Padres open Winter Meetings with Marquis deal

Byrnes says club now has nine rotation candidates for Spring Training

By Corey Brock / 12/03/12 11:00 PM ET

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Not that anyone was keeping score, but the Padres might well have struck the first deal of the 2012 Winter Meetings.
At precisely 9:36 a.m. PT, the team announced that it had agreed to a one-year contract for $3 million with free-agent pitcher Jason Marquis, who made 15 starts with Padres last season.
This move did not merit surprise, as the two sides have been talking for some time. Nor was it a shock that the Padres made a move to boost their starting pitching depth, which is, essentially, their singular focus this winter.
And with uncertainty on free agents and the delicate act of trying to strike a deal with another team for pitching, the Padres instead turned to a familiar commodity in Marquis.
"We never lost touch with him in the offseason," Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said of Marquis, who became a free agent on Oct. 29.
Marquis, 34, went 6-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 15 starts after he was added to the Padres' roster on June 7. (He signed a Minor League contract with the team on May 29.) He began the year with the Twins but was released on May 26 after going 2-4 with an 8.47 ERA in seven starts.
"Coming into that clubhouse with [manager] Bud [Black] and his staff it was unbelievable how well they treated me ... and how well they treated everyone, top to bottom," Marquis said Monday. "They are there for the players."
Marquis had eight quality starts for the Padres, including a two-hit shutout of the Pirates on Aug. 11. He walked one and struck out four in that game.
"I thought we played a lot of good baseball," Marquis said. "The young guys showed what they were capable of doing. That was something I saw myself being a part of."
Marquis missed the last five weeks of the regular season with a trapezium bone in his left thumb fractured on a comebacker in a start in late August. He was fitted for a cast and wore it for several weeks.
Marquis still kept his body in shape and even threw off a mound late in the season -- without someone else doing the catching of return throws. That showed the Padres something.
"Jason is a very strong, competitive spirit to our club. We felt very good about our chances when he took the mound," Black said. "He knows the game and is an experienced, winning pitcher."
The Padres will use these meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center to meet with agents and other teams in their continued search for starting pitching, though Byrnes said all was quiet on Monday.
"My phone might not be working," he said, smiling.
The need for arms makes perfect sense for a rotation that was ravaged by injuries last season, including season-ending elbow injuries to Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland. Several others, including Dustin Moseley and Tim Stauffer, were sidelined as well, forcing the team to go outside the organization for arms.
All told, the Padres cobbled together 59 starts out of pitchers who weren't on their 40-man roster when the season began and -- if you can believe this -- 51 starts from pitchers who weren't even a part of their organization when the 2012 season opened.
Those starters were Jeff Suppan, Kip Wells, Ross Ohlendorf, Eric Stults, Andrew Werner and Marquis, the best of the bunch, as it turned out.
Byrnes said Monday that the team now has nine legitimate starting candidates to take to Peoria for the start of Spring Training on Feb. 12 -- Marquis, Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, Anthony Bass, Stults, Robbie Erlin, Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Casey Kelly.
Byrnes said the typical return for a pitcher who had Tommy John surgery (Luebke and Wieland) is about 13 months. That would potentially put Luebke in line for a return in late May and Wieland in late July, though, of course, those dates are not firm and certainly are not expectations.
"We have a lot of guys with uncertainty," Byrnes said.