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Exploring the Starting Pitching Trade Market: Blake Snell (TBR)

With teams looking to cut salary across the league a divisional foe has listed their ace as “available”. With 3 years and $40.8M remaining ($10M AAV on the luxury tax), is he a starting pitcher work a look for the Yankees? Do they have a good enough farm to trade for him? Let’s find out together.

 

Who Is Blake Snell?

As Yankees fans, I think we’ve seen enough of Blake Snell to know who he is. But, just in case let’s run through a quick career overview since he was drafted.

Signed out of High School, the Tampa Bay Rays used their 52nd pick in the 1st Round (Comp) of the 2011 Draft to select left-handed pitcher Blake Snell- a class which may be the best ever. That same year he would begin his professional career with a short stint with the Gulf Coast Rays (Rookie Ball). He would move up to the Appalachian League (also Rookie Ball) the next year as the Rays were being careful with the young starter. His whole 2013 season was spent with Bowling Green (Class-A) and he started there again in 2014 before making the jump to Charlotte (Class-A Advanced).

2015 would be Snell’s biggest season as he quickly moved up to Double-A Montgomery, spending about half the season there before spending the final third of the season with Triple-A Durham. Just one step away from the MLB, Snell would get his MLB debut against the Yankees early in 2016, but he would ultimately split time about 50/50 but he would end the season in the MLB. Given a rotation spot for 2017, Snell would make one last temporary stop in Triple-A after a bad April and May before coming back permanently (except for rehab starts) at the end of June.

He’s been an above-average starter over his career with one incredible 2018 season where he made the All-Star Game won the AL Cy Young on the back of a 1.89 ERA and a 217 ERA+. So far in his career, these have been his only accolades.

 

The Stats of Blake Snell (2016-2020 and 2021 Projections):

Over his parts of 5 years in the MLB, Blake Snell has pitched to a 42-30 record with a 3.24 ERA over 108 starts and 556.0 innings. When looking at more advanced stats, he has a career 3.50 FIP, a 130 ERA+, and a 1.237 WHIP, of which all are good but massively skewed due to his 2018 season. While it would be wrong to completely discredit his potential, if we look at his career stats in the 2-years before and 2-years after his Cy Young we get the following:

2016/17: 11-15 Record (43 G), 3.83 ERA, 218.1 Innings, 217 strikeouts, 3.87 FIP, 1.447 WHIP, 108 ERA+

2019/20: 10-10 Record (34 G), 3.96 ERA, 157.0 Innings, 210 strikeouts, 3.65 FIP, 1.248 WHIP, 111 ERA+

So, he’s by no means a true “ace”. He is a good starting pitcher who is consistently above-average and who had one incredible year.

He isn’t a #1 guy and the Rays understood this as he was their #3 guy in 2020 behind Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough. If you’d want a good comp of who Blake Snell is, think of him like Dallas Keuchel. Another lefty starting pitcher who won an AL Cy Young with an insane year, is a career 113 ERA+ guy, and has very few other accolades (2 ASG’s and 4 Gold Gloves).

So, what should be expected of him in 2021? Baseball Reference has him projected from a 3.65 ERA over 138 innings, a 1.217 WHIP, and 167 strikeouts at a 10.9 K/9 rate. Fangraphs projects a moderately better season with a 3.47 ERA (3.61 FIP) over 166 innings, a 1.20 WHIP, and 204 strikeouts at a 11.1 K/9 rate. With these projections I believe they are probably right where they should be. While the number of innings seems low, Snell has a small injury history with two short DL stints in 2018 (Left shoulder fatigue and Fractured right toe) and a longer IL stint in 2019 (Loose bodies in left elbow) that kept him out for about 2 months.

 

What Would it Take to Get Snell?

After an early removal in Game 6 of the 2020 World Series, it seems that there is some discontent between the former ace and the team that drafted him. Combined with the Tampa Bay Rays behind historically cheap and running with a tight payroll, there are good reasons for the two to part. With 3 years remaining at $40.8M he is going to be making less than a typical pitcher of his caliber and would be a desired player with his low AAV ($10M/year) given the 5/$50M extension he signed in 2019.

As we saw yesterday with Luis Castillo, comps are hard to come by for top-end pitchers and the Yankees have a weak farm system. However, we do have some data to go off of by looking at his value according to BaseballTradeValues.com.

Today (these numbers change often) Snell’s value is placed at 52.9 MTV. That’s not terrible for the Yankees to get up to in terms of value. However, I think you do have to account for the AL East tax on how much more the Yankees would have to pay to get a player from the Rays.

Again, as we saw yesterday the Yankees young MLB players/prospect values are the following:

Deivi Garcia = 31.1

Jasson Dominguez = 30.9

Jordan Montgomery = 29.6

Clarke Schmidt = 22.3

Clint Frazier = 22.1

Across the value of these players the deal would be pretty close with any 2 of them. With a trade of Jordan Montgomery and Clint Frazier (a combined 51.70 MTV) it would seem that adding in a lottery arm would likely get the deal done. However, the Rays are a team that seems to value pre-arbitration control so it’s likely be that they would desire the prospects. This first trade idea for me is extremely intriguing however as there are viable (left-handed hitting) Left Fielders available on the FA market like JBJ who aren’t going to be insanely expensive.

Would a deal of Clarke Schmidt, Oswald Peraza (Yankees #4 Prospect; +11.2 MTV), Kevin Alcantara (Yankees #13; +8 MTV), and Ezequiel Duran (Yankees #26; +6.2) get it done? A total value of 47.70 MTV would be close. The Yankees would be providing a Top-80 prospect and near Top-100 prospect and two high-value throw-in pieces. The only problem with this deal would be the number of prospects going (and a likely need for another to hit the expected value), which is a tough sell.

It would seem that Blake Snell is a viable trading piece for the Yankees. I’m a pro “using the farm as trade bait” thinker as long as the value isn’t excessive, or takes away from whoever I am currently prospect hugging (Dominguez and Deivi). All being said, there are many routes that could find a good deal in terms between the two teams and I think the Yankees should seriously consider Snell as an option to shore up the rotation.

 

Article By: Ethan Semendinger

Date Published: December 22nd, 2020

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