Padres: Will the real Blake Snell please stand up?

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Rebuilding the starting rotation was a major focus of the San Diego Padres this offseason. But it’s worth wondering whether or not they did enough to topple the Dodgers.

I know, I know. I must be out of my mind to dare ask the question. But, for me, it comes down to one guy, in particular: Blake Snell. The 2018 American League Cy Young winner joins San Diego fresh off a World Series appearance with the Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, that experience ended with a very questionable hook from manager Kevin Cash. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Snell, 28, comes with long-term cost control – something that carries added weight given the financial landscape facing many teams heading into 2021. Last season, he made 11 starts and worked to a 3.24 ERA. Come the Fall Classic, the southpaw was lights-out, allowing just three earned in 10 innings of work – good for a 2.70 ERA. He struck out 18 and walked only four.

Coming off such a performance, the allure for a team like San Diego certainly makes sense. This is a franchise that, frankly, hasn’t learned how to win yet. Last year marked the franchise’s first winning season since 2010.

Meanwhile, Snell comes from a franchise that annually ranks near the bottom of the league in payroll, but is consistently playing games that matter late into the season. Since 2008, the Rays have finished below .500 just four times – ranking near the top of the league during that stretch.

So can Snell bring an experienced, winning pedigree to San Diego? Recently-extended Padres GM AJ Preller sure hopes so. Snell, along with Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, marked the highlights of the team’s offseason moves.

Padres are hoping Blake Snell can pitch like an ace in 2021

But it’s far from a slam dunk that Snell will be that stopper atop the rotation. Sure, he worked to a 3.24 ERA last year – a respectable mark. But his FIP offered a far less favorable outlook on his body of work: 4.35.

Really, all this to say Snell has been the guy just one time. That came back when he was the AL’s top arm three years ago. Take that year away and he’s never hit the 150-inning mark in his career – due largely to the fact that opposing lineups have torched him the third time through the order. The lefty has put up a sub-3.50 just one time – and that came in the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.

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Blake Snell might show up in San Diego and be an ace. He might win the NL Cy Young Award before he leaves in a few years. But there’s just as good of a chance that he’s a solid, yet unspectacular piece of a larger puzzle in the Padres rotation.