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Luis Patiño's Proximity Is Key



In trading Blake Snell to the Padres, the Rays gave up a proven front-of-the-rotation starter who could have helped them win games in 2021, 2022 and 2023

In getting Luis Patiño back as the headliner in the five-player blockbuster, they feel they got a talented young pitcher who they feel can quickly grow into that role and be part of their success for a long time.

Patiño is a 21-year-old righthander who ranks among the top prospects in the game. He made his big league debut in 2020, appearing in 11 games for the Padres and recording a 5.19 ERA to go with 21 strikeouts and 14 walks in 17.1 innings.

The Rays see great things ahead for Patiño, enough to be worth giving up a key piece of a team that is coming off a World Series appearance. Snell is 28 and was owed $39 million over the next three seasons.

"This is something that we wouldn't have thought about it if the entirety of the return were years away,’’ Rays general manager Erik Neander said. “To have the primary piece for us—and Luis Patiño is the primary piece—be as close as he is, and to be able to time up where he should be going through a really nice progression over the course of 2021, that was really important to us.’’

The Rays also picked up righthander Cole Wilcox and catchers Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt in the deal.

Patiño signed with the Padres in 2016 out of Colombia and worked his way quickly through their system, showing a high-octane fastball and nasty slider. Though his size (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) and lack of a consistent third pitch has raised questions about his role, the Rays plan to develop him as a starter.

"From a talent perspective, you're talking about an incredible athlete," Neander said of Patiño. "You're talking about someone with top-notch aptitude and makeup, and as good as those things are, you’re talking about a stuff package that is power fastball, slider, a feel for a curveball that he didn't really utilize out of the (bullpen) and an emerging feel for the changeup that he showed in 2020."

COOL RAYS

— Whether Patiño will be part of the Rays' Opening Day rotation will be decided by what moves the club makes the rest of the winter. But after trading Snell, declining their $15 million option on Charlie Morton and losing Brendan McKay to injury for part of 2021 and Jalen Beeks and Yonny Chirinos for likely the whole year, they can use the help.

Other candidates for starter or bulk-inning roles are lefthanders Josh Fleming and Shane McClanahan and righthander Brent Honeywell, the former top prospect who is expected to be ready coming off another elbow surgery in December.

— The need for a 40-man roster spot was more pressing than another opportunity for lefty Jose Alvarado, the once promising hard-throwing reliever, who was traded to the Phillies in a three-team deal. The Rays got first baseman Dillon Paulson from the Dodgers and another minor leaguer to be named.

— Speedy outfielder Carl Chester, as 12th-round pick in 2017 who split 2019 between High-A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery, was sent to the Rangers as the player to be named in the six-player December deal headlined by Nate Lowe.

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