The Padres announced they’ve designated Jake Arrieta for assignment. The move clears active and 40-man roster space for reliever Javy Guerra, who has been reinstated from the 60-day injured list.
It proved to be a very brief run in San Diego for Arrieta. Released by the Cubs in mid-August, the former Cy Young award winner hooked on with San Diego a few days later. The 35-year-old had struggled mightily in his return to Chicago, working 86 1/3 innings of 6.88 ERA ball with the Cubs. The Friars, thin on starting pitching depth and with a few key hurlers dealing with injury, gave Arrieta a few turns through their rotation in hopes he could find more success in a new environment.
That ultimately proved not to be the case, as Arrieta posted even worse results in his brief look as a Padre. He tossed 12 1/3 innings over four starts, interrupted by a brief injured list stint due to a hamstring strain. He was tagged for sixteen runs (fifteen earned) in that time, while his already lackluster strikeout and swinging strike rates dipped even further relative to his time with the Cubs.
It’s now been three seasons of subpar performance for Arrieta, who was one of the sport’s best handful of pitchers at his peak. The righty reeled off consecutive seasons of sub-4.00 ERA ball from 2014-18, including a 2.53 in 2014 and a sterling 1.77 mark in his Cy Young winning 2015 campaign. That’s climbed successively from 4.64 to 5.08 to 7.39 over the past three years, though, as Arrieta has become one of the game’s least effective pitchers at missing bats while his velocity has fallen.
Arrieta will almost certainly reach free agency in the next few days, either via release or rejection of an outright assignment. In all likelihood, today’s designation will bring his 2021 campaign to a close. Given his significant recent struggles, it’s possible he’ll need to settle for a minor league deal to work his way back onto a big league roster this winter.
The injury woes that inspired the Padres to sign Arrieta have only intensified in the weeks since. They’re down to Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and the recently-signed Vince Velasquez as traditional rotation options, with Chris Paddack and Blake Snell currently on the 10-day injured list. It seems they’ll conduct a handful of bullpen games in the season’s final couple weeks as they try to claw back from a four-game deficit in the race for the National League’s final Wild Card spot.
Guerra hasn’t pitched all season on account of a UCL issue. A former infielder, the hard-throwing righty was converted to mound work in 2019. Over 22 MLB innings, he owns an 8.18 ERA with a below-average 17.5% strikeout rate but a solid 50% ground-ball percentage.
While Guerra hasn’t yet found much big league success, the Padres clearly remain intrigued by his arsenal. The 25-year-old averaged 98 MPH on his sinker last season, making it easy to envision him as a grounder specialist out of the bullpen. Because of his early career as a position player, Guerra has exhausted all three of his minor league option years. That leaves the Padres with no choice but to carry him on the active roster or risk losing him on waivers. They’ve evidently determined to keep him with the major league team for now, and he figures to see some action as part of the aforementioned bullpen-heavy pitcher usage the Padres will need to deploy down the stretch.
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