The underperformance and injuries within the San Diego Padres rotation in 2021 ultimately led to the organization acquiring left-hander Sean Manaea.
This time last year, the San Diego Padres starting rotation was one of the best in Major League Baseball — at least on paper. Headliner trades with the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays brought Yu Darvish and Blake Snell to America’s Finest City. Joe Musgrove was brought over from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a smaller trade.
Chris Paddack and Adrian Morejon rounded out the Padres rotation, two players who had, at times, shown flashes. Dinelson Lamet was also expected to return to the rotation sometime in April, and both MacKenzie Gore and Ryan Weathers were on the cusp of being Major League-ready.
The Padres went into 2021 with the understanding they would be without Mike Clevinger for the entire calendar year but were expecting him to be ready to go in 2022.
However, San Diego didn’t expect the injury bug to hit so hard. The Padres’ rotation was decimated by the end of the season, playing a significant role in the team’s 26-43 record in the second half.
Lamet made his debut in late April but was sidelined twice with forearm injuries. He eventually returned healthy, pitching solely out of the bullpen. All three of Adrian Morejon (Tommy John), Paddack (elbow), and Snell (groin) saw their seasons end prematurely.
It’s evident that general manager A.J. Preller is keen on ensuring that pitching depth isn’t an issue this season. Not long after news broke that Clevinger would begin the year on the injured list, the Padres traded with the Oakland Athletics, acquiring left-hander Sean Manaea to bolster the rotation.
“Every team wants starting pitching depth,” said Preller via San Diego Union-Tribune. “This year, it’s as important as any with the nature of the shorter spring training and … knowing guys have been on a shorter schedule.”
“Because of last year, the organization is looking at it a little bit differently this year and trying to accumulate as much depth with the rotation as you can,” added manager Bob Melvin.
The Padres’ top-three in the rotation is set, with Darvish, Manaea, and Musgrove getting the nod in the season’s first three games. Blake Snell will follow, and the fifth starter likely comes down to either Paddack or Nick Martinez.
Unfortunately, unless another injury pops up, Gore and Weathers will remain in the minors, as the latter was already optioned to Triple-A El Paso over the weekend. Minus a grand slam on Sunday, Gore has made a strong case for the Opening Day roster. In 12.0 innings pitched, the 23-year-old has 16 strikeouts to just three walks. After the Manaea addition, the former third overall pick’s future at the big league level remains vague at best.
The Padres will also get Clevinger back into the rotation at some point this season. He’s likely not to return to the pitcher he once was, but the 31-year-old will be yet another body in the rotation for the Friars to utilize.