Padres go all-in, make Snell, Yu deals official

December 30th, 2020

For years, A.J. Preller accumulated prospects, and he clung to them tightly. The Padres' general manager spent half a decade assembling the sport's top collection of young talent -- and for what, exactly?

For this.

“Everybody in the organization is fired up, from top to bottom,” Preller said late Tuesday night, after completing perhaps his wildest transaction binge to date. “Again, it’s all part of, really, the last-five-year plan.”

After years of hoarding, the past five months have seen Preller revert to the freewheeling GM he's always been at heart. The Padres owned the Trade Deadline in August with a frenzy of six trades in the span of a weekend.

Now, they've made huge waves in a once-quiet offseason, agreeing to deals for Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Ha-Seong Kim in a 24-hour span. The Snell deal became official on Tuesday afternoon. The Darvish trade was finalized Tuesday night, and the Kim signing is expected to be completed soon.

The Padres, in case it wasn't abundantly clear, are all-in.

"I can't wait," Snell said during his introductory video conference on Tuesday afternoon, "to go win a World Series here."

That's the goal. It has to be. Consider this: Preller dealt 16 players -- most of them prospects -- at the Trade Deadline. He dealt nine more in the past 24 hours.

That's 25 baseball players, several with very high ceilings. Among that group, a sizable portion will become very productive big leaguers.

Worth it, Preller says, because it got him this team. It got him this rotation.

Consider this: Per ELIAS, no team in Major League history had ever landed multiple pitchers who had finished top two in Cy Young Award voting over the past three seasons within the same offseason. The Padres did so in the same day.

“We talk about it a lot: You can never have enough true front-of-the-rotation-type Major League starters,” Preller said. “We feel like we have a bunch now.”

Snell and Darvish will join at the top of the starting five. has flashed ace-caliber stuff in the past and sits in the No. 4 spot.

Behind Paddack is a swarm of talented youngsters including , and MLB Pipeline's top pitching prospect, . Meanwhile, , who underwent Tommy John surgery in November, will join the fray in 2022.

"This rotation is talented, all the way down, even past the starting five," Snell said. "I'm super excited to be here."

For all of Preller's aggression, his latest moves are anything but a short-term play. Snell and Darvish are under contract through 2023, and Kim is on board through ’24. A bulk of the team's Trade Deadline acquisitions were for players with multiple years of control, too -- including Clevinger.

“If we’re going to look to move quality, talented prospects, young players, etc., there may be times where you want the short-term rental fit,” Preller said. “But in general, with most of these deals, the attractive part for us is that they’re players who fit in the short- and long-term.”

That's Preller's plan in action. As the Padres ascended to the top of MLB Pipeline's farm system rankings, they knew that some of those Minor League pieces would help them on the field. Paddack, Lamet and already are. Top prospects Gore, CJ Abrams and Luis Campusano will soon join them.

But Preller always knew that more of those prospects would be dealt well before they reached the big leagues in order to acquire Major League-ready talent. It was simply a matter of when.

In 2020, the Padres reeled off their first postseason run in 14 years and finished with the second-best record in the National League. Suddenly, they were contenders for the first time in a decade. It was time to cash in some of those prospect chips.

With Darvish, Snell and Kim on board, San Diego’s window is now wide open. The Dodgers -- reigning World Series champions and eight-time NL West champs -- are still the team to beat. But the Padres think they've narrowed the gap significantly in the past year. Heck, in the past few hours.

“We improved our roster,” Preller said. “What was already a very talented roster, we feel like we’ve gotten better so far this offseason. We’ll see to what degree that is.”

Their newest arrivals sure are buying in.

"When you look at this lineup and you look at the rotation they put together ... it's hard not to get excited," Snell said. "This team is lights-out. It's time for us to put the work in and make this happen, because we have the team to do it."