Padres join Nats as contenders for best rotation with Snell trade


Major League Baseball’s slow-moving offseason received a jolt Sunday night when the San Diego Padres traded for 2018 AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, shipping a package highlighted by polished pitching prospect Luis Patiño to the Tampa Bay Rays.

San Diego rose to contender status in 2020, making the playoffs for the first time in 14 years behind the strength of a young lineup that includes Fernando Tatís Jr., Manny Machado and Wil Myers. However, a series of injuries to their starting pitchers ultimately led to the Los Angeles Dodgers knocking them out in the National League Division Series.

Even with Mike Clevinger expected to miss the upcoming season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, the move to acquire Snell vaults the Padres into contention for one of the best rotations in the majors. Most teams are still tinkering with their rosters at this point in the winter, but here’s a look at the best playoff rotations (top four starters expected to be healthy by October) as the calendar flips to 2021.

5. San Diego Padres

Projected rotation: Blake Snell, Dinelson Lamet, Zach Davies, Chris Paddack

The Padres crack the top 5 by adding Snell to a group that already included Lamet (fourth place finisher in NL Cy Young race) and Davies (2.73 ERA in 12 starts). Paddack was a highly touted prospect who struggled at times in 2020 but still has the makeup to be a dominant arm. San Diego is also reportedly in “deep talks” to acquire Yu Darvish, which would push them up to third in these rankings.


4. Los Angeles Dodgers

Projected rotation: Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Dustin May

Los Angeles has so much pitching depth that any number of young arms such as Tony Gonsolin or Julio Urias could emerge as a candidate for its playoff rotation by season’s end. But the way things stand now, Buehler and Kershaw are their bonafide aces with Price returning to the fold after opting out in 2020 and May continuing his ascension as one of the best up-and-coming pitchers in the game.

3. Atlanta Braves

Projected rotation: Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson

One of the biggest storylines at the Braves’ camp in spring training will be the status of Soroka, who is coming off a torn Achilles hoping to be ready for the start of the season. Atlanta signed Morton earlier this offseason hoping to gain a veteran playoff performer alongside young stars Fried and Anderson. Drew Smyly would be the next man up if injuries arise.

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2. Washington Nationals

Projected rotation: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Joe Ross

No one has a more established trio of top-flight starters than the Nationals, who won a World Series behind the efforts of Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin. However, there are lingering questions about Scherzer’s ability to fight Father Time, Strasburg coming off carpal tunnel surgery and Corbin struggling during the shortened 2020 campaign that keeps them out of the top spot. Ross may not be the No. 4 starter by the offseason’s end, but he needs to prove he belongs after opting out in 2020.

1. Chicago White Sox

Projected rotation: Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Cease

The White Sox made the first blockbuster trade of the winter earlier this offseason when they dealt Dane Dunning and a prospect to the Texas Rangers for Lynn. He joins Keuchel (fifth in AL Cy Young voting) and Giolito (seventh) as perhaps the best trio of pitchers in baseball heading into 2021. Cease is still only 25 and looking to prove his elite prospect status was no fluke after leading the majors in walks last season.