The 2021 San Diego Padres are the new hip team in the NL, and they seem to have one major block that’s always in their way. That block just happens to be the current World Series champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers. General manager A.J. Preller and the Padres are looking to take the hardest and most fulfilling route to beating the Dodgers. That is in beating them at their own game. However, the Dodgers have one distinct advantage, as their annual payroll is upwards of $250 million, above the highest luxury tax threshold, according to Spotrac.
The Dodgers Keys to 2020 Dominance
To understand how the Padres plan on accomplishing this, first understand what made the Dodgers so good in 2020. The two main areas in which the Dodgers were unique in 2020 were:
1. Incredible versatility on their starting lineup and on their bench. The Dodgers had seven players that could play multiple positions, which in turn enabled them to play the matchup game while not giving up their defensive strengths.
2. A rotation that ran seven MLB viable starters deep. The Dodgers had a deep rotation that helped them get through a full season without really having to worry too much about injuries and pitcher fatigue.
The Padres Offseason Plan
This offseason, A.J. Preller looked to improve in these two aspects, the second of which had proved to be fatal in the Padres matchup against the Dodgers in the 2020 NLDS, when the Padres had their top two pitchers out with injuries. In line with the way that Preller works, he started to find skewed trades and low-cost signings to supplement and boost the Padres’ roster.
Over the winter, Preller re-signed, signed, and traded for Jurickson Profar, who had a slash line of .278/.343/.771, Ha-seong Kim, who slashed .306/.397/.921 in the KBO, and Victor Caratini, with a .241/.333/.661 slash line. All of these players can field multiple positions.
In the past, Preller has also traded for Jake Cronenworth, who plays all over the infield and outfield. Also, he traded for Austin Nola, who plays first base along with catcher. The reason that these multi-positional players are so important to Preller is because when the Padres are facing a team that is as good as the Dodgers, it helps to have the ability to put the best player in the best situation to help you try and win the game, all without giving up any defensive abilities.
However, Preller’s real magic came with the trades that acquired top-level starting pitchers. Over this offseason the Padres acquired former AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays and 2020 NL Cy Young Award runner-up Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs. He also brought in native San Diegan Joe Musgrove from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Preller was able to pry away these players from their former teams because of their larger contracts as teams try to cut payroll because of the money lost in the COVID-19 season. Other teams are undergoing a rebuild, and they were looking to offload talent to revamp their farm system. In doing this, Preller added three high-level pitchers to make one of the best rotations in baseball.
In other news, the Padres and Dodger both have incredible starting lineups and bullpens, so the nineteen games between these two teams look to be some of the most exciting baseball games of the season.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images