Padres General Manager A.J. Preller Makes History with Major Trades
San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller added 2020 NL Cy Young Award runner-up Yu Darvish and 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell through trades and signed stellar second base prospect Ha-Seong Kim all in the span of 24 hours. Just when you thought Christmas was over, Preller gave the greatest gift of all.
Preller and the Padres made history with these trades. No team has ever acquired two pitchers in one offseason who both either won the Cy Young or finished second in voting for the award in any of the three previous seasons. These dramatic makeover-moves are typical of Preller, as he tends to trade for players all at once and very quickly. Here’s a closer look at what these new additions mean for the Padres.
Yu Darvish Becomes Number One Starting Pitcher
The most headline-breaking move Preller made was acquiring Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs.
Darvish finished 2020 with a 2.01 ERA. He enters his ninth year in the big leagues having also played for the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Darvish is also a four-time All-Star and a two-time Cy Young Award runner-up in 2013 and 2020. On top of these impressive stats, he holds the highest career strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) in history with 11.1.
A.J. Preller and Yu Darvish also have history together. According to Dennis Lin of The Athletic, Preller was involved with scouting the recruiting Darvish from Japan for the Rangers back in 2012. The 34-year-old spent six seasons pitching in Japan’s professional league and even took the hill as Japan’s ace for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Along with Darvish came catcher Victor Caratini. This combination is similar to when the Cubs signed Jon Lester and his personal catcher, David Ross, two years before they won the World Series. Caratini adds to the list of viable backstop options for the Padres, with Luis Campusano and Austin Nola also in the mix. The Padres traded away several prospects (none of which are among their top five) and Zach Davies in the seven-player Darvish trade.
For the Padres, Darvish will sit atop the pitching rotation ahead of Blake Snell, Dinelson Lamet, and Chris Paddack in 2021. This is in addition to the hopefully healthy Mike Clevinger for 2022.
Blake Snell Added to Rotation
Blake Snell’s name has been tossed around since he was prematurely yanked from the sixth inning of Game Six of the World Series by Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash. He had only given up two hits and was about to face the Dodgers offense for the third time before Cash pulled him. This spurred major controversy, and rumors about where he’d end up have flown around the baseball world ever since. As of Sunday, he’s a Padre.
One of the most attractive qualities about Snell is that he’s great when it matters. After winning the Cy Young Award in 2018 and an injury-riddled season in 2019, he helped the Rays get to the World Series in 2020. In his 35 innings pitched in the playoffs, Snell put up a 2.83 ERA and 11.3 K/9. He’s an ace starting pitcher with clutch postseason experience — an overall great pick-up for San Diego.
Unfortunately, this trade didn’t come without a cost. The Padres lost two top prospects, pitchers Luis Patiño and Cole Wilcox, and a top-20 catcher in Blake Hunt. However, this trade does set up the Padres for success in the near future and is fairly even, given the Padres need for a stronger starting rotation. It may also improve the arms of Lamet and Paddack, who are both young starters with high ceilings, and Mackenzie Gore, one of the top minor league pitchers in baseball.
Snell will sport the brown-and-yellow cap soon enough and slide into San Diego’s Number Two starter position.
KBO Star Ha-Seong Kim Finds the Big Leagues
With the addition of Ha-Seong Kim into the lineup, Fernando Tatis Jr. could have another bat-flipping companion.
Kim has played seven seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), posting a .294 batting average, .373 on-base percentage and a .493 slugging percentage over that span. He’s been one of the best players in the KBO for the past four years, and in 2020, he hit 30 homers and had 23 stolen bases in 138 games. His versatility in the infield adds to Kim’s allure.
While Kim might have to adjust to the MLB-caliber pitching once the season rolls around, he has tremendous potential. We could see Kim at second base, with Jake Cronenworth moving to left field to replace Jurickson Profar. And we might even see some bat flips from Kim that could compete with Tatis Jr. (well maybe not quite yet).
FTJ and H-SK.
Coming soon.#FriarFaithful pic.twitter.com/8fHslSAWQp
— Justice Parman (@JusticeParman) December 28, 2020
San Diego sees Kim as not only a utility player, but as the possible breakout star MLB has yet to receive from the KBO. Slam Diego, look out for Ha-Seong Kim.
Slam Diego Means Business
Again, we are reminded of the way A.J. Preller wheels and deals from past experience. During the 2020 trade deadline, he added Mike Clevinger, Austin Nola, and Trevor Rosenthal to boost their playoff run. Just over a year ago, he added much of the Padres current lineup in the span of a week. Drew Pomeranz, Trent Grisham, Tommy Pham, Jurickson Profar, and Jake Cronenworth signed between November 27 through December 4, 2019.
San Diego’s front office has been nothing short of aggressive. It shows that they are done with the Dodgers ruling the NL West any longer. To top it all off, now they have a strong fanbase here in the U.S. and have a massive opportunity to build upon that internationally with these recent acquisitions. The San Diego Padres aren’t messing around – even in the off-season.
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My name is Lacey Yahnke, I'm from San Diego, and I am a journalism student at Santa Clara University! I am the Sports Editor for The Santa Clara, the university newspaper. I also run track and field at SCU and am a captain of my team. I love writing, and I'm also obsessed with sports. I love to watch, play, read about, talk about, laugh about, (sometimes argue about) sports every day. I am passionate about the human aspects of sports stories, and hope to be the "social conscious" of a sports page someday. Besides writing and sports, my other interests include film photography, reading, drawing and spending time at the beach!