Top Landing Spots and Trade Packages for Rays SP Blake Snell Amid Rumors
There's a staggering drop-off behind National League Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer in this year's crop of free-agent starting pitchers, and that could mean a busier than usual offseason on the trade market.
Another pitcher with a Cy Young on his mantle is reportedly available for the right return.
"A source noted that Tampa Bay is not actively shopping Snell, who has three years and $39 million remaining on his five-year, $50 million extension," Feinsand wrote, "but given the financial losses the Rays endured during the pandemic-impacted 2020 season, trading the 27-year-old represents the club's best chance to create some much-needed flexibility."
The 27-year-old signed that extension prior to the 2019 season. It may seem like a team-friendly contract, but his $11.1 million salary for 2021 makes him the second-highest-paid player on the Tampa Bay roster behind only Kevin Kiermaier ($11.7 million), according to Spotrac.
Snell has failed to replicate the brilliant numbers that won him the American League Cy Young Award in 2018, but he has still been an elite starter. He has a 3.96 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over the past two seasons, and he's struck out an impressive 12.0 batters per nine innings.
The team's decision to pull him from Game 6 of the World Series after 5.1 innings of two-hit ball backfired, and now it looks like that could be his final appearance in a Rays uniform.
In response to his potential availability, we've highlighted five logical landing spots and built out return packages that could get a blockbuster deal done this offseason.
Why Other Teams Were Not Included
Here's a quick-hit rundown of why the teams not included as potential landing spots were removed from the conversation:
- ARI: Rebuilding, non-contender
- ATL: Rotation already addressed
- BAL: Rebuilding, non-contender
- BOS: Unlikely to trade with division rival
- CWS: Unlikely to include Andrew Vaughn; thin farm system behind him
- CIN: Shopping Sonny Gray
- CLE: Cutting costs
- COL: Lacking trade assets
- DET: Rebuilding, non-contender
- HOU: Lacking trade assets
- K.C.: Rebuilding, non-contender
- LAD: Blockbuster trade would likely be for a third baseman; already have six starters for five spots
- MIA: Rebuilding, fringe contender
- MIL: Lacking trade assets
- MIN: Small-market team, unlikely to move controllable talent
- NYY: Unlikely to trade with division rival
- OAK: Small-market team, unlikely to move controllable talent
- PHI: Lacking trade assets
- PIT: Rebuilding, non-contender
- SEA: Rebuilding, non-contender
- STL: Upgrading offense is priority
- TEX: Cutting costs
- TOR: Unlikely to trade with division rival
- WAS: More pressing needs
The Chicago Cubs have Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish under contract through the 2023 season, but the other three spots in the rotation are up for grabs during an offseason when big changes are expected.
The Return Package
- RHP Adbert Alzolay
- LHP Brailyn Marquez (No. 90 in B/R Top 100)
- C Miguel Amaya (Next 50)
- RHP Dillon Maples
One of the vacant spots in the Chicago rotation is expected to go to Adbert Alzolay, but he is included here as one of the key pieces going to Tampa Bay.
The 25-year-old has long been viewed as a future frontline starter, with Theo Epstein saying as much during the 2017-18 offseason. He made four starts and two relief appearances in 2020, posting a 2.95 ERA (3.05 FIP) and 1.17 WHIP with 29 strikeouts in 21.1 innings.
He's still three years away from being arbitration-eligible, making him an appealing low-cost option for the Rays to plug in to their rotation. If they believe in his upside, he could be their top target in a trade with the Cubs.
Filling out the deal with hard-throwing lefty Brailyn Marquez and catcher Miguel Amaya would send two of Chicago's top four prospects the other way. Marquez has tremendous upside and a high floor as a power reliever, while Amaya would move ahead of Ronaldo Hernandez as the Rays' catcher of the future.
Dillon Maples has 39 strikeouts and 25 walks in 23.1 innings in the majors. In terms of pure stuff, he rivals any reliever in baseball, but he has been unable to rein in his command. Getting him in the hands of the Tampa Bay coaching staff could unlock his full potential.
Los Angles Angels
Despite a strong season from trade pickup Dylan Bundy, the Angels still finished 29th in the majors with a 5.52 ERA from the rotation. If they want to make a push toward contention, the starters have to improve.
The Return Package
- OF Jo Adell
- IF Jeremiah Jackson (Next 50 in B/R Top 100)
- RHP/OF William Holmes
The appeal of this trade package hinges on how the Rays view Jo Adell.
The 21-year-old is not far removed from being a consensus top-five prospect and one of the most intriguing five-tool players to rise through the minors in years. In theory, he's the type of marquee centerpiece who could get a blockbuster trade done without a high-profile secondary piece, but he struggled mightily in his first taste of MLB action.
He hit just .161/.212/.266 with 55 strikeouts in 132 plate appearances, though his exit velocity (78th percentile) provides reason for optimism, and his elite physical tools are undeniable. His exciting long-term profile was not erased by a disappointing 38-game debut.
The Angels have a thin system, but they do have a number of quality middle infield prospects, and Jeremiah Jackson headlines that group. The 20-year-old posted a .939 OPS with 23 home runs in 65 rookie ball games in 2019, though he also struck out nearly 33 percent of the time. The Rays have an affinity for middle infield prospects with a standout tool, and his power definitely plays.
Two-way player William Holmes is an interesting final piece to this trade puzzle.
A fifth-round pick in 2018, he hit .326/.431/.488 with four extra-base hits and three steals in 20 games at rookie ball in 2019 while also racking up 38 strikeouts in 24.1 innings on the mound. He's more polished as a position player but has a higher ceiling on the mound, as his fastball touches 98 mph and he uses his athletic 6'2" frame well.
Again, this package might look light compared to the others, but Adell still has superstar upside.
New York Mets
The New York Mets attempted to cobble together a starting rotation last offseason with the bargain signings of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. The result was a unit that ranked 26th in the majors with a 5.37 ERA, despite the stellar work of Jacob deGrom. A healthy Marcus Stroman and the eventual return of Noah Syndergaard will help, but they could use another arm and are clearly looking to make a splash.
The Return Package
- RHP Seth Lugo
- C Francisco Alvarez (No. 93 in B/R Top 100)
- RHP Matthew Allan (Next 50 in B/R Top 100)
- RHP Ryley Gilliam
Seth Lugo has filled a variety of roles for the Mets, doing everything from starting to serving as a multi-inning fireman to closing. That versatility makes it easy to envision his fit with the Tampa Bay staff.
The 31-year-old has a 3.10 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with a stellar 254-to-54 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 218 innings over the last three seasons. During that span, he's made 12 starts and 119 relief appearances, tallying a 13-12 record, 12 saves and 32 holds.
With two more years of club control and a team-friendly $2.4 million projected arbitration salary, he's a valuable trade chip and a big piece of this return package.
Francisco Alvarez is the top prospect piece, and he would become the catcher of the future for Tampa Bay. The 19-year-old hit .312/.407/.510 with 10 doubles and seven home runs in 42 games in his pro debut in 2019, and he has the raw tools to be a two-way standout and franchise cornerstone.
If the Mets intend to make a run at signing J.T. Realmuto, perhaps they'd be more willing to include him in a trade.
Matthew Allan is the second major prospect piece in this deal and arguably the top pitching prospect in the Mets system. His strong 6'3" frame and polished three-pitch mix give him top-of-the-rotation potential, and he could move quicker than most prep pitchers once he gets rolling.
Ryley Gilliam has a plus fastball-curveball pairing and tallied 56 strikeouts in 38.2 innings in the minors in 2019. The 24-year-old could make an impact out of the Mets bullpen in 2021 if he takes a step forward with his command.
San Diego Padres
With Mike Clevinger out for the season following Tommy John surgery and Dinelson Lamet a question mark after his own late-season arm issues, the San Diego Padres will at the very least be on the hunt for some starting pitching depth. Aiming higher and landing someone such as Snell could be the move that vaults them into the next tier of contenders.
The Return Package
- C Francisco Mejia
- RHP Luis Patino (No. 18 in B/R Top 100)
- RHP Michel Baez
After declining a $4.5 million club option on Mike Zunino, the Rays have just one catcher on the 40-man roster. The 23-year-old Ronaldo Hernandez has yet to play above High-A and looked overmatched there in 2019.
His defense remains a work in progress, but Francisco Mejia could step in to the starting role and has already shown flashes of his offensive upside in limited MLB action. The Padres' decision to pay a steep price to acquire Austin Nola from the Seattle Mariners at the trade deadline and the ascent of prospect Luis Campusano has seemingly made Mejia expendable.
Luis Patino is another prospect who could make an immediate impact for Tampa Bay after making 11 appearances for the Padres in 2020. One of the game's elite pitching prospects, he was used primarily in relief, but his future as a starter remains incredibly bright.
In 2019, he recorded a 2.57 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 94.2 innings between High-A and Double-A, and he would become the No. 2 pitching prospect in a system that develops arms as well as anyone.
Sticking with the MLB-ready theme, Michel Baez is a former Top 100 prospect who made 24 appearances for San Diego in 2019 and posted a 3.03 ERA in 29.2 innings. The 6'8" right-hander was developed as a starter, and that may still be where he settles long-term.
Would that be enough to get a deal done?
If the Rays are focused on adding talents who can help the MLB roster in 2021 as they continue to push toward a title, it just might be.
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are in the early stages of a rebuild, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't jump at the chance to add a bona fide ace to their starting rotation. Kevin Gausman returned via a qualifying offer, and Johnny Cueto has one year left on his contract, but the staff is lacking in long-term pieces.
The Return Package
- OF Heliot Ramos (No. 28 in B/R Top 100)
- OF Luis Matos (Next 50 in B/R Top 100)
- RHP Blake Rivera
- RHP Melvin Adon
Heliot Ramos reasserted himself as a top-tier prospect in 2019 after a disappointing full-season debut at Single-A the previous year.
The 21-year-old hit .290/.369/.481 with 24 doubles and 16 home runs in 102 games, and he showed a vastly improved approach at the plate while raising his walk rate from 6.5 to 9.5 percent. All five tools grade out as above average or better, and he has shown the defensive chops to stick in center field.
Luis Matos hit .367/.438/.566 with 34 extra-base hits and 21 steals in 60 games while making his pro debut as a 17-year-old in 2019. He has a long way to go, but those early returns sent his stock soaring.
Right-hander Blake Rivera has a high-spin curveball that should draw the Rays' attention, and he can also touch 97 mph with his fastball, giving him a high ceiling if he has to move to the bullpen. For now, he's looked the part of a starter while showing a solid feel for a changeup and good command. He's another quality arm who could fill multiple roles on the Rays staff.
Finally, it would be fun to see what the Tampa Bay developmental team could squeeze out of Melvin Adon, who has one of the best fastballs in the minors—it has reached 102 mph—and has shown a wipeout slider. He struck out 77 batters in 55.1 innings with 14 saves between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019, but he also walked 5.5 batters per nine innings.
This package has the Rays gambling on upside, but it has the potential to pay huge dividends if all four players deliver on their vast promise.