It's fair to state the Blue Jays had one of the very best rotations in Major League Baseball last season. Among other things, they ranked third in ERA, second in strikeouts and fifth in combined innings pitched.
However, this does not mean there aren't some concerns ahead of the 2024 campaign. For example, can the starters continue to be durable, will Yusei Kikuchi's successful year prove to be a one-off and what should the Blue Jays expect from Alek Manoah?
Considering these questions, there is a justified argument for the Blue Jays to search for another quality starter for the rotation. And if the latest speculation is to be believed, they are apparently doing just this.
Cy Young level quality
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, several teams are keeping tabs on Blake Snell. Nightengale suggest the Blue Jays in particular, have been quietly (or maybe that should be not so quietly) monitoring his free agency.
Certainly, you can appreciate why the Blue Jays and other teams would be intrigued by adding Snell to their rotation. After all, we're talking about a pitcher who is coming off a season where he won his second Cy Young Award.
The southpaw was lights out in 2023 for the Padres. He lead all qualifying starters with a 2.25 ERA, 99 walks, 5.8 hits per nine innings and a 182 ERA+; he also produced a 3.44 FIP, 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.189 WHIP.
With Snell being so dominant last year, this leads to the more than reasonable question of why he has yet to sign with anyone? Perhaps unsurprisingly, it all comes down to money.
Snell wants how much?!
According to Nightengale, the 31-year-old is seeking a contract which will pay him at least $240M. The MLB insider makes no reference to term, so all we can go on is several projections in the past couple of months which have him predicted to make around $24-$25M per season. This is clearly too much for teams as things stand, with it now becoming a case of waiting to see if he will lower his demands.
A big part of the reason for interested suitors baulking at how much Snell wants, is his history of struggling to remain healthy. Yes he made a career high 32 starts in 2023, but it's tough to disregard his previous injury issues throughout his eight years in the Majors.
Throw in the fact the two-time ERA leader is now in his 30s, and it's no wonder his salary demands are putting teams off. As much as he does deserve an increase on his career-high $16 million base salary from last season as well as the security of multiple years, he still needs to be reasonable
In all likelihood, Snell compromising will be tied to how much longer he remains without a team, with pitchers and catchers set to report in around a month's time. For further context of the current 'standoff', Nightengale adds that the Yankees did offer him around $140M but this was declined, with them then pivoting to Marcus Stroman.
From the Blue Jays' perspective, their pursuit of Shohei Ohtani proves they have the funds, although we appreciate no one else offers the same level of return on investment. In any event, Ross Atkins and company should be careful, as if they're too patient or leave things for too long, they'll lose out on a player who would make their rotation even better.