The NL West is tougher, but task remains the same for Giants originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Just about every time he has spoken publicly this offseason, Giants manager Gabe Kapler has been asked about Blake Snell, who became one of the biggest stories of the World Series when he was pulled prematurely by manager Kevin Cash. That won't change anytime soon.
Snell is now a San Diego Padre, the latest big name to be brought to Southern California as A.J. Preller builds what looks to be an emerging superpower. Snell was dealt to San Diego late Sunday night, with the Rays doing what they do, acquiring a well-regarded package of four prospects in exchange for some salary relief.
It was a rough headline for fans of the other NL West teams, and it was followed Monday morning by the revelation that the Padres are still chasing Yu Darvish and inked South Korean infielder Ha-seong Kim, but in the offices at Oracle Park, it's unlikely the last 24 hours changed much.
There was never any question that the Padres would rise. The only question was when, and to what extent. When Farhan Zaidi took the top job in 2018, he did so knowing that he would have to contend not just with a potential Dodgers dynasty he had helped build, but with a Padres front office that had amassed incredible prospect depth and shown a willingness to spend. These Padres were always going to be good, and they've taken advantage of that prospect depth to add Mike Clevinger and now Snell to what was being built internally.
The Clevinger deal hasn't worked out, and he'll miss the 2021 season after having Tommy John surgery, but with Snell alongside Dinelson Lamet at the top of the rotation, the Padres are perhaps the clearest threat in all of MLB to the Dodgers next season.
That's not ideal if you're the Giants, but nobody around here was realistically looking at chasing a division title in 2021. The road to the postseason is still the wild card, and while facing this version of the Dodgers and Padres nearly 40 times is rough, the rest of the division looks pretty beatable if the Giants are able to build on what they did in 2020.
Of course, that requires upgrades, and while the front office has made a series of solid moves, it seems increasingly unlikely that a blockbuster is coming this winter as the Giants add complementary pieces and continue to wait for big contracts to come off their books after the 2021 season. Part of the reason the Giants have never worried much about the Padres is that their own timetable is different. They have been building towards 2022, when it's possible that Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos, Marco Luciano and others are in the lineup, with a top farm system coming up behind them. As they've watched the Padres maneuver, they have mostly been curious about how much of their own young talent they're giving up.
The Padres stripped away a chunk of their system at the deadline and just sent three more of their top prospects to the Rays, with a potential Darvish deal costing them more. Going all-in right now is the right thing to do for the Padres, but the Giants probably don't hate seeing it. They are on a different path, and while 2021 and '22 just got tougher in the NL West, at some point those prospects will be missed.
At some point, Giants fans will also get sick of hearing about what's to come, but that's the current reality for an organization that not too long ago had a bloated payroll, declining roster and poor farm system. The Giants are building patiently and at their own pace, and they'll continue to do so no matter what else happens in the division.
The pressure on them right now isn't to react to what the Padres are doing. It's to mimic it, and eventually figure out when the time is right to make their own strike.