The Padres Made an Okay Deal, a Good Deal, and a Great Deal in 24 Hours:
The San Diego Padres are (soon to be) the proud new owners of three Major League players in Blake Snell (LHP), Ha-seong Kim (INF), and Yu Darvish (RHP). This move looks to fix up a middling rotation and add another promising piece to a great infield. I have my thoughts on each deal today because, lets be honest, the Yankees have been boring this offseason.
On Blake Snell:
Snell may be the most overrated pitcher in the MLB, as many see him to be a #1 pitcher in a rotation. To me, he’s become a solid #2 if not a #3 guy. While that may seem nutty to some, I can’t seem to shake multiple thoughts off my head about him which diminish the ‘ace’ or #1 starter image that we all see him as having.
Since 2019, Snell has a 3.96 ERA while averaging less than 5 innings per start. While this can be a small sample after a bad full season in 2019 and an shortened good 2020 season to correct the numbers, this matches up well with how Snell did in 2016 and 17 where he had a combined 3.83 ERA. Again, we can try and correct and rationalize these numbers in our heads by saying these where his early years, but then coming back to them after winning a Cy Young doesn’t show the progressions we believe Snell to be at.
Some will argue that another major flaw of Snell’s game in his limited number of innings is because of the way that Kevin Cash manages. However, this undermines the argument about his ERA being worse than his performance as Snell has mostly been facing the lineup twice through before being pulled. That should indicate he is being ‘babied’ (for lack of a better word) and should have helped lower his ERA as he faces opponents less often and can “air it out” more often due to shorter stints. That hasn’t happened. I also believe that If Snell was at the level of a #1 pitcher (see: Cole, DeGrom, Darvish, Bauer, etc.) he would’ve forced the issue to pitch further into games. He obviously didn’t force this issue as over the past two seasons he pitched into the 7th inning just twice, once in April and once in May of 2019.
This isn’t to say that Snell is a bad pitcher. I think he’s a fine pitcher and most teams in the MLB could use him in their rotation, especially because of his Cy Young upside. His moving out of the AL East (small ballparks with lineup heavy teams) will also help as he moves to the NL West and a much bigger stadium in Petco Park. It’s also interesting because the Padres were able to get a sample of him pitching there in the 2020 postseason. They obviously have high hopes that they can get the best out of Snell. However, at the end of this year (and his contract) I think many Padres fans are going to be incredibly underwhelmed by his performance.
This trade can be seen as a win and a loss for each team. In short, the Padres won by acquiring a good pitcher to plug in a weak rotation, however this was a loss for the Rays who now have a very weak rotation in the AL East with no Morton or Snell. The Rays won because they were able to get a near MLB-ready Top-25 pitching prospect in Patino as the Padres lost because they overpaid (in my opinion) to get Snell. The Rays also lose because they continue to torment their small fanbase by getting rid of fan favorite players, which may continue this offseason as there are rumors about a Kevin Kiermaier departure trade.
On Ha-Seong Kim:
A foreign ballplayer that I did not have a chance to write about in my short series of “Players to Be Posted” which included now on the Rangers pitcher Kohei Arihara, shortstop Haruki Nishikawa, and pitcher (who I want greatly) Tomoyuki Sugano. That being said, Ha-Seong Kim has been a highly touted free agent and was ranked 7th by MLBTR going into the offseason.
Signed to come to the Padres with a 4-Year/$25M deal (with an additional $5M posting fee to the Kiwoom Heroes), Kim had spent the previous 7 seasons in the KBO while playing mostly shortstop and third base. So, why would the Padres be interested in him when they spent big on Manny Machado in 2018 and have a top shortstop in Fernando Tatis Jr.? Looking at his stats abroad can help bring an understanding to this deal and show why it should be good.
Over 7 years in the KBO, Kim hit to a triple-slash of .294/.373/.493 (.866 OPS) along with 133 HR’s, 575 RBI’s, 134 SB (to 38 CS), a K:BB rate of 502:381, and his playing in 130+ games in all but two seasons (one of which he played 129 games). In 2020, Kim also had his best season to date with a .306/.397/.523 (.921 OPS) triple-slash, 30 HR’s, 109 RBI’s, 23 SB (2 CS), and a K:BB rate of 68:75. While a dip when facing harder teams over a longer schedule should be expected, these numbers are great.
It’s evident the Padres have a plan for where to use their newly acquired infielder and my guess would be that he takes a role that the Yankees were hoping DJ LeMahieu could fill as the ultra utility infielder. He could also slot in as a platoon second baseman with Jake Cronenworth (who could also play Outfield) which could lead to consistent playing time. Bringing in foreign players is a risk, and bringing in foreign position players has always been a much bigger risk, BUT, I am a fan of this move.
On Yu Darvish:
After making an okay deal and a good deal, the Padres decided to not stop playing the market and they ended a massive 24-hour fury with a great deal to bring in more pitching help in the form of Yu Darvish. By all measures this is a great deal for the Padres and an absolute horror story for the Cubs.
Yu Darvish is an injury concern, is making a good salary, and is entering his age-34 season. However, Yu Darvish is a #1 pitcher who was also 2nd in the 2020 NL Cy Young award race (which by all means should’ve been closer). This move indicates a lot of things for baseball moving forward in 2021.
The Chicago Cubs are allowing the NL Central to be extremely competitive in an effort to save a few dollars. In a division that is entirely up for grabs the move is not to remove your best pitcher but to add to the rotation in order to cement yourselves on top for an easy playoff spot. It may be the weakest division in 2021 and when the deadline hits it will be interesting to see if teams like the Cubs try and bring in talent. Honestly, it’s sad to witness and a bad omen for the sport when historic teams like the Cubs (and the Yankees) care more about salary than winning.
The San Diego Padres have taken the exact opposite approach, however, recognized that the market is incredibly weak and have capitalized on the moment. They know a playoff spot in 2021 can lead to a World Series title (something they have been missing for their entire history), and are not holding back. They understand that a championship will bring in a ton of revenue now and in the future that will absolutely trump the money they are spending on players like Darvish (and others) who will lead them there. It’s incredibly smart baseball and business.
However, the thing that baffles (and irks) me most about this deal was the return for the Chicago Cubs. I argued that the Yankees should seriously consider Darvish as an option, going so far as to include Clarke Schmidt as a player I would send to Chicago along with the Yankees #12 and #18 prospects. While I also wanted the Cubs #5 prospect in return, my deal focused on giving the Cubs MLB-ready and good talent for 2021. The Cubs organization and front office however had a different idea about how to make a trade…by acquiring a back-end MLB ‘starter’ alongside 4 average teenage prospects from the Padres who ranked as their #11, #13, #15, and #16 guys. These players don’t have an expectation to reach the MLB until 2024 (!).
How a move like this could happen in the MLB astounds me. Now, in my move I didn’t account for adding Victor Caratini (Darvish’s personal catcher) in the deal, but with a MTV of +5.5 I could’ve also included Luis Medina (+5.4, Yankees #11) to shore up those loose ends and still provided the Cubs with better, closer, talent to the MLB. Maybe my deal would’ve been an overpay, but one would think that would be necessary to bring in the NL’s 2nd best pitcher from the year before. At least the Rays got back a Top-25 prospect for Blake Snell! This is an absolute embarrassment for the Chicago Cubs.
And to add on, the Padres still had (and have) Mackenzie Gore (#3 MLB), CJ Abrams (#21 MLB), Luis Campusano (#46 MLB), and Robert Haskell (#74 MLB). They lost zero top-end talent in the move for Darvish, still have a top farm system in the MLB, and could continue to get the best trade talent available.
And, I hope they do.
I hope they bring in the best team possible.
And, I hope they win the World Series.
God knows the Cubs won’t. God knows the Rays won’t. God know the Yankees- if they don’t spend the money- won’t.