Padres give Yu Darvish a security blanket, but other issues remain unsolved

When the 2023 MLB season launches on March 30th, the San Diego Padres might have the most feared lineup in the National League. But solid pitching still trumps good hitting in the game of baseball, which is why the Friars moved to extend Yu Darvish for six more years, basically insuring that he will finish his career while wearing brown and gold. The 36 year old veteran from Japan turned in one of his best performances last season, sporting a record of 16-8 and a sparkling ERA of 3.10 over 195 innings of work.

“I feel the love from the great (Padres) fan base, and that’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to stay,” noted Darvish. “The organization is on the right track, so I’m just going to keep working as hard as I can to help the team win games.”

The new Darvish deal isn’t earth-shaking, but it guarantees him $108 million through 2028 when he will be 42 years young, and that represents security for the tall right-hander with a repertoire of 11 different pitches. Yu will receive a $6 million signing bonus, however his salary will average out to $18 million per year through the duration of the contract.

That will give Padres GM A.J. Preller a bit of wiggle room as he attempts the difficult task of restructuring the pact of all-star third baseman Manny Machado. San Diego’s unofficial captain is signed through 2028, but has a clause in his contract that will allow him to opt out after this season, and several sources indicate that he is likely to do so.

Machado, 30, is in the prime of his career and the Padres meat and potatoes guy. He’s the straw that stirs the drink, but his asking price is said to be as high as $40 million per year, a sum that might even cause San Diego’s high rolling owner Peter Seidler to squirm in his skivvies. Another issue is the Padres starting rotation. Hometown ace Joe Musgrove signed on to a hefty extension last year and now Darvish is in the fold. But the Friars number three starter Blake Snell is in the final year of his deal and is looking for some love.

After a rocky start in San Diego, the hard throwing lefty turned things around a bit last season, and the Padres four and five guys, Nick Martinez and former New York Met Seth Lugo, are far from a sure bet for success. Martinez turned down an invitation to play for Team USA in the WBC tournament because he would have performed only out of the bullpen. Nick pitched well in that role last season and was rewarded a new three year deal this winter, but how well he responds this year as a backend starter will determine on whether the Padres will pick up his options for 2024-25.

The Padres core offense of Machado, Juan Soto, Zander Bogaerts, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jake Cronenworth will be relentless, but who will be the leadoff guy? How well will Tatis Jr. adapt as a corner outfielder? Will Gold Glove center fielder Trent Grishem be able to hit above the Mendoza line? Will a lack of bench depth be a factor if somebody gets hurt? Will catcher Austin Nola be able to throw out any baserunners with the new pitching rules this season?

Despite all their strengths, the San Diego Padres still have many question marks to deal with as Spring Training approaches. With the third highest payroll in baseball and growing, this is a club with high expectations that will be under a lot of pressure to produce.

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