SAN DIEGO – Joe Musgrove grew up a San Diego Padres fan and now the right-hander gets to pitch for his hometown team, which in less than a month has remade itself into perhaps one of the best in the major leagues.
The Padres brought Musgrove home Tuesday, adding yet another starting pitcher via a seven-player trade involving the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets.
The Padres, who believe they can contend for the World Series title, sent major league reliever David Bednar and three prospects — outfielder Hudson Head, left-hander Omar Cruz and right-hander Drake Fellows — to the rebuilding Pirates. The Padres sent left-hander Joey Lucchesi to New York, and the Pirates got catcher Endy Rodríguez from the Mets.
Musgrove, who played at Grossmont High in suburban El Cajon, California, joins a rotation that includes Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, who were obtained in blockbuster trades after Christmas, and Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack. The Padres are considering using a six-man rotation if the 2021 season returns to the normal 162 games.
General manager A.J. Preller said Musgrove had been a focus of the front office the entire offseason.
“It's all about getting pieces that fit and the right guys from a talent and makeup standpoint,” Preller said. “I think with Joe being from San Diego, there's a motivation there, a, guy that knows the city. He's a Padres fan, he grew up here. From his standpoint, wanting to win for his hometown club, we viewed that as a positive."
Musgrove leaves a Pirates team that had the worst record in the majors during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and joins a Padres club that ended a 13-year playoff drought and believes it can contend for the World Series title.
Anchored by a star-studded infield with Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop and Manny Machado at third base, San Diego won a wild-card series against St. Louis before being swept out of the NL Division Series by the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, who went on to win the World Series.
Even after the three big trades, the Padres still have seven players listed on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list, the most in the majors. They were able to hold on to top prospects MacKenzie Gore, a left-hander who could make his big league debut in 2021, and shortstop C.J. Abrams.
Musgrove, Pittsburgh’s opening day starter in 2020, went 1-5 with a 3.86 ERA in eight starts last season, striking out 55 in 39 2/3 innings. He had 34 strikeouts and just five walks in his last four starts. The 28-year-old made a prorated $1,037,037 of a $2.8 million salary, then avoided arbitration last week when he and the Pirates agreed to a $4.45 million salary for 2021. He can become a free agent after the 2022 season.
Musgrove won a World Series ring with Houston in 2017 before being sent to the Pirates in the trade that sent Gerrit Cole to the Astros in January 2018. Musgrove was the winning pitcher in Game 5 of the World Series against the Dodgers.
The Padres needed to beef up their rotation after running out of starters in the playoffs, and then losing Mike Clevinger to Tommy John surgery. Clevinger and Lamet both came out of their final regular-season starts with arm injuries. Clevinger came back for the NLDS opener, but his injury forced him out in the second inning of a 5-1 loss. Lamet missed the playoffs entirely but the Padres say his offseason throwing program is progressing well.
Besides the three big trades, the Padres signed South Korean slugger Kim Ha-seong. Those moves could make the Padres good enough to end the Dodgers’ eight-year reign as NL West champions.
“The team last year really vibed and had a great feel so I think when we made these moves we wanted to make sure we maintained that and add some guys who would complement and help that group and have a similar vibe,” Preller said. “Hopefully we have a team that can play deeper into October this year.”
The Pirates hoped Musgrove would be part of a starting rotation that would carry the club after the departure of Cole and 2013 NL Most Valuable Player Andrew McCutchen. The athletic Musgrove went 6-9 with a 4.06 ERA in 2018 and 11-12 with a 4.44 ERA in 2019, one of the few constants on a team that plummeted during the second half that season, leading to a massive leadership overhaul.
Lucchesi is likely to compete for a spot at the back of New York’s rotation behind two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman and David Peterson. The Mets also expect to have Noah Syndergaard back from Tommy John surgery some time after May.
AP Sports Writers Will Graves in Pittsburgh and Jake Seiner in New York contributed.