Not far removed from their first playoff season since 2006, the Padres have dominated headlines in Major League Baseball over the past couple days. They agreed to sign highly touted Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim on Monday, and it’s possible they’ll follow it up by acquiring 2020 NL Cy Young finalist Yu Darvish from the Cubs before the day is out. And prior to reeling in Kim (and potentially Darvish), the Padres made a major addition to their rotation when they agreed to land left-hander Blake Snell from the Rays late Sunday night.
In Snell, the Padres are getting a 28-year-old former AL Cy Young winner (2018) who’s due a more-than-reasonable $39MM through 2023. Snell wasn’t able to replicate the numbers from his career season over the past two years, but he was hardly a slouch during that span. In his last season in Tampa Bay, which won the AL pennant, Snell threw 50 innings and put up a 3.24 ERA/4.35 FIP with 11.34 K/9, 3.24 BB/9 and a personal-best 49.2 percent groundball rate, all while continuing to average upward of 95 mph on his fastball. The Padres’ hope is that Snell (and perhaps Darvish, if they’re able to complete that trade) will help replace righty Mike Clevinger – a blockbuster 2020 pickup who will miss all of next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in November.
Meanwhile, although some may roll their eyes at the small-budget Rays for trading a reasonably priced, high-end starter in the wake of a World Series-bound year, it does appear they’ll receive a significant haul in this swap. The club’s slated to get two promising righties – Luis Patino and Cole Wilcox – as well as a pair of young catchers in Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt.
The 21-year-old Patino, who made a brief major league debut last season, was Baseball America’s 18th-best prospect entering the campaign; Wilcox was a third-round pick in last summer’s draft, but he was seen as a first-round talent – which led the Padres to give him a record bonus worth $3.3MM; Mejia was a star prospect in his own right in earlier years, though the 25-year-old hasn’t established himself as a quality major leaguer since he debuted in 2017; and Hunt, 22, looks like a top 100-caliber prospect now, per Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs.
All said, this looks like another win-now move for San Diego, which could emerge as a serious championship contender in 2021. On the other hand, in light of this deal, it’s easy to say the Rays will take a step back next year. However, it appears they got an impressive return, and considering the work the Rays’ front office has done with few financial resources, it may be wise to give them the benefit of the doubt.