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In the pandemic-shortened 2020 MLB season, the LA Dodgers were undeniably better than the San Diego Padres. LA won the NL West by six games over their neighbors to the south, then proceeded to sweep them out of the playoffs in the NL Division Series. Despite falling to the eventual World Champions, 2020 was by all accounts a successful season as San Diego made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.

Now the Padres want more. And the team fully understands in order to be the champ, you’ve got to beat the champ. The San Diego front office has made several big moves in the last couple of days acquiring a pair of high-profile players that considerably bolster the Padres lineup in 2021, and in the process, send a clear message to their division rivals and the rest of MLB. 

San Diego Padres impress in 2020

The San Diego Padres were one of the surprise stories during the pandemic-shortened 2020 MLB season. The upstart team impressed at the plate behind the power of Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and Wil Myers, who combined for 48 home runs in the 60-game season. The team finished fourth overall in MLB with 95 home runs. 

On the mound, the Padres received quality starting pitching from their young guns in Zach Davies, Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack, and Mike Clevinger, who was acquired in a midseason trade from Cleveland. The starting rotation and bullpen jointly finished the season with a team ERA of 3.86, good enough for eighth in MLB. 

All of it combined the San Diego Padres finished the season with a 36-23 record and second place in the NL West behind the LA Dodgers.

After both teams won their respective Wild Card Series, they faced off in the NL Division Series. The LA Dodgers confirmed their regular-season title wasn’t a fluke and easily dispatched the Padres in a three-game sweep. 

San Diego Padres trade for 2018 AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell

The LA Dodgers won the 2020 World Series. They are the champs until another team proves otherwise. This weekend, the San Diego Padres established they have every intent of challenging the Dodgers for their division and World Series crowns in 2021 with the first of two big moves. 

With Mike Clevinger out until the 2022 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, the Padres were looking to find a quality replacement for the starting rotation. They did just that on Sunday when the team traded for left-handed starter Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays. San Diego received the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner in exchange for four prospects.

Snell made 11 starts for the Rays in 2020, finished with a 4-2 record, and posted a 3.24 ERA. He excelled in the postseason on baseball’s biggest stage against the LA Dodgers. In Game 2 of the World Series, Snell allowed two runs and struck out nine batters in 4.2 innings, becoming the first player in World Series history to strike out nine or more batters in fewer than five innings pitched. 

In Game 6, he pitched even better, tossing five innings of shutout ball that included two hits and nine strikeouts. In a questionable move, Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled Snell in the 6th. The Dodgers scored two runs in that inning after his departure and went on to win the game 3–1 and win the World Series. 

Padres add bat with Korean star Ha-Seong Kim

Without question, the San Diego Padres adding Blake Snell to the rotation sends a direct message to the LA Dodgers. But the Padres didn’t stop there. On Monday, San Diego reportedly reached an agreement with South Korean star infielder Ha-Seong Kim, who was being pursued by multiple teams.  

The 25-year-old Kim has played seven seasons with the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization. The right-handed Kim hit .306 with 30 home runs, 109 RBIs, and 23 stolen bases this past season. He has primarily played shortstop and third base. However, with Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. manning the left side of the infield, the Padres will have to get creative in finding ways to insert Kim into the lineup.

The 2020 MLB season was one to remember for a multitude of reasons, including playing in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. For the San Diego Padres, they’re hoping the year will be remembered as a positive step in the right direction, and more specifically, how a couple of moves at the end of it translated into reaching new heights in 2021 at the expense of their division rivals.  

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