How many people can say that they are "fans" of relief pitchers? I have to think that of all the different players on the team, the bullpen guys are probably the least recognizable to the casual fan, and even among diehard fans, there are few that they would say they would miss if they left the team (okay, excluding closers).
I myself am guilty of ignoring relief pitchers. When thinking of the two best Padres teams of my childhood (the '96 and '98 Padres), I can automatically name the starting eight, the whole rotation, and most of the guys off the bench. The bullpen? After Trevor Hoffman, it gets pretty hazy, aside from the guys that my dad gave nicknames for their penchant for giving up home runs (Stan Spencer "The Home Run Dispenser" and Brian "Throw 'em a Dinger" Boehringer).
That being said, the Padres had a few guys in their bullpen that I really liked. My favorite was Nick Vincent, but right behind him was Luke Gregerson. Gregerson is one of the best (if not the) best setup men in the league. Last year, he had 64 strikeouts in 66 innings, and held batters to a .203 batting average.
As you may or may not know, Gregerson was traded yesterday to the A's for outfielder Seth Smith. I was pretty disappointed to hear that. I wouldn't go as far as to say that Luke was "untouchable", but to only get a platoon outfielder for him seems pretty weak. The Padres have a ton of outfielders, none of whom are above the "above average" range. And I might be being generous here.
Smith had 8 homers and 40 RBI to go along with a .253 batting average. The Padres are hoping that he can improve for 2014, but I don't know how many players improve after their age 30 year and start playing half of their games in spacious Petco Park (well, Chase Headley did for a few months, but that was not sustained).
To pay homage to one of my favorite bullpen guys, here are all of the Luke Gregerson cards that I have. Yep, seven whole cards of a guy who has been with the team for five seasons. That's the kind of treatment you get from card companies when you are a reliever but not a closer. While there are a kajillion parallels of the Topps base cards, the only card that I don't have at least one version of is his 2010 Upper Deck card. I've added it to the "Lookout List".
Gregerson's departure gives me one more reason to root for the A's, but hopefully the Padres can continue to make some deals to fill in the gaps in the bullpen and elsewhere on the roster.