For those of you living under a rock, Tampa Bay has a new pitching stud. No, it’s not Chris Archer, he’s old news! It’s Blake Snell and he’s the savior of the baseball in Tampa! Why? He’s going to leave at the deadline for greener pastures and by doing so he’s going to save Rays fans. He’s the messiah they were waiting for.
Am I being a bit hyperbolic? Sure. However, Blake Snell is the real deal and if you think that’s a hot take then you need to take a look at his numbers.
Blake Snell was drafted in the first round of the 2011 MLB Amateur draft by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 52nd pick overall. From there Snell went right to rookie ball where he excelled. Blake Snell would spend the next 5 seasons climbing through the ranks of minors making his way to the Major League club. To save time, here’s the one thing you need to know: Blake Snell is a beast.
Snell has never in his career had an ERA above 4.75, which is more than 95% of the Mets pitching staff can say. In fact, in his 3 seasons with the Rays, Snell has a 3.43 ERA, 1.330 WHIP, and a 9.2 K/9. These numbers, it should be noted, are virtually identical to Chris Archer’s, despite Snell’s career being less than half as long.
So when the chatter about Archer’s departure began last summer and carried through the offseason, their eyes should have been on Snell. In the upcoming month and a half, he’ll be the guy on everybody’s list. Snell is the real deal.
The Snell of the Ball
Let’s look at a few key factors that make Blake Snell an ideal trade target for playoff contenders.
In his last 7 starts, Snell has faced some of the most powerful offenses in the American League. In that 7 game span, Snell faces the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners (twice) nd the reigning World Champion Houston Astros. Throughout that time Snell has amassed a solid ERA of 1.69 and a WHIP of 1.078. Very casual numbers from Blake.
On top of that, Snell took a no-hitter into the 7th inning against the Washington Nationals. Snell would leave after pitching 7.0 innings of one-hit baseball, striking out 10 Nationals, including Bryce Harper.
So yeah, Snell’s on a roll.
Elite Pitching with a Rookie Price Tag
The other thing to note about Snell is that he’s under Team Control both this year and 2019, and isn’t a free agent until 2023. What does “Team Control” mean? Thanks for asking.
“The years that a player is under team control are determined by service time. There are usually 183 days during a baseball season. A player has to remain on a big league team’s 25-man roster for at least 172 days to accrue one year of service time, but if he’s on the roster for less than that then it doesn’t count as a full year and the team effectively gets another season to control the player. Normally, for the first 3 years of service, a player is paid the league minimum, but after that he becomes eligible for arbitration for the next 3 years where he can negotiate for more money. After 6 total years of service time, the player is eligible to become a free agent, unless his arbitration deal is for more years.
Sometimes though, a player can get arbitration before completing 3 full years of service. If a player has at least 2 years of service but not yet 3, and he’s in the top 22% of players closest to having 3 years, MLB will give him super 2 status so he can negotiate his contract.” -r/baseball
Essentially what this boils down to is whatever team Snell plays for is going to get a solid, terrific talent pitcher for next to nothing until 2023. Still confused? The Mets are paying Noah Syndergaard $2.95 million this year, not because he’s atrocious and they hate him, but because it’s his first year of arbitration and he was under team control up until 2016. Good? Good.
So whoever trades enough for the Rays to part with Snell is going to get a finished product at way under market price. However, while Snell’s contract will be minimal, his price tag will be high.
The Personnel for Snell
Think of the last two young pitchers to get sent packing early in their careers. The first moves that come to mind are Sonny Gray’s trade from Oakland to New York and Gerrit Cole from Pittsburgh to Houston. Coincidently, Cole was the 1st overall pick of the 2011 draft, while Sonny Gray was 18th and Snell was 52nd.
In both cases, the receiving team had to sell a chunk of their prospects to get them. Sonny Gray went for 3 prospects and international pool money. The Yankees were fine to part with Jorge Mateo and Dustin Fowler, the latter because they are straight up brimming with outfielders. Houston’s trade, however, saw some big pieces on the move.
Colin “King of Terrible Smiles” Moran was a big piece on the move from Houston to Pittsburgh, as was Joe Musgrove and Jason Martin. Four guys moved north for Gerrit Cole, and Snell deserves a similar package.
This doesn’t always work out favorably for both sides. The infamous Shelby Miller trade saw the Diamondbacks give up Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair and former 1st overall pick of the 2015 MLB draft, Dansby Swanson. Shelby Miller has since gone 5-15 in Arizona, as his ERA ballooned to 5.97 and his WHIP hanging around the 1.650 level. Clearly, some deals don’t work out.
Tampa Bay Needs to Snell High
Much like the other deals mentioned above, the Braves, Pirates, and Athletics all sold high on their best available offering. The Rays have to do the same. We’ve seen how year after year Chris Archer’s trade value has dwindled to the point where he’s not terrifically desirable as a trade target. Archer has become a guy you shop around, not one you answer calls about.
Snell is a guy you get calls about and the Rays should be more than happy to pick up the phone. Why? Because they have a chance to save their organization.
It only takes one move to change everything for a team. The 2015 Mets don’t get to the World Series without Yoenis Cespedes, but they had to deal Rookie of the Year Michae Fullmer to get him. Do some Mets fans wish they still had Fullmer? Sure. But without Yo, 2015 ends in Los Angeles for the Amazins. Snell could be that guy, depending on who makes the right offer.
Helping Tampa By Leaving
This is the most important piece of this move for the Rays. In the last few years, Tampa has made some great deals that brought in some young talent that is blossoming before our eyes. In their 2018 lineup, only 3 of their top 15 position players were acquired without making a trade. Of their pitching staff, 7 of their top 14 pitchers were acquired through trades.
The Tampa Bay Rays were built on trades, and they’ll succeed through trades.
- Blake Snell – Drafted in 2011 (52nd Overall)
- Daniel Robertson – Aquired in the Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar trade from Oakland
- Matt Duffy – Acquired in the Matt Moore trade from San Francisco
- Wilson Ramos – Signed in 2016
- Mallex Smith – Acquired in the Drew Smyly trade from Seattle
- Denard Span – Acquired in the Evan Longoria trade from San Francisco
- Joey Wendle – Acquired via trade from the Oakland Atheltics in 2017
- C.J. Cron – Acquired via trade from the Los Angeles Angels in 2018
- Wilmer Font – Acquired via trade with the Oakland Athletics in 2018
- Jake Bauers – Acquired in the Wil Myers trade to San Diego. That trade also included Trea Turner as a Player To Be Named Later.
The Tampa Bay Rays have built their team on the backs of trades and Blake Snell can help them boost their squad for the 2019 season.
The last time the Rays were in the World Series they had the 29th highest payroll in the entire league. This front office knows how to structure a team with youth and talent without breaking the bank, and that’s how they’re going to save this franchise.
While their counterparts in the AL East try to beat each other with their wallets, the Rays need to beat them with their youth. The longevity of a baseball team is not determined by the size of a team’s wallet, but by the talent and skill that they possess on the diamond. Blake Snell isn’t going to help the Rays win in 2018, but he could be the catalyst for the ailing Florida franchise’s future.
All they have to do is pick up the phone and listen.