Here's how transaction spree affects Padres

December 30th, 2020

After landing two aces and one of the sport's most coveted free-agent infielders, the Padres are on the verge of cementing their status as 2020-21 offseason champs. Of course, that isn’t the title they're after.

"The game's not played on paper at all," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. "We feel like we've built a quality team. ... But the goal here is to win a championship."

So what's next? Where do the Padres look after Preller's latest spree? Here are five aftereffects of this week's transaction frenzy.

1. The Padres have built a rotation to last
Preller is almost certainly done shopping at the high end of the starting-pitching market this winter, according to sources. The Padres have added two aces in and to a staff that already had . Plus and have both been viewed as future ace-caliber starters.

"It's not going to fall on any one guy," Preller said. "What we've tried to create is a staff that's not just five deep, but we want to look up and be eight, nine, 10 deep of Major League starters."

This is a rotation built to last. After trading Zach Davies to Chicago, each of the starters in the Padres' rotation mix is under control through at least 2023. Not to mention, they'll get back for the ‘22 season. If Gore, and break out, that's a deep group to choose from -- for a long time.

2. There's cover for Lamet
The most troubling question facing the Padres this offseason was the health status of Lamet. After Clevinger's Tommy John surgery, the Padres knew their 2021 season rested too heavily on Lamet's ailing right elbow.

Now? Well, the Padres are obviously crossing their fingers for a healthy Lamet. But let's consider the worst-case scenario: Lamet gets to Spring Training, his elbow barks and he’s shut down. The Padres would have Darvish and Snell atop their rotation, and a deep mix of young arms behind them. While the Padres make their run in 2021, those young arms get seasoning. Then, Lamet and Clevinger are back in the mix for an elite rotation in '22.

Of course, that's the worst-case scenario, and the Padres are doing their best to avoid thinking of it. All reports on Lamet, who recently began his throwing program, have been encouraging.

"He's right on line to come to Arizona and be ready to roll," Preller said.

3. There's playing time to divvy up on offense
The Padres entered the offseason with returning starters at all eight defensive positions. They still wanted more offense.

San Diego lost a sizable portion of its bench to free agency this winter, but Preller went a long way toward replenishing it this week. The arrival of Victor Caratini solidifies the catching situation -- and if Caratini performs, it could allow the versatile Austin Nola to slide to the infield on occasion.

But the biggest splash on offense is the arrival of Ha-Seong Kim, who is hardly a bench piece at all. The Padres view him as a versatile infielder who brings value on both sides of the ball -- and they’ll figure out the precise fit later.

The most obvious place for Kim is in something of a second-base platoon with Jake Cronenworth. But it won't be that simple. Players need rest days. Players slump. Players get injured. When -- not if -- that happens, the Padres have two players in Kim and Cronenworth who are athletic enough to fill a number of different defensive roles.

4. Preller can move toward his offseason endgame
With the bulk of his work seemingly complete, what's left to get done this offseason?

There's still a chance the Padres look for a back-of-the-rotation piece, likely on a cheap one-year deal. It's also possible San Diego aims to add one more bench piece (though with the arrivals of Kim and Caratini, that isn't viewed as a necessity).

The biggest task left for Preller this winter is to bolster his bullpen. A reunion with closer Kirby Yates, who missed most of the 2020 season due to bone chips in his right elbow, seems possible, according to sources. The Padres' bullpen is already solid. Would they make more than one addition after making such a big splash on the rotation front? Hard to say.

5. Pressure is on Paddack, Gore
It's a critical year for two pitchers who have long been regarded as the future of the Padres' rotation. Paddack and Gore will get every opportunity to make an impact in 2021 after both endured a disappointing '20 -- for different reasons.

After his brilliant rookie season, Paddack slumped to a 4.73 ERA in 12 starts in 2020, then was lit up in the playoffs. Gore, meanwhile, struggled early at the team's alternate site, and despite his late-season resurgence, he never reached the big leagues.

The Padres remain high on both pitchers. For Paddack, it's a matter of rediscovering a fastball that was efficient and full of late life during his rookie year. For Gore, it was his command that faltered in 2020 (even though command had never been an issue during three prior pro seasons).

When the 2022 season begins, the Padres could have Darvish, Snell, Lamet and Clevinger holding down spots in their starting rotation. So where does that leave Paddack and Gore? Well, it's up to them to solidify their places in ’21.