Blue Jays: Blake Snell Trade Sets the Market For Starting Pitching
By Charles Kime
According to multiple sources, the Padres will acquire 2018 AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell from the Rays, setting the offseason trade market for top of the rotation starting pitching. What would a comparable Blue Jays offer look like?
San Diego has an agreement on a blockbuster trade with Tampa to acquire LHP Blake Snell, one of the best pitchers in MLB, in exchange for Baseball America’s 18th ranked prospect, righty Luis Patiño, plus MLB catcher Francisco Mejía, and Padres prospects catcher Blake Hunt and RHP Cole Wilcox.
As MLBTR notes,
"Snell’s combination of high-end talent and cheap, long-term control meant the Padres had no choice but to offer an elite package to pry him from Tampa."
The 28 year-old Snell has three years and $39 million left on the five year/$50 million contract he signed after 2018. He’s posted a 2.85 ERA across 337.2 innings over the past three years., striking out 32.1% of opposing hitters, and holding them to a .206/.279/.350 slash line.
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He made up part of Tampa’s ‘big three’ in 2020 that helped them reach the World Series, but after Charlie Morton signed with Atlanta, only Tyler Glasnow remains.
According to MLB.com’s latest prospect rankings, 21 year-old Luis Patiño was the Padres’ 3rd ranked prospect after signing as an international free agent from Colombia in 2016, and projects as a number two starter after making his MLB debut over 11 appearances, including one start, and 17.1 innings in 2020.
6’5” 232 lb RHP Cole Wilcox, age 21, was a 2020 3rd round draft pick out of the University of Georgia, and is their 7th best prospect, while 22 year-old catcher Blake Hunt, the 69th overall pick in the 2017 draft, ranks 14th. Hunt spent 2019 at Class A Fort Wayne where he slashed .255/.331/.381.
The other piece, 25 year old Francisco Mejía, has already played in parts of four MLB seasons, exceeding his rookie limits in 2019. He ranked as Baseball America’s 20th best MLB prospect ahead of the 2018 season, when MLB Pipeline ranked him 11th and Baseball Prospectus had him 5th overall. The key piece acquired by the Padres in the July 2018 Brad Hand trade with Cleveland, the switch-hitting catcher has yet to show much in MLB, slashing .225/.282/.386 over 128 games and 362 plate attempts, but let’s see what Tampa can do with him after sprinkling their pixie dust like they’ve done countless times with Travis d’Arnaud and others.
The Jays are clearly in the market for at least one top of the rotation starter, if not more, to pair with ace Hyun Jin Ryu. So what would a comparable Blue Jays offer for Snell have looked like? Jays Journal co-editor and fellow contributor Chris Henderson takes a stab here:
Last month, fellow Jays Journal contributor Reuben Gasee speculated that acquiring Snell would have cost one of Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire or Alejandro Kirk, along with one of the Jays top three prospects in Nate Pearson, Austin Martin or Jordan Groshans, and another top prospect like #4 Simeon Woods Richardson or #5 Alek Manoah. Given the likely AL East premium needed to trade intra-division, that looks like it was somewhat comparable with the Padres’ package for Snell.
I’m guessing a similar Jays package would have had to include one of Nate Pearson, Austin Martin, Jordan Groshans or Simeon Woods Richardson, along with catchers Alejandro Kirk and Riley Adams, plus another pitching prospect like Alek Manoah, Eric Pardinho or Patrick Murphy. That seems like a steep price at this stage of the Blue Jays competitive cycle, with their window probably a year or two behind where the Padres are in terms of being legitimate World Series contenders.
Now that the 2020/21 offseason market price for top of the rotation starters has been set, there are still plenty of options:
In addition to free agent starters like Trevor Bauer, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Tomoyuki Sugano, other top starters with three years of control rumoured to be available on the trade market include 34 year-old Cubs righty Yu Darvish (3 years/$59 million), 34 year-old Indians righty Carlos Carrasco (3 years/$38 million, although the third year is a team option), 31 year-old Reds righty Sonny Gray (3 years/$42.3 million, although the third year is a team option), and 28 year-old righty Luis Castillo (in his first year of arbitration eligibility).
Then the market drops off to higher risk talents like the oft-injured Jameson Taillon with two years of team control, or dumpster dive reclamation projects like free agents Chris Archer or Corey Kluber.
To swing a trade for an elite starter, clearly 2-3 of the Jays top ten prospects including a catcher, and then some mid-level prospect names like Eric Pardinho, Patrick Murphy, Anthony Kay and Riley Adams would have to be included. Is that trade-off worth it? We’ll soon find out.
And just more food for thought here, but Rays three time Gold Glover Kevin Kiermaier, who is also rumoured to be available and would fill another immediate Jays’ need, is the only Ray currently owed more than $7 million in 2021. He has two years/$26 million remaining on his contract, and would look great in centre field for the Jays.
Also, the Padres have now traded catchers Austin Hedges (in the Mike Clevinger deal), Luis Torrens (in the Austin Nola trade), and Mejía (in the package for Snell) all this year, leaving them with only Nola and top catching prospect Luis Campusano. Could the Jays deal from a position of strength here to acquire one of the remaining top Padres prospects like LHP Ryan Weathers (son of former Jays pitcher David Weathers) or LHP Adrián Morejón who exceeded his rookie limits in 2020?