San Diego Padres’ May Now Claim One Of The Finest Rotations In Baseball

In a very quiet MLB offseason so far, the San Diego Padres have stirred the pot with major trades.

Within 24 hours, the Padres acquired pitchers Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays and Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs. And they added Korean free agent infielder He-seong Kim as well. 

Within a very short period, in the estimation of this observer, the Padres have become a legitimate threat to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. In mid-December, it didn’t seem any club could threaten the Dodgers dominance. That now may have changed.

The Padres obtained former Cy Young Award winning left-handed pitcher Blake Snell from the Rays for four young, contract controllable players. The Rays will receive pitchers Luis Patino, and Cole Wilcox as well as catchers Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt.

Snell and Darvish will likely lead a Padres starting rotation that will have a nice blend of veterans and young pitchers with great promise. With the additions of Snell and Darvish, the Padres could feature one of the finest rotations in the game.

The Padres rotation was weakened when right-hander Mike Clevinger’s 2020 season ended prematurely with elbow problems. Clevinger, who is signed to a two-year contract, is now rehabilitating from recent Tommy John surgery. 

Blake Snell:

While Snell upgrades the rotation, his acquisition is not without risk. It can’t be ignored that Snell has had surgery on his left elbow to remove “loose bodies” as recently as July 2019.

He also missed time with a fractured right toe, but that should not be a concern. 

If Snell stays healthy, the Padres have traded for a potential All Star pitcher.

The Padres have also obtained some payroll value and control, as Snell signed a five-year contract worth $50M with Tampa Bay in 2019. He will earn $11.1M in the coming season, a bargain for a starting pitcher of his quality.

According to FanGraphs, the Padres will have an estimated 2021 payroll of $162M, $6M less that what would have been spent on players over a full 2020 season. That includes $23M for Darvish, who is signed through 2023.

Snell, a 28-year-old left-hander, won the 2018 American League Cy Young Award when he compiled a sparkling 21-5 record for the Rays. Snell pitched to a 1.89 ERA and had a 0.97 WHIP in 31 starts in an All Star season. 

The following year, Snell battled through some injuries and wasn’t as effective on the mound. He pitched only 107 innings, finishing with a 6-8 record for Tampa Bay.

After a nice 2020 season, Snell was the subject of controversy during his team’s World Series appearance against the eventual MLB Champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

In Game 6 of the World Series, Snell was rolling along beautifully as the starter for the Rays. He went into the 6th inning of the crucial game having yielded no runs, only one hit and no walks. When he allowed a one-out single to Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes, Rays manager Kevin Cash removed Snell from the game. replacing him with Nick Anderson. Anderson yielded a double to Mookie Betts, sending Barnes to third base. Barnes eventually scored on a wild pitch. The Dodgers went on to win the game and the World Series.

Snell was visibly upset about being removed from the game. Critics have since called the early hook one of the biggest World Series blunders in modern history.

Rumors circulated early in the offseason regarding Snell being available on the MLB trade block. The Padres must have been listening.

Yu Darvish: 

With Padres fans still ecstatic about acquiring Snell, the team struck again. This time Padres general manager A. J. Preller packaged five players to obtain starter Yu Darvish and catcher Victor Caratini from the Chicago Cubs. it was Preller who originally signed Darvish as an international free agent from Japan when Preller was with the Texas Rangers.

The Padres sent seasoned right-handed starter Zach Davies, prospect shortstops Reggie Preciado and Yelson Santana, and prospect outfielders Ismael Mena and Owen Caissle to the Cubs.

Darvish had a career year in 2020, posting eight wins and a 2.01 ERA with a stellar 0.96 WHIP.

Darvish had an average of 11 strikeouts per nine innings. He walked 1.7 hitters per nine.

Darvish, 34, is a big 6-5 righty with a vast repertoire of pitches he throws for strikes. He has an outstanding split-finger and slider combination that anchor his deep and efficient arsenal.

A four-time All Star in his eight year MLB career, Darvish has had a history of arm and elbow issues. He had Tommy John surgery in 2015. His most recent issues, a right elbow flareup and triceps strain came in the 2018 season. The Padres have to be careful about how they use Darvish.

With Snell and Darvish at the top, the Padres rotation could feature right-handers Dinelson Lamet, and Chris Paddack as well as a fifth starter that could be left-hander Adrian Morejon, or rookie lefty MacKenzie Gore.

Lamet battled arm issues this past season, and was shut down with a right biceps injury after pitching 69 innings in 12 starts. He is considered a quality right-hander with two solid pitches to lead his repertoire. He throws a fastball in the 96-98MPH range, and a wicked swing and miss slider as his primary offerings. He can be overpowering and dominant when he is healthy. The Padres have a true winner if Lamet remains healthy.

Chris Paddack is a big, 6-5 right hander with a bit of inconsistency in his two big league seasons. Paddack became the talk of baseball when he began his 2019 rookie season as one of the hottest pitching prospects in the game. He finished that year with a record of 9-7 and a 3.33 ERA in his 26 starts covering 140.2 innings. Paddack was tough to hit, showed good command and control and struck out an average of 9.8 hitters per nine innings as a rookie.

Last year was not as impressive. In fact, the St. Louis Cardinals pounded Paddack in the Wild Card Round of the 2020 Playoffs. 

In 2020, Paddack’ strike out rate declined and he struggled more than usual at times. Forearm strains have followed Paddack in his career, and like Lamet, Snell, and Darvish, his health will have to be closely monitored.

Morejon is a lefty with promise. He will turn 22 in February, but he has already pitched in parts of two seasons for the Padres parent club. He has totaled 27.1 major league innings, starting six games. He could win the 5th starter’s job out of spring training.

Gore is a prized prospect, and among the best young prospect pitchers in the game. At 6-2, like Morejon, Gore will also turn 22 in February. He could make the rotation out of spring training or take his place on the Padres pitching staff during the season. Regardless of timing, it seems the coming season will see the debut of MacKenzie Gore.

If they choose to go with a veteran as their 5th starter, the Padres may look beyond their organization to fill the final rotation spot. The team may find a back end of the rotation starter from among free agent pitchers or they could make another trade. Clearly, the Padres have depth in their farm system to package a deal for a starting pitcher.


If healthy, the San Diego Padres have bolstered their rotation in a major way by trading for lefty Blake Snell and right-hander Yu Darvish.

An accomplished All Star quality starter, Snell brings a Cy Young Award and World Series experience to a pitching staff that has lost right-hander Mike Clevinger for the next year to Tommy John surgery.

A seasoned veteran with an injury history, Darvish is a high quality starter who finished second in the 2020 National League Cy Young Award voting.

The Snell deal cost San Diego highly regarded prospect pitchers Luis Patino and Cole Wilcox as well as good hitting catching prospect Blake Hunt. Catcher Francisco Mejia also went to the Rays in the deal. He is considered a hit-first catcher with defensive shortcomings.

The package the Cubs received for Darvish didn’t include any of the Padres prized prospects. While Davies had an outstanding 2020 season, the others in the trade are very young prospects that may or may not develop into big league players.

The Padres are serving notice to the Los Angeles Dodgers that they are building a club based around quality pitching and position depth, a model used to great success by the Dodgers themselves.