The thought around the Padres has been they’re aiming to be legitimate post-season contenders by 2020. Perhaps that’s why Garrett Richards fits into their plans.
The right-handed starter agreed to a 2-year contract worth a reported $15 million with San Diego on Thursday. The interesting part is that contract is guaranteed … and Richards might not be able to pitch at all in 2019.
The right-hander spent the first eight years of his career with the Angels. In 2014 it looked like he was rounding into one of the top young starters in the American League. He won half his 26 starts with a 2.61 ERA and struck out more than three more batters than he walked.
But then the injuries started mounting. Richards suffered a torn tendon in his knee while covering first base at Fenway Park at the end of 2014. He was diagnosed with a torn elbow ligament in May of 2016 but instead of having Tommy John surgery then he tried to treat it with other means, including stem cells.
He started just 28 games between 2016 and 2018 before deciding to have the full elbow reconstruction surgery. He’s not expected to be back on a Major League mound until 2020.
Despite the long rehabilitation the move does make sense for the Padres. They can stash him on the 60-day disabled list and not have to make another 40-man roster move. If things go well there is the possibility he could be ready to make a few starts by the end of 2019 and, even when not at 100%, he does have really good stuff.
According to numbers from the statistical website FanGraphs, Richards never saw a dip in his velocity even after the torn ligament. His fastball even ticked up slightly in 2018 to just over 96 MPH. The Padres are hoping a fully healthy Richards can go back to his 2014 form just in time for a pennant push.