The San Diego Padres, rumored to potentially be in sell mode only days earlier, pulled off a trade that addressed two of their most glaring needs on Tuesday morning, acquiring left-handed-hitting first baseman Ji Man Choi and longtime starting pitcher Rich Hill from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the teams announced.
The Pirates receive first baseman Alfonso Rivas and a pair of minor leaguers, Double-A left-hander Jackson Wolf and 17-year-old outfielder Estuar Suero. Wolf was ranked 16th in the Padres system by MLB.com.
"Ultimately we felt the deals made more sense to give our team a chance ... to solidify some spots that can help us play in October," said general manager A.J. Preller, who has just one winning record in a full season since he was hired during the 2014 season. "We just have to be more consistent. We think we're more than capable and that's what the next 60 games are about."
The Padres have remained below .500 despite possessing the third-highest payroll in the industry. Their circumstances forced them to shop their two most coveted lingering free agents over the past couple of weeks, starter Blake Snell and reliever Josh Hader, sources told ESPN. But their high asking prices were not met, and the Padres swept the first-place Texas Rangers over the weekend, prompting general manager A.J. Preller to pivot to additions.
Choi gives the Padres their first true first baseman but will probably spend the majority of his time starting against righties at designated hitter, replacing Matt Carpenter, who has slashed only .166/.296/.302 in 207 plate appearances. Choi has been limited to only 23 games with a strain in his left Achilles tendon and was batting .205 with six homers and 11 RBIs. He slashed .231/.344/.397 in 724 plate appearances with the Tampa Bay Rays over the last two years.
Hill, 43, pitches on his 13th team in a career that spans 19 seasons. He made 22 starts for the Pirates, going 7-10 with a 4.76 ERA in 119 innings, striking out 104 batters and walking 47. The Padres needed another arm to join Snell, Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish and Seth Lugo in the rotation. When Michael Wacha returns from shoulder inflammation, perhaps the middle of August, Lugo could help out in the bullpen.
Barlow, 30, has struggled this season, posting a 5.35 ERA , but he has 13 saves and 47 strikeouts in in 38⅔ innings. In his two previous seasons, he had a 2.42 ERA in 71 appearances in 2021 and a 2.18 ERA in 69 appearances in 2022.
The Padres lost to the 42-64 Colorado Rockies on Monday night, failing to win four consecutive games for the first time all season. They entered Tuesday three games under .500 and five games out of a playoff spot, but they also possess the fifth-highest run differential in the sport.