The Mets’ biggest rivals this winter is not a team in their own division, the NL East, or across town in the Yankees.
No, it’s the San Diego Padres, who made the biggest move of the offseason to date by trading for Rays ace, Blake Snell, late Sunday night for top pitching prospect Luis Patiño, catchers Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt, and right-handed pitching prospect Cole Wilcox.
The 28-year-old Snell won the AL Cy Young Award in 2018 while with Tampa Bay, developing into one of the top pitchers in the game over the last three years. He’s 31-15 with a 2.85 ERA and 1.102 WHIP in 65 starts during that stretch.
He was the backbone of a Rays pitching staff that pushed the Los Angeles Dodgers to six games in the 2020 World Series — the clincher famously featuring Snell being pulled prematurely by manager Kevin Cash after a sterling 5.1 innings.
His introduction to San Diego’s rotation only bolsters its rotation as one of the very best in baseball as he joins Danielson Lamet, Chris Paddack, Zach Davies, and potentially MacKenzie Gore — considered by many to be the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball. In 2022, they’ll also get top-tier starter Mike Clevinger back after he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
They’re not done, either. San Diego picked up highly-touted Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim on Monday afternoon and are in talks with the Chicago Cubs for another star starting pitcher in Yu Darvish.
The Padres are poised to not only challenge the Dodgers for NL West supremacy but are also a dangerous team to watch in terms of the pennant chase — their aggressive tactics giving the Mets a run for their money after signing Trevor May and James McCann this offseason.
Mets owner Steve Cohen took to Twitter to provide an update that there wasn’t much going on at this time for his team, though the Mets were never really in on Snell.
“Not much going out there due to the holidays,” he wrote. “Conversations hopefully pick up this week.”
The Mets are in need of rotational depth, however, behind Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman. With Noah Syndergaard expected to return from Tommy John surgery in June or July, the Mets are working with David Peterson, Steven Matz, and Seth Lugo — one of their best bullpen arms — as their other starting options.
They have been linked with Trevor Bauer, the best available free-agent pitcher on the market fresh off a Cy Young Award-winning campaign with the Cincinnati Reds as a headlining option behind deGrom. But they’ve also reportedly shown interest in Jake Odorizzi and Japanese star hurler Tomoyuki Sugano as potential mid-rotation options. A center fielder is also needed for the Mets to be considered a legitimate contender this year. They are believed to be one of the favorites to sign All-Star George Springer.
Regardless of when they check off those final boxes, the Mets could be on the verge of a cross-country rivalry with San Diego for years to come; because they look ready to make some noise in 2021.