Yesterday, the Padres activated Mike Adams from the 15-day disabled list.
31 in July, Adams has developed into one of the premier relievers in the game and should be looked at as a future closer—as soon as 2010.
The Texan broke in with the Brewers in 2004 and posted an encouraging 3.40 ERA. Despite showing strikeout ability in the minors, Adams posted a 6.6 K/9 in 53 innings for the big league club. This was coming after a 11.2 K/9 ratio in Triple-A Nashville the previous year. Entering 2005 as the closer, he quickly disintegrated into an afterthought, being sent back to the minors for the remainder of the year in May. In 2006, Adams racked up the frequent-flyer miles, splitting time between four Triple-A clubs: Milwaukee, the New York Mets, Cleveland and finally, San Diego.
Adams missed the entirety of the 2007 season after being released from San Diego. Brought back on a minor league deal, Adams then made his Padres debut in May of 2008 and broke out, posting a 10.2 K/BB along with walking just 19 in 65.1 innings. His success was largely part of a cutter, using it 17.1 percent of the time in 2008 — after negligible use his previous three years in the majors.
2009 began without the services of the right-hander, who suffered rotator cuff damage and a torn labrum. After returning in early June, he was then placed back on the disabled list with a shoulder sprain in late August before his activation.
Adams has decreased his reliance on the cutter and curveball this year, instead choosing to focus more on his slider and changeup. The results have been positive, as Adams has a sparkling 0.92 ERA in 29.1 innings, striking out 34 and walking six. With only 14 hits give up, his ERA+ currently rests at 407. It is near impossible for batters to hit the ball hard off Adams, as his line drive percentage is a miniscule 7.2 percent on the year (small sample size warning).
With the Padres looking to keep their payroll low and current closer Heath Bell a favored commodity, Adams has a real chance to open 2010 as the Padres’ closer. Bell is making just $1.255 million on the year in his first year of arbitration eligibility. With 37 saves, Bell will be in demand and could allow the Padres to stock up on younger, cost-controllable players. The Padres have communicated an interest in competing next season, so this is only a possibility, not a near certainty as it seemed during the trade deadline.
Adams is due to go through arbitration for the first time this year (he is under San Diego control through 2013) and given his missed time and current role as middle reliever, the Padres figure to get Adams at a ridiculously low price – a 2009 Health Bell-esque price. If the Padres want to bite the bullet and pay Bell closer money for another year, they could save additional cash on Adams in 2011’s arbitration process and install him as closer then.