Michael Wacha Headed to San Diego as Padres Pick Up Another Starter

The San Diego Padres opted to spend big on its roster this winter, as the team inked Xander Bogaerts and Seth Lugo and extended ace Yu Darvish. San Diego filled some holes during the offseason, but one notable that still existed entering Spring Training was the fifth rotation slot. Now, it looks like the Padres have filled it. RHP Michael Wacha is reportedly headed to San Diego, one year after a strong rebound campaign with the Red Sox.

Related: 2023 MLB Fantasy: Ranking the Top 10 First Basemen

A Look at Wacha

After a less-than-stellar season in 2019, Michael Wacha was granted free agency by the Cardinals. Wacha spent the next two seasons with the Mets and Rays, but failed to get back on track. While Wacha did strike out plenty of batters over the two seasons, the right-hander proved to be far too hittable. Between 2020-21, Wacha owned a 5.39 ERA, the eighth-worst figure among all pitchers (116) who threw at least 140 innings over those two seasons.

With the Red Sox in 2022, Wacha recorded his best statistical campaign since 2018. The 31-year-old went 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA, a solid 1.15 WHP, and struck out 104 batters over 127.1 innings. While Wacha didn’t record the a high strikeout, the righty did stymie hitters with a very good change, one that could be mirrored off his fastball/sinker and proved to be a devastating weapon for the righty.

Lefties had an extremely tough time hitting Wacha last season — not much of a shock given how well the 31-year-old can work down and away with his fastball and changeup. Left-handed hitters hit just .188/.252/.345 against Wacha in 2022.

Despite a strong 2022 campaign, Wacha sat on the market for virtually all of the offseason. But now, he’s set join a very strong rotation that includes three of the best starters in the game today.

What it Means

When we broke down what the Padres rotation could look like in 2023 a week ago, we projected that veteran RHP Nick Martinez would grab the fifth spot. Martinez does own a solid arsenal of pitches, highlighted by a very good changeup. However, the Fordham product wasn’t particularly effective out the rotation last season — at least compared to his work as a reliever. The 32-year-old recorded higher ERA (4.30) and WHIP (1.55) as a starter than out of the bullpen.

The move to bring in Wacha shores up arguably one of the Padres’ biggest question marks entering Spring Training. Sure, it’s fair to be concerned whether Wacha’s 2022 campaign was an outlier. But, a very good changeup and above-average control do bode well for the 31-year-old’s short-term future.

With Wacha in tow, here’s an updated look as to how the Padres rotation can shake out this season:

  1. RHP Yu Darvish
  2. RHP Joe Musgrove
  3. LHP Blake Snell
  4. RHP Michael Wacha
  5. RHP Seth Lugo

Those five, along with Martinez,  Reiss Knehr, and Ryan Weathers as backup options, should form a very respectable group of five that should give San Diego a strong chance of making it back into the postseason.

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