The Los Angeles Dodgers have won the NL West the last eight consecutive years. With the exception of 2018 when it took a one game playoff with the Colorado Rockies to decide the winner, the Dodgers have usually won it pretty handily and look to do so again in 2021.
The team to the south of the Dodgers appears to have something to say about that. The San Diego Padres have been feeling like the Dodgers’ little brother for a while now. Dodger fans routinely take over Petco Park when the Dodgers are in town, and the Padres have come up short against the Dodgers time and time again. Just this past postseason, the Padres were swept in a three-game series in the NLDS by the Dodgers on their way to their first World Championship since 1988.
The Padres have been busy adding key players to their squad. They landed Manny Machado in the 2018-19 offseason. Phenom Fernando Tatís Jr was acquired in a trade with the Chicago White Sox while he was still a minor leaguer. The Padres traded for Mike Clevinger at the deadline in the 2020 season. And now, they have also traded for LHP Blake Snell.
In return for Snell, the Padres sent four minor league prospects to Tampa Bay—RHPs Luis Patino and Cole Wilcox, in addition to catchers Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt.
The Dodgers last faced Snell in Game 6 of the 2020 World Series, when he shut them down for 5.1 innings before giving up a single to Austin Barnes, prompting Rays manager Kevin Cash to remove him from the game. Cash did not want Snell to face the Dodgers’ lineup the third time through the order, even though he had been cruising up until that point. The rest, as they say, is history.
In a very small sample size, Snell bas pitched well against the Dodgers. Over 12 innings, in both the regular and postseason, he has a 2.25 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, and 16.5 strikeout to walk ratio.
Snell will no doubt have a chip on his shoulder when facing the Dodgers from now on, seemingly on a mission to prove that he can handle the lineup the third time through.
On Monday, there came more rumors that the Padres are not yet done with their quest to build a team to take down the Dodgers. San Diego is said to be in talks with the Chicago Cubs about possibly trading for RHP Yu Darvish. According to Dennis Lin, a writer for The Athletic covering the Padres, several players from the Friars would be heading to the Cubs.
The Padres rotation will be stout, even though Clevinger will not be in the rotation for 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery earlier in the fall.
Also on Monday, the Padres reportedly reached an agreement with Ha-seong Kim. The 25-year-old infielder became a free agent earlier this year when his KBO team, the Kiwoom Heroes, posted him for bidding. Kim will probably play second base and fill a utility role for his new team.
Competition makes better teams, and the Padres being good will absolutely be great competition for the Dodgers. It should be fun to watch these two teams battle for superiority in the NL West.