There is no doubt that the San Diego Padres have become formidable playoff contenders with the addition of Yu Darvish and Blake Snell to the starting pitching rotation. However, let’s be honest. If 2020 would have not had that extra playoff spot and if the season had been 162 games, the Padres would not have been in the playoffs. Yes, this makes them better, but does it make them better than the Dodgers? Many sports fans would emphatically say, “not so fast”.
Let’s start with Blake Snell. Yes he won a Cy Young award a few years back, and yes he looked the part in game 6 of the World Series, but can he remain consistent in a long season? He is young, and he has a lot of upside, but let’s not forget that the Dodgers are in the NL West and top to bottom have a much deeper team when it comes to arms. It was great to see him pitch a gem in the World Series and it would have been greater to watch him land on the Dodgers but the NL West is a Dodgers’ stronghold and it does not seem that the Dodgers will let go of that fort anytime soon. It could get interesting and they should be the only team in the west contending down the stretch in September with the Dodgers but it would not be too crazy of prediction to say that the Dodgers will win their 9th National League West title in a row. The Rays are a small market team and trading him is probably the best thing they could have done this offseason. The Rays struggled financially in comparison to the big market teams even though they had one of the smaller payrolls in the league. They acted like stock traders in a hot market: “Buy Low, Sell High”. Blake Snell was on the biggest platform this past season putting his Cy Young trophy on display for all the teams, owners, and general managers. There was not much selling for a star like Snell. His resume and his game 6 performance spoke for themselves. The Rays acquired a RHP Luis Patino a #23 overall prospect, C, Francisco Mejia, RHP Cole Wilcox, and C Blake Hunt. One of these 2 catchers might end up being the starting catcher in the 2021 season as the Rays did not resign their catcher. It is possible that one of them becomes the next diamond in the rough project for them. The other interesting test for Blake Snell is that he will now be allowed to explore the 6th, 7th, 8th or dare I say the 9th inning now with a team like the Padres. Blake was used inside a Rays system that only allowed him to usually go 5 or 6 innings before going to the bullpen which is what we saw in the Game 6 of the World Series. It should be interesting to see how the Padres use him. Will they be conscious of the fact that he will be in unexplored territory? Will they work him into that role slowly? Or will they just send him into the deep and it will be a sink or swim? I would expect a low pitch count for him at the early stage of the season, and gradually work their way up as the season progresses. Perhaps I am wrong and the Padres just allow him to play baseball and pitch his game. The risk of course is that this might be setting him up for an injury if they allow him to go deep too early because he is not used to the later rounds. We will keep an eye on that. Perhaps the Dodgers should continue to do what they do best when facing him: Work the counts, and make him get into a high pitch count situation to see what the Padres will do in a game. It already sounds exciting writing about a game that is yet to happen. I could just imagine that 2021 will be a fun season. Snell is not even making that much money per year when you consider that he is a former Cy Young Award winner. The Rays signed Snell for a 5 year 50 Million dollar contract, and he has 3 years left at $40,800,000 left remaining on it. This is a huge financial load off the backs of the Rays, and they now have 4 prospects in return for under 5Million. Sounds like a pretty good trade off.
The addition of Yu Darvish will cost the Padres 59Million over the next 3 years so for the next 3 years the Padres will spend 100 Million in total on two excellent pitchers. The Chicago Cubs seemed to have gotten the best deal out of this trade simply because it might actually be addition through subtraction. This is not to diminish the pitching ability of Yu Darvish as he is a great pitcher but the Cubs have just recently hired a new President of Operations in Jed Hoyer and the baseball world should have expected that a change was coming. Yu Darvish just saved the Cubs 50 Million and they got a couple of prospects that may or may not pan out. However, the Cubs have made themselves 50Million richer at least for the next 3 years and now they can start to negotiate with players out there in Chicago. Perhaps they resign Kris Bryant or Javy Baez or they go out and sign a catcher like J.T. Realmuto or Perhaps they lock in the current Cy Young Award winner in Trevor Bauer. The Dodgers will certainly get to face Darvish at least 3 or 4 times in the 2021 season and it should be fun to hear the Dodgers heckle him whether they are in Chavez Ravine, or in San Diego. The Dodger fans still have not forgotten his poor performance in the 2017 World Series even though in hindsight it is documented that the Astros had been cheating. Dodger fans in general showed a little more empathy for the guy after learning that the Astros cheated in the World Series and it was most likely the reason why Darvish was destroyed by the Astros offense. However, seeing him with the Padres, Dodger fans are going to make sure that he is booed whenever he gets on the mound. This will just be something else for sports writers to write about and psychoanalyze before and after the games where Darvish pitches against the Dodgers.
The fact is the NL West just became a little more interesting. The Padres now have a solid 1-2 at the top of their rotation which they did not have going into the playoffs against the Dodgers. They traded away one of their right handed pitchers Zach Davies but other than the Yu and Snell, the rest of the pitchers do not necessarily put fear into the other teams. So the Padres will have to rely heavily on their 1-2 punch. One thing about the Padres is that they are in San Diego, and San Diego is not a small market. Fans should expect the Padres to go out of their way to fill those seats every year. The payroll as it stands is at 143Million which is 67 million below the Luxury Tax rate. The Padres have the ability to still go after J.T. Realmuto as the catching position seems to be a position where they could use an upgrade. They also signed a top international prospect named Ha-Seong Kim who is listed as a shortstop. This is a move that provides them with depth because as a middle infielder he is not going to sit down Fernando Tatis Jr. which means he will have to split time with Jake Cronenworth who was spectacular for the Padres and had a breakout year. Maybe Kim or Cronenworth can play outfield and this can help them get more at bats. This is not a bad problem to have for them. Afterall, this just provides them with more depth. It is still to be seen if Kim will be Major League ready.
The Padres have definitely gotten better, and the Dodgers have not made any moves yet, but even if the team stands pat the way they are, the Dodgers are still a deeper team. The offseason is not over of course, and it is possible the Dodgers make a splash with some offseason signing or a blockbuster trade. One thing for sure is that the Padres versus Dodgers will be “must watch TV” type of stuff.