The 32-year-old put up a career season coming out of the bullpen for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015, posting a 2.95 ERA in 35 appearances.
A change of venue to a successful franchise seemed to do the trick for Villanueva. In his previous eight seasons before the Cardinals, which included stints with the Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs, Villanueva never had an ERA under 3.69.
Villanueva was a nice surprise in St. Louis, which signed him to a minor league deal in February 2015. He showed an ability to come out of the pen and contribute solid innings for the Cardinals.
He doesn't have overpowering stuff, with a fastball topping out at the high 80s. But his slider is his go-to out pitch and has some serious movement when it enters the zone.
If he can replicate his 2015 numbers, the Padres just received a nice piece for their bullpen, which was inept at times last season. San Diego's bullpen allowed over 4.5 runs per game and had just 63 holds—sixth-worst in the majors.
He is one of a few arms that the Padres have acquired this offseason, including Drew Pomeranz and Cesar Vargas, in an attempt to revamp their bullpen.
Villanueva can provide an option in long relief, especially from the fourth through sixth innings if San Diego's starters spin a bad outing. It'll allow the Padres an opportunity to get back into games if they fall behind early.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
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