Sunday, January 23, 2022

MLB free agency: Padres, Phillies, Orioles make last-minute deals ahead of lockout

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The San Diego Padres have reportedly agreed to terms with right-handed starter Nick Martinez on a four-year contract worth $20 million, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Martinez, 31 years old, will be returning to Major League Baseball after spending the last four seasons in Japan, where he pitched for the Nippon Ham Fighters and the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. During those seasons, he posted a 3.02 ERA and a 2.52 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 63 total appearances. Because the two sides did not get the deal done ahead of an MLB lockout that started Thursday, Martinez will technically remain a free agent until after the new collective bargaining agreement can be ratified, ending the lockout.

Padres general manager A.J. Preller is familiar with Martinez from their shared time with the Texas Rangers organization. Prior to heading to Japan, Martinez appeared in 88 games at the big-league level with Texas. In those outings, he accrued a 4.77 ERA (91 ERA+) and a 1.60 strikeout-to-walk ratio, with the latter mark being dragged down by an inability to miss bats on a consistent basis.

It’s worth noting that Martinez made substantive velocity gains during his time in Japan. As former Lotte Giants employee Sung Min Kim noted on Twitter, Martinez improved his average fastball radar-gun reading by about three miles per hour during the 2021 season. He also made an apparent improvement with his changeup. If Martinez can maintain both aspects, he should be better positioned to author a successful second act stateside. 

The Padres’ desire to add rotation depth should come as no surprise to anyone who paid attention to their 2021 season. Despite sky-high expectations entering the year, San Diego had no choice but to start the likes of Jake Arrieta and Vince Velasquez down the stretch. Predictably, the Padres fell short of the postseason. 

Martinez wasn’t the only addition the Padres attempted to make ahead of the lockout. Preller also agreed to terms with relievers Luis García and Robert Suarez. It should be noted that Suarez is also coming over from Japan.

Elsewhere, the Philadelphia Phillies beat the CBA-expiration buzzer by signing infielder Johan Camargo to a one-year deal worth $1.4 million. Camargo had previously been non-tendered by the Atlanta Braves. Also, the Baltimore Orioles inked righty Jordan Lyles to a one-year deal worth $7 million, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan. He led MLB with 38 home runs allowed in 2021.

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