The Padres had a void to fill in their rotation this winter. They did so emphatically on Sunday night.
Left-hander Blake Snell, the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner and one of the sport's premier arms, is headed to San Diego in a five-player blockbuster -- a deal that was reported Sunday and finalized Tuesday. Prospects Luis Patiño, Blake Hunt and Cole Wilcox along with catcher Francisco Mejía are headed to Tampa Bay in return.
Snell, who owns a 3.24 ERA across five big league seasons, is a seemingly perfect fit in San Diego, where the Padres have been searching for rotation help since Mike Clevinger underwent Tommy John surgery last month.
Snell and right-hander Dinelson Lamet should sit atop a formidable rotation that also features Chris Paddack, Zach Davies and a handful of pitchers who will compete for the No. 5 spot -- including MLB Pipeline's top overall pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore.
Of course, this isn't exactly a short-term move. The Padres' 2021 rotation is strong, but their '22 rotation might be elite. Snell is under contract through the '23 season, and Clevinger is slated to return in '22. Add Lamet, Gore and Paddack, and San Diego has the makings of a potentially dominant starting five.
On top of that, the Padres don't seem to be done. Sources indicated that the team is still active in searching for pitching help -- both starting and relief.
But they likely won’t land a bigger name than Snell, who was one of the Padres’ top targets this winter. The 28-year-old left-hander has emerged as a force in the postseason, with a 2.83 ERA across nine appearances, including his infamous Game 6 start against the Dodgers in which he was pulled in the sixth inning while working on a shutout.
Snell, of course, would never come cheap, and the Padres paid a steep price. Patiño is the Padres' No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and No. 23 in baseball overall. The 21-year-old right-hander is projected as a No. 2-type starter in the Majors and had a breakout campaign between Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and Double-A Amarillo in 2019, posting a 2.57 ERA with 123 strikeouts over 94 2/3 innings. His fastball, which touched 99 mph in 2019, plus a sharp slider have created a strong combo against right-handers, with a developing changeup that could serve him well against lefties.
Wilcox, 21, is San Diego's No. 7 prospect and was selected in the third round of the 2020 Draft out of the University of Georgia. Considered to have some of the best pure stuff in the 2020 Draft class, the right-hander gave up four runs in four starts for Georgia in 2019, striking out 32 while walking just two.
In two-plus seasons with the Padres after being acquired from the Indians in 2018 for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber, the 25-year-old Mejía has hit .229/.282/.398 in 116 games. He was MLB Pipeline's No. 15 overall prospect at the time of the trade.
Hunt, 22, is the Padres' No. 14 prospect and has shown a big arm and good pop time behind the plate. He still needs to make some strides offensively, but he could develop power at the plate given his size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds). He hit .255/.331/.381 with five home runs in 89 games for Class A Fort Wayne in 2019.
Ultimately, that lofty package was worth it for the Padres to answer such a burning rotation question. They wanted to close the gap on the Dodgers this winter. So they added an ace with a history against them.