The relief market dominoes continue to fall in the wake of Josh Hader’s signing earlier this month. This time it’s Hader’s former team, the San Diego Padres, getting in on the act, reportedly agreeing to terms with former Yankees lefty Wandy Peralta. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the deal is a rather unusual one: a four-year, $16.5 million contract that includes three separate opt-outs, basically allowing Peralta to go year-by-year.
Free-agent left-handed reliever Wandy Peralta in agreement with Padres on four-year, $16.5M contract with three opt-outs, sources tells me and @dennistlin. Deal is pending a physical.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 31, 2024
A team ceding that much leverage in a free-agent signing is somewhat surprising, but 1) this is increasingly becoming the new norm around the league and 2) it points to just how badly San Diego felt they were in need of a bullpen upgrade after Hader’s departure. Juan Soto may be off to New York, but with Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove still around, the Padres still figure to be at least Wild Card contenders in 2024. But with Hader and setup man Nick Martinez leaving this winter, the bullpen was arguably the team’s biggest question mark — Robert Suarez (4.23 ERA in 2023) and Steven Wilson (3.91) profiled as the two main high-leverage options, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
More crafty lefty than power pitcher, Peralta won’t make anyone forget about Hader any time soon, and he likely doesn’t profile as a closer option for new manager Mike Shildt. What he does offer, however, is another quality arm, one with significant experience in big spots. Peralta has a career ERA of 3.88, but he pitched to a 2.82 mark in 165 games and 153 innings with the Yankees, proving a steal for Brian Cashman after coming over in a seemingly-minor deal for outfielder Mike Tauchman back in April of 2021.
Peralta soon proved he was much more than a throw-in, becoming one of Aaron Boone’s most trusted options thanks to a dynamite changeup and tenacity in tight moments. His peak came during the AL East-winning 2022 campaign, when he posted a 2.72 ERA in the regular season and then put forward a dominant effort in the team’s five-game ALDS war against Cleveland.
Some cracks in the foundation began to appear in 2023, however. Peralta’s velocity began to dip, and perhaps as a result of that decline in stuff, he had issues throwing strikes, with 5.0 walks per nine innings pitched. He still pitched to a 2.83 ERA, but his 5.05 FIP was also a red flag, suggesting that he wasn’t quite as dominant as years past. Still, at this point in the offseason, he’s among the best options remaining on the market, and he joins Yuki Matsui, Woo-Suk Go, Enyel De Los Santos and Luis Patino in a now-revamped Padres bullpen.
The Yankees, on the other hand, will now have to look elsewhere for their extra reliever. New York had been rumored to be interested in a reunion with Peralta, but given the deal he was able to get from San Diego — and the team’s track record of turning unheralded options, like Peralta was, into positive contributors — it’s understandable that Brian Cashman decided to pass. The market still presents a few opportunities, including the potential return of Keynan Middleton.