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#pounditThursday, February 2, 2023

Padres give surprisingly huge contract to untested reliever

AJ Preller in the dugout

Jun 6, 2019; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller looks on from the dugout before the game against the Washington Nationals at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres have signaled their willingness to go big in pursuit of a championship. They did that again on Thursday, albeit with a very risky move.

Multiple reports indicated that the Padres agreed to a five-year, $46 million contract with reliever Robert Suarez. The deal contains an opt-out clause after three years.

To be clear, Suarez had an outstanding season. As a 31-year-old rookie, he posted a 2.27 ERA with 21 walks and 61 strikeouts in 47.2 innings. He profiles as the team’s primary setup man behind Josh Hader for 2023, and would likely be relied upon to close if Hader were unavailable for any reason.

The flipside is, as a 31-year-old rookie, Suarez has no real track record to point to. The Padres are betting that his season was not a fluke, or at the very least, that any dropoff in performance will be minor. After all, that is over $9 million annually for a setup man, which is more or less unheard of. Suarez will also have to bounce back from being the guy who gave up the backbreaking NLCS home run to Bryce Harper, though one could just as easily blame manager Bob Melvin for that.

Kudos to Suarez, who turned a journeyman career into a big payday. The Padres will very badly need it to pay off or risk looking quite bad in retrospect.

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