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Can the Padres Contend Next Season?

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Can the Padres Contend Next Season?
Adrian Morejon #50 of the San Diego Padres on October 08, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/AFP

The San Diego Padres surprised many with a 37-23 record in 2020. The Padres were just six games away from the Dodgers for first place in the NL West and simply dominated in their home ballpark.

In 2020, the Padres watched their success develop early and added even more pieces to contend. The Padres first added lefty power bat Mitch Moreland, but have since declined his $3 million option for the 2021 season. He won’t return. However, they also added catcher Aaron Nola at the trade deadline and now he’s likely going to be their number one catcher in 2021.

Chris Paddack #59 of the San Diego Padres. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP

However, someone who will return next season is Mike Clevinger. He was an ace pitcher with the Indians but struggled early in 2020. Then injuries derailed his 2020 season but if he can get back to his 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons, the Padres will have an amazing pitching staff.

Clevinger went 12-6 with a 3.11 ERA in 2017. He had a 13-8 in 2018 with a 3.02 ERA. Lastly, in 2019, Clevinger had a 13-4 record with a 2.71 ERA (but only pitched 126 innings and 21 games that year). The Padres starting rotation will be one of the best in baseball. They’ll have Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger at the top. Then they’ll look to get Chris Paddack moving. Paddack had a solid rookie season but has since pitched poor, allowing too many home runs. But we know Paddack has the stuff to improve and become great.

Look, when you have Zach Davies as your fourth starter, things are looking bright. The 5th pitcher spot is up for grabs. Could it be Trevor Bauer? Or will it be Luis Patiino, Joey Lucchesi, Ryan Weathers, Adrian Morejon or MacKenzie Gore. Either way, the Padres will pick the best out of spring training and roll with the best. You’d have to trust their judgment. The Padres have so many options, unlike many teams in the MLB.

Fernando Tatis Jr. #23 of the San Diego Padres. Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP

It’s also possible that these young arms wind up in the bullpen, giving the Padres plenty of young options. Also, the Padres would be able to develop some of their young guys via the bullpen and let them pitch in the major leagues.

The starting rotation will look really good for the Padres but that lineup will look even better. The Padres lineup includes young sensation Fernando Tatis Jr. and third baseman and star Manny Machado. Machado might not deserve the money he’s making but he was very clutch in moments last season. The Padres will accept that any time.

The Padres lineup will also include first baseman Eric Hosmer and young studs like Jake Cronenwoorth and Trent Grisham. They are built to contend for a World Series now. You won’t see many free agents off the roster from 2020 to 2021. It will sting with Kirby Yates and Trevor Rosenthal hitting free agency but again, the Padres have plenty of arms to make decisions on who will close games and who can pitch out of the bullpen in critical moments.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP

When the season concluded and he was asked about free agency and off-season trades, AJ Preller, the general manager told MLB.com, “We feel like we have a pretty complete, competitive club. Every year you’re going to look to improve and going to look to try to continue to add. We understand the ultimate goal is to win the World Series. I don’t think there’s a glaring area that we go into this thing [looking for]. It’s still adding the right kind of people to the group and the team.”

In 2020, it seemed like the Padres needed everything. In 2021, the Padres seem like they don’t need much. It was an effective 2020 campaign. The one issue will be trying to get ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but thankfully there are still wild card spots in play. The Padres should hold onto one in a much longer 2021 season.

Clearly, the one area the Padres will need to address is the bullpen. They’re more than likely going to lose their closer. The Padres have long-term answers for second base and center field, which were concerns and questions from last season. They’ve got young players that developed and delivered.

Even if the Padres don’t win the NL West next season, they’ll contend. They’ll be sitting at the top of the NL Wild Card for the entire season. From there, the Padres can absolutely rally with a strong pitching staff and an even better lineup that was clutch all throughout last season with grand slams galore.

You simply can’t count out the Padres in 2021.