Blake Snell joined a small group on Wednesday night, as a free-agent pitcher coming off a Cy Young Award-winning season. That’s quite the bullet point to add to a resume, eh?
Snell won the National League Cy Young, the second of his career, with 28 of the 30 first-place votes. He’s only the 10th pitcher (11th, kind of) to make that claim, but in a bit of a twist, this is actually the fourth year in a row it’s happened. Justin Verlander won the 2022 AL award, then signed with the Mets. Robbie Ray won the 2021 AL award, then signed with the Mariners. Trevor Bauer won the 2020 NL award, then signed with the Dodgers.
Of the other six hurlers, four re-signed to stay with the same team — Roger Clemens in 2004 (Astros), John Smoltz in 1996 (Braves), Bob Welch in 1990 (A’s) and Rick Suttcliffe in 1984 (Cubs) — and two left — Greg Maddux won the 1992 award with the Cubs, then signed with Atlanta and Mark Davis won the 1989 award with the Padres and signed with the Royals. Technically Catfish Hunter won the 1974 award, then left the A’s for the Yankees. But he was declared a free agent by an arbitrator after it was ruled the A’s had violated terms of his existing deal, meaning he was free to sign with any team.
Anyway, it’s a small club. Snell is now a member.
Where will Blake Snell sign this offseason?
And then it won’t be long until he’s a member of a different club — his new baseball team. The Padres aren’t expected to be able to re-sign Snell, mostly because with their financial difficulties. They aren’t in position to win any sort of bidding war.
And let’s just say the market for a guy coming off a season with a 2.25 ERA, 11.7 K/9 and .181 opponents batting average will be robust. Sure, he walks too many batters but when nobody can hit what he’s throwing — and he leads the league in ERA and bWAR — it evens out.
So where will he wind up? Let’s take a look at the probable suitors (listed alphabetically).
The need: If there’s a weakness with this Atlanta team, it’s rotation depth. That was on display in the NLDS loss to the Phillies, so expect the Braves to address that this offseason. It’s doubtful Atlanta will win a flat-out bidding war — that’s not the front office’s way — but if they can get in the right ballpark money-wise, the appeal of pitching in front of that lineup for the next six or seven years could be very appealing to Snell (or any other starter).
The need: The Cardinals have been open about two things: Their desire to add three starters this offseason, and their preference that those starters have swing-and-miss stuff. So, yes, Blake Snell makes a lot of sense. Snell’s K/9 ratio last year was 11.7. Snell’s K/9 ratio going back to 2018 is, you guessed it, 11.7. The Cardinals haven’t had a starter with at least 110 innings top even 9.0 K/9 since 2019, and they’ve literally never had a starter reach 11.0.
There are sooooo many “Cardinals are interested in Snell” reports out there, but this one has been especially interesting to Cardinals fans, from Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “As free agency neared, Snell privately asked what it’s like to be a Cardinal, what it’s like to call St. Louis a baseball home.” At least interest in Snell’s side, which is a start.
The need: The Cubs already made one stunning move this offseason, replacing manager David Ross with Craig Counsell, and you know there will be more coming. Cubs fans all are dreaming about Shohei Ohtani right about now, but putting Snell near the top of the rotation with Justin Steele would give the Cubs the best pair of lefty starters in the league.
The need: No team in baseball understands the adage “you can never have too much starting pitching” better than the Dodgers, who seem to deal with multiple significant injuries every season, yet still manage to win 100-plus games anyway. With Clayton Kershaw out of the mix for 2024, Snell would assume the mantle of the resident ace lefty atop the rotation.
The need: I’m just going to borrow from what I wrote in a free-agents prediction piece a few weeks ago …
Think about Snell’s “audition” against the Giants in 2023. The lefty made three starts against San Francisco, throwing 18 innings. He allowed only 10 hits, struck out 26 batters and allowed, wait for it … 0 runs. Yep, that’s right. Blake Snell had a 0.00 ERA in 18 innings against a team that is looking to spend money and just so happens has a massive need in the starting rotation, with Alex Cobb undergoing hip surgery. Snell thrived with the Padres, especially in the two years with Bob Melvin as his manager, posting a 2.72 ERA in 56 starts. Guess who just happens to be the new manager in San Francisco. Yep.
The need: Of all the teams on this list, the Mariners have the least “need” for Snell, though there’s no doubt adding Snell would make Seattle a better squad. Imagine a rotation that goes Luis Castillo, then Blake Snell, then Logan Gilbert, then George Kirby and then Bryce Miller/Bryan Woo/Emerson Hancock, with Robbie Ray expected back from Tommy John surgery at some point in the middle of next year. An embarrassment of riches, certainly. And adding Snell would give the M’s a surplus of what pretty much every team craves: young, controllable starting pitching. Seattle could bring back impact players to provide positional upgrades by dangling a talented pitching prospect or two.
But here’s the big question you might be asking: If the M’s don’t have a great need, why are they here? Bob Nightengale reported that Snell — who is from Seattle — “would love to” sign with the Mariners. That’s always a helpful nugget.
The need: The Mets have Kodai Senga and lots and lots of question marks. Snell would be a big addition, but still only part of the rotation rebuild the Mets need this offseason. Fair to ask if he’s their top priority, though, as reports point to Yoshinobu Yamamoto as No. 1 on the Mets’ list this postseason. Would they spend the money to land both? Seems doubtful.
The need: This one’s almost certainly contingent. In an ideal world, the Phillies certainly would love to retain home-grown ace Aaron Nola, who was the club’s No. 1 overall pick in 2014. But lots of other teams are motivated to sign Nola, too, and if he leaves, the Phillies will have an opening in the rotation. Snell would seem to fit that well. He’d give Philadelphia a second lefty in the rotation, along with Ranger Suarez.
The need: I mean, who wouldn’t want to pitch in front of that Texas lineup? If Jordan Montgomery leaves via free agency — he generated a lot of interest and earned a lot of money with his postseason performances — the Rangers will need to fill a rotation spot.
The need: The Sox have big aspirations this winter, with new decision-maker Craig Breslow calling the shots in the front office. Snell would be a big move that would help get at Boston’s biggest weakness (well, arguably): the rotation.
The need: If and when Eduardo Rodriguez signs elsewhere, Detroit will have an opening in its rotation for a new ace. The idea of having two nasty lefties — Tarik Skubal is primed for a huge year — in the rotation has to be appealing for Tigers fans.
The need: Gerrit Cole is a true No. 1, but the rest of the rotation has a lot of question marks. Snell would be a huge addition, no doubt, but the Yankees have so many needs — more offense is way up there — and it’s fair to wonder if they’ll flex spending muscle here.
Source : ESPN.com