In our latest Lukewarm Stove, we discovered and discussed the sudden (trade) availability of a few top starting pitchers, including the 2018 Al Cy Young Award winner, Blake Snell.
Snell, 28, is under control for three more seasons at only $39 million TOTAL, but the Rays are the Rays, and they’re likely looking to move him at something close to peak value (this is how they perpetually contend without significant financial resources). So what will it take to land Snell? A LOT.
Snell and the Mariners
Mark Feinsand first reported the Rays willingness to trade Snell, before adding that the Angels and Mariners are among the early interested parties. And now, there’s a local report out of Seattle discussing the possibility. Among the highlights … (1) Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto and Rays GM Erik Neander have consummated a number of deals over the years, indicating an alignment on player-value, which, as we’ve seen between the Cubs and Rangers over the last decade does mean something. (2) Snell was born and grew up in Seattle and would likely relish the opportunity to return home. (3) The Mariners may have six options for their rotation at the moment, but have a clear need near the top for some proven talent.
As for a potential return, well, that’s where things get spicy:
Multiple MLB sources have said that any sort of trade package the Mariners put together for Snell would have to include one of the following three players — Julio Rodriguez, Jarred Kelenic or Kyle Lewis — or the Rays wouldn’t make the deal.
Per another MLB source, a top-30 prospect in all of baseball or an impact-making rookie would have to be part of a package of players to get Snell, with at least two other midlevel prospects included.
The Mariners have three top-30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, including the aforementioned Julio Rodriguez (No. 15) and Jarred Kelenic (No. 9). Kyle Lewis, 25, was a top-100 prospect as recently as 2018, who has had a lot of offensive success in his first 76 big league games (126 wRC+). That’s a hefty price to pay, but one commensurate with the value Snell brings both on the mound and his contract brings to “the books.”
Could the Cubs Target Snell?
Short answer? No. But let’s actually discuss why.
One reader asked Mark Gonzales about the possibility of the Cubs trading for Snell, given the obvious vacancies in the rotation beyond Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish, but as you can imagine, the expected price tag is a major, major, major turnoff:
Based on this package, Snell’s 2018 American League Cy Young Award and that he’s four years younger (he’ll be 28 next season) than Archer, the asking price could start with left-hander Brailyn Marquez and outfielder Brennen Davis.
There’s no doubt in my mind that’s where the conversation would start *and* I don’t think the Rays would be crazy to hope for at least that much in any such deal with the Cubs. However, I also think the Cubs would be off-their-rocker to offer that much right now, given the current trajectory of the franchise and the potential importance of those two prospects, in particular.
I hate to drop so much of our potential future happiness at the feet of two players who’ve never played even a single game at Double-A, but Marquez and Davis are the best two prospects the Cubs have had in a while, and the strength of the 2022+ turnaround could hinge on whether they end up as All-Stars, legitimate starters, everyday contributors, role players, or something worse than that. With so many players aging up or already on their way out, the Cubs will *need* young talent on cheap, pre-arb contracts if they hope to contend again. So basically, no … the Cubs just can’t afford to trade them.
Sonny Gray Is Available
Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman didn’t make it to free agency, accepting one-year qualifying offers from the Giants and Mets respectively, but from Blake Snell to Lance Lynn, new (top) starters are hitting the market seemingly everyday.
The latest according to Ken Rosenthal? Reds starter Sonny Gray.
Rival clubs report the Reds are open to moving Gray, whose recent performance and affordable contract make him more appealing than most of their players. As teams do with all trade possibilities, the Reds are gauging what they might get in return, and weighing how they might reallocate their savings.
Gray, 30, is under team control at $10 million in 2021, $10 million in ’22 and $12 million on a club option in ’23. He is particularly attractive considering the free-agent prices for starting pitchers on one-year deals this offseason: $8 million for lefty Robbie Ray, who finished last season with a 6.62 ERA, and $11 million for lefty Drew Smyly, who has thrown only 140 1/3 innings since 2016.
According to Rosenthal, Gray’s availability is one of simple supply and demand. Despite the broader financial environment, teams are clearly willing to pay for starting pitching right now. And if you’re already going to lose your Cy Young pitcher (Trevor Bauer) after a season in which you finished THIRD and may not be able to add anyone to the roster, well, it may be time to capitalize on a valuable asset.
For what it’s worth, this would not be an insignificant development in the NL Central. Gray has been excellent for the Reds, and would bring back a nice long-term return, but if he and Bauer are gone for 2021, the division is going to be even more winnable than it currently looks. Would that be enough to change the Cubs minds on some short-term moves to bolster 2021? I’m not sure if it will be, but I do know it probably SHOULD be.
Adam Wainwright’s Next Move
It would be truly weird to see Adam Wainwright anywhere else but St. Louis, but it remains a distinct possibility. That said, Derrick Goold reports that the Cardinals are interested in bringing Wainwright back.
Though that may be a “him” thing and not a “interested in all sorts of starting pitchers,” thing:
#Braves, reported suitors for Wainwright, have signed two starters this winter, including reunion with former draft pick Morton.
— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) November 24, 2020
The Cardinals reportedly want to make their decisions on Wainwright and Yadier Molina before addressing the rest of their offseason, but with the non-tender deadline still ahead of us, I’m not sure we’ll see the decision anytime soon. Outside of their trade for Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals have been taking things pretty slowly these last few years and they have already braced their fans for more cutbacks this offseason. I’ll be very curious to see how they handle themselves this offseason.
Meanwhile, does anybody want to win the NL Central next year?
The Top Free Agents
MLB.com categorizes George Springer, J.T. Realmuto, Marcell Ozuna, Trevor Bauer, and DJ LeMahieu as the top free agents of the offseason, which is correct.
With that settled, Mark Feinsand, Jon Morosi, and Anthony DiComo discuss who they think will sign first and why, alongside a number of general market moving predictions and conversations. For what it’s worth, Feinsand and DiComo seem to believe Realmuto will sign first among the top free agents, setting the market along the way, but Morosi believes it’ll be Bauer.
Oh, and the chances that Bauer signs just a one-year deal evidently remains a possibility (but I’d bet against it, personally).