SAN DIEGO — It turns out that Joe Musgrove was prescient when, at 18, he got a tattoo of a baseball with the San Diego Padres’ logo in it, along with his last name and the year he was born.
His grandmother chewed him out, telling the teenager he had no idea if the Padres would draft him out of Grossmont High in suburban El Cajon. They didn’t. A decade later, though, it’s all good.
The big right-hander finally is a member of his hometown Padres, who obtained him Tuesday from the rebuilding Pittsburgh Pirates in a seven-player, three-team trade that also included the New York Mets.
Musgrove had some fun with his grandmother Tuesday via FaceTime.
“I said, ‘Remember how stupid you made me feel when I got this at 18? I told you it would play out,’” the right-hander said in a videoconference with reporters. “We had a cool little moment with that.”
Three teams and six seasons into his big league career, Musgrove will toe the rubber at Petco Park wearing the brown and gold of a Padres team that in less than a month has remade itself into a squad that perhaps can end the Los Angeles Dodgers’ run of eight straight NL West titles and maybe even reach the World Series.
Musgrove knew the Pirates would likely trade him. But after the Padres obtained Yu Darvish and Blake Snell in blockbuster trades after Christmas, he figured his chances of coming home were slim.
It turns out Musgrove had been a focus of the Padres’ front office ever since their first playoff run in 14 seasons ended when they were swept by the Dodgers in the NL Division Series.
“The memories and the place where my dream of being a professional baseball player really started was in San Diego, at Qualcomm and then at Petco,” he said. “To be back in my hometown representing the city I grew up in and where all my dreams started, it’s extremely special.”
The Padres 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 joins a rotation that includes Darvish, Snell, Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack. The Padres are considering using a six-man rotation if the 2021 season returns to the normal 162 games.
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 by the Dodgers, who went on to win the World Series.
“If you grew up in San Diego, ‘Beat LA’ was a chant that was ingrained in you as a kid. I’m excited to be a part of that rivalry,” Musgrove said. His family once had season tickets and his favorite pitcher was Jake Peavy, who won the NL Cy Young Award in 2007.
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 in mid-November. 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.
“It’s all about getting pieces that fit and the right guys from a talent and makeup standpoint,” general manager A.J. 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.”
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 avoided arbitration last week when he and the Pirates — who had the worst record in the majors in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season — 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.
He knows how high expectations are for the Padres, and said his expectations are even higher.
“No championship would mean more than one for my own city,” he said.
Besides the three big trades, the Padres also signed South Korean slugger Kim Ha-seong.
“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.”