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Free agency flushes out Padres roster

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The Padres let a bunch of players go to free agency over the last few weeks to clear roster space and prepare for a busy offseason.

MLB: Game Two-Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres
Hector Sanchez, we’ll miss your Giant-busting ways.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

After the conclusion of the World Series, teams across Major League Baseball are faced with decisions as some players head toward free agency while others have to come off the disabled lists (which doesn’t exist in the offseason). The Padres had seven players on their disabled lists, without that many available slots on the 40-man ready for them. This means that a flurry of roster moves had to be made in short succession which changes the look of the fringe pieces of the organization.

The first order of business is free agency. Righty pitchers Jhoulys Chacin, Jordan Lyles, and Craig Stammen entered free agency along with shortstop Erick Aybar. The Padres would surely like to bring some of those guys back, but that remains to be seen. Chacin and Stammen had successful seasons that may have reinvigorated their careers, which means that they may be signing for more money elsewhere, or they might take a deal to chase that elusive ring. Aybar held down the fort at shortstop and mentored Allen Cordoba, but it’s been openly expressed that once again the team will search far and wide for an upgrade up the middle. Lyles was a midseason waiver claim who struggled with the Padres, and the organization’s pitching talent is starting to bubble up through the high minors, meaning there will be less room for projects like Lyles in the coming seasons.

San Diego Padres Photo Day
Kevin Quackenbush strokes his beard as he ponders his next career move.
Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

By October 25th, several Padres players had elected free agency: Dusty Coleman (SS), Chase d’Arnaud (SS), Kevin Quackenbush (RHP), and Jose Valdez (RHP). None of those four were surprises. Coleman and d’Arnaud both saw time with the big league club as fill-in shortstops, and it was quickly evident that neither had a bat that would play at the game’s highest level. Credit is due to d’Arnaud as he endeared himself with local fans as a media darling, boosting his Instragram follwer count. Quackenbush and Valdez shared duties as bullpen garbage time arms, and neither performed above a AAAA level this year. With plenty of healthy young arms knocking on the door in the upper minors, they were expendable. Similarly, the picture at shortstop is likely to change this offseason, and if the next few months go well, there won’t be room on the MLB or AAA rosters for journeymen like Coleman and d’Arnaud.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres
Christian Friedrich, best wishes. Signed, Padres fans.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

was that injured pitchers Jarred Cosart (RHP) and Christian Friedrich (LHP) had cleared waivers and selected free agency. Both players were on the 60-day disabled list and therefore weren’t counted against the 40-man roster, but they had to go somewhere with the dissolution of the disabled lists. The fact that they had cleared waivers means that the Padres didn’t intend to add them back onto the 40-man roster, and the other 29 teams in the league also decided to pass on them as well. Friedrich was the Padres’ most durable pitcher in 2016, leading all Padres with 23 starts, but his 2017 season was cut short with elbow and shoulder issues. Cosart had offseason elbow surgery but appeared healthy coming into spring training. A rough start sent him back to the minors, and injuries plagued his season as well, finally concluding with arthroscopic surgery in July. The organization could have retained both through the offseason but they would have required a spot on the 40-man to do so. Upon clearing waivers, both players elected to enter free agency rather than accept a minor league contract from the Padres (if it was even offered). In retrospect, Friedrich proved himself to be a capable starter when healthy, but marginally worth retaining on the roster, especially considering that the studs in Fort Wayne last season may be knocking on the door this spring. Cosart showed flashes of talent but an inability to command his stuff enough to be effective.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Minnesota Twins
Cory Mazzoni stood in front of this graphic too many times in a Padre uniform.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The next news to hit was that righty reliever Cory Mazzoni was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs. Mazzoni made an impressive return from his 2016 season that was lost to injury, posting an impressive 0.59 ERA across 23 appearances in the minors in 2017. That performance didn’t come with him during his MLB callup, as he gave up twelve earned runs in eight rough innings late in the season. The organization once again didn’t want to use up a roster spot to retain his services, and this time the Cubs decided to step in and give the 28-year-old a look.

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants
Hector Sanchez sure was fun to watch this year.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

On Monday, the team announced that Hector Sanchez and Tim Melville had cleared waivers and elected free agency. Tim Melville was a mid-season waiver claim from the Twins who did the same thing for the Padres that he did fort he Twins - he was excellent in AAA and got shelled during his MLB opportunities. Hector Sanchez is really the closest thing to a surprise from all of this news. He proved himself to be much more than a backup to the swoontastic Austin Hedges, seeing action as a pinch hitter and getting some starts at first base. The switch-hitter carved a nice niche for himself while also earning a reputation as a Giant killer. While he cleared waivers and elected free agency, there’s still a chance that he could come back on another minor league deal.

With the departures of all of these guys listed above, the team finally had room to bring the following players off of the disabled lists and back onto the 40-man roster: Carter Capps (RHP), Robbie Erlin (LHP), Colin Rea (RHP), Matt Strahm (LHP), and Alex Dickerson (OF/1B). There are currently 38 players on the 40-man roster. With free agency, the Winter Meetings, the Rule 5 Draft, and other opportunities coming this offseason, the team has some room to deal as they start to build toward 2018’s Opening Day roster.