Two days before pitchers and catchers report to the Peoria Sports Complex, the San Diego Padres announced the signing of left-hander Wandy Peralta to a four-year, $16.5 million contract. The agreement includes three player options, meaning it could end up as a one-year deal with a reliever the Padres expressed interest in dating back to the 2023 trade deadline. It also means their bullpen is more or less complete. This offseason, San Diego also added Yuki Matsui, Woo-Suk Go and Enyel De Los Santos to a staff that lost star closer Josh Hader to free agency.
“I think we have flexibility now with multiple lefties,” president of baseball operations A.J. Preller said. “I think (Peralta) will be able to fill a lot of different spots for us, honestly. And that was the attraction, was he can pitch really anywhere from (the sixth inning to the ninth inning).”
The construction of two other key areas of the roster remains another story. The Padres, who traded Juan Soto and Trent Grisham to the New York Yankees in December, still have just two outfielders on their 40-man roster — Fernando Tatis Jr. and José Azocar. And although club officials expect a strong season from right-hander Michael King, the headliner of the return for Soto, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove continue to be the team’s only pitchers with significant starting experience in the majors.
Despite such obvious needs, Preller has yet to make a major-league outfield acquisition since last season. He indicated Friday that the Padres could easily open big-league camp this weekend without making another big-league transaction.
“We’re still actively talking to different players — you know, outfield, starting-pitching options, as well as ’pen-type possibilities,” Preller said. “But maybe it’s something, too, where you get into spring training, and you’re constantly looking to improve your team throughout the season. If we don’t find something we line up on, we’re not just going to try to make a move to make a move.
“We feel like we have a group of pitchers and position players that we’re going to give opportunity to, and we have some younger guys as well that have come through the system that we feel good about and we think are going to show well in camp and are going to be prepared to play in the big leagues this year. So, we’re weighing all that out. We’re always looking to improve, but we’re not just going to force something just to make a move.”
The Padres, league sources said, have had recent trade discussions with the Boston Red Sox and other teams with outfielders to offer, but no deal appeared imminent Friday morning. Tommy Pham is one free-agent possibility, although no formal offer has been made to the former San Diego outfielder. Veteran pitchers who remain unsigned include Hyun-Jin Ryu, Eric Lauer and Michael Lorenzen, and the Padres have expressed at least some interest in all three.
The outfield, at the moment, appears to be more of a focus. Younger starting-pitching options in camp include Rándy Vasquez, Jhony Brito, Pedro Avila, Matt Waldron, Jairo Iriarte, Drew Thorpe, Robby Snelling and Adam Mazur. Several members of this group only reached Double A last summer, but the Padres have demonstrated a tendency to aggressively promote prospects.
“You want to have a deep pitching staff in general,” Preller said. “But we also like a lot of the starting options that we have and think we have some depth there. I think as we’re going to, potentially, (test) some of the younger pitchers that we think highly of … we want to make sure the ’pen is strong so we have the ability to finish off games and allow some of those pitchers to get into the game for us and develop.”
Peralta, 32, has a career 3.88 ERA over eight big-league seasons, including a 2.82 ERA over the past three with the Yankees. Besides his $3.35 million salary in 2024, his new deal includes a $4.25 million player option for 2025 and $4.45 million player options for 2026 and 2027.
As for outfield depth, the Padres remain strikingly short. Non-roster invitees to spring training include Óscar Mercado, Cal Mitchell and Bryce Johnson. Prospects Jackson Merrill, Graham Pauley, Jakob Marsee, Tirso Ornelas and Nathan Martorella (newly added to the list of invitees) will be in camp, but only Marsee and Ornelas have extensive outfield experience.
So, as spring training begins, the Padres continue to seek at least one major-league outfielder. They would prefer left-handed-hitting help; the 40-man roster contains only one established lefty hitter, infielder Jake Cronenworth.
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(Top photo of Wandy Peralta: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)