball fee. His common four-seamer has clocked in at 94.4 mph in that point, and whereas it’s attainable that velocity will dip a bit when working in longer stints, Lugo has much more secondary choices than the usual reliever. Along with that four-seamer, he additionally throws a plus curveball, a sinker, an occasional slider and a extra seldom-used changeup.

That repertoire of 4, if not 5 pitches, absolutely emboldened some groups to contemplate him as a possible addition to the rotation. Lugo has made 38 begins in his profession — all of which has been spent with the Mets up to now — and as soon as seemed as if he might need an opportunity to solidify himself on the beginning employees in Queens. Nonetheless, a “slight” tear of his proper elbow’s ulnar collateral ligament again in 2017 derailed his season.

The tear was minimal sufficient that surgical procedure was not advisable, nevertheless. Lugo obtained a platelet-rich plasma injection, opted for a rest-and-rehab strategy, and returned to the mound as a reliever in 2018. By the point required surgical procedure to take away a bone spur from the elbow in 2021, his surgeon remarked that he was “impressed with how [the UCL] wound up” (link via’s Anthony DiComo).

With a clear invoice of well being and a few high quality current outcomes out of the ’pen, Lugo turns into an attention-grabbing upside candidate within the fifth spot of the Padres rotation. Shifting him to the bullpen will at all times be there as a security web, however Lugo has a 4.35 ERA in 194 profession innings as a starter — and people numbers are skewed by a disastrous exhibiting within the shortened 2020 season. From 2016-18, Lugo tossed 168 1/3 innings as a starter and recorded a extra palatable 4.06 ERA. He hasn’t seen an unlimited spike in opponents’ productiveness when dealing with them a second or third time in a recreation; in reality, his opponents’ numbers have truly worsened when dealing with him a second/third time — although it’s unlikely that pattern will proceed.

Lugo’s $7.5M annual wage will push the Padres’ 2023 payroll north of $240M, whereas the group’s projected luxury-tax ledger will soar simply north of $262M, per Roster Resource. The Padres are at the moment lined as much as exceed the tax threshold for a 3rd consecutive season. As such, they’re paying a 50% penalty on the primary $20M by which they exceed the $233M first-tier barrier and a 62% overage on the following $20M. The Friars had been already greater than $20M over the tax line, in order that they’ll pay a 62% overage on Lugo’s $7.5M AAV — a sum of $4.65M.

Such penalties are seemingly of little consequence to an ultra-aggressive Padres membership that has succeeded in high-profile pursuits of Juan Soto, Josh Hader and Xander Bogaerts up to now six months alone. Proprietor Peter Seidler seems steadfastly dedicated to his “championship in any respect prices” mindset, even when which means spending a complete of $12.15M (wage and luxurious hit mixed) on a fifth starter whereas together with the draw back (for the group) of a 2024 participant choice.

It’s a pleasant deal for Lugo, who commanded the identical sort of assure many setup males of his caliber obtain in free company — however with the chance to decide again into free company a yr from now if the rotation experiment works out. Even when Lugo is finally moved to the ’pen for one motive or one other, as long as he continues at his prior tempo with the Mets, he might even decide out and land a bigger dedication as a pure reliever subsequent winter. After all, if he finally ends up injured or sees his efficiency utterly crater, he’ll have the safety of a considerable wage already locked in for the 2024 season.

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