Feinsand reported the Snell news in his latest column for MLB.com: “According to multiple sources, the Rays have told other clubs that they’re open to the idea of trading Blake Snell, presenting a realistic possibility that a deal could be consummated this offseason.”
According to Feinsand, one American League executive had this to say about Snell’s availability, “I’m guessing they think this is the best chance to kill it on the market.”
Feinsand goes on to note that the Rays are not “actively shopping” Snell, but will listen to offers. The Rays are just weeks removed from losing the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers and have always been the most frugal of franchises when it comes to payroll.
Dealing Snell and the three remaining years and $39 million on his five-year, $50 million contract extension could ease the financial losses that the team suffered this season during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Here’s how Snell’s remaining deal breaks down:
- 2021 (Age-28 season): $10.5 million
- 2022 (Age-29 season): $12.5 million
- 2023 (Age 30 season): $16 million
The White Sox are in need of another starting pitcher, and with second-tier options like Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman already off the board, the trade market might just be the most viable option for the Pale Hose, unless of course, they’re looking to spend upwards of $100 million on Trevor Bauer.
Snell is just two years removed from an American League Cy Young Award and posted a respectable 3.24 ERA in a limited body of work (50 IP) during the truncated 2020 campaign, so his value is fairly high even after a pretty sub-par 2019 season that saw Snell post a 4.29 ERA in 23 starts.
What exactly Snell’s value is today depends on how you look at his mixed body of work, his reasonably priced extension (for markets outside of Tampa Bay), his age, and the fact that premium pitching is scarce and only getting more pricey by the year.
While Snell has a stellar 2018 season under his belt (31 GS, 180.2 IP, 1.89 ERA, 11.01 K/9, 4.8 fWAR) that fetched him his Cy Young Award, consistency and durability have been in question. Only once in his five-year career has Snell started more than 24 games, and only once has he pitched more than 130 innings in any given season. Over five seasons Snell averages 21.6 starts and 111.2 innings per campaign.
Even so, Snell is a left-handed pitcher with postseason experience who comes with a very manageable price tag for each of the next three seasons. For any value that you can conceivably detract from Snell due to his inconsistency, his $13 million AAV easily washes that out.
So what would it take to land Snell in a trade? If Tampa isn’t actively shopping the southpaw, they’re going to have a big asking price when they’re fielding potential suitors inquiries, one that likely starts with Andrew Vaughn when it comes to the Chicago White Sox.
Vaughn, 22, is the top-ranked prospect in Chicago’s farm system according to MLB Pipeline. A polished collegiate hitter who, despite not seeing competitive minor league at-bats beyond High-A Winston-Salem in 2019, is still in line to make his major league debut in 2021 due to his advanced skill set at the dish.
Vaughn is the top trade piece in the system, and he would likely have to headline a deal that included Snell coming to Chicago.
According to Baseball Trade Values, Vaughn has a median estimated trade value of 45.2. By comparison, Blake Snell has a median estimated trade value of 52.4, but we’re going to use his high estimate of trade value of 61.9 for this exercise to account for the depressed starting pitching market in free-agency, and the value in Snell’s remaining years on his extension.
So obviously Vaughn for Snell straight-up isn’t going to do it, but it’s not too far from being a realistic deal for Tampa (-16.7 estimated trade value). As much as some would like it to be the case, Zack Collins isn’t going to provide any sort of value in a deal like this despite him not really having a big role here in Chicago, so he’s not even going to be factored into this exercise. Besides, Tampa is probably going to require some arms to accompany Vaughn in the trade.
A guy like Dylan Cease swings this trade into a realistic realm, at least according to Baseball Trade Values, with a median estimated trade value of 22.4. Even if you’re buying low on Cease after a pair of seasons in which he’s not quite figured it out yet, his low estimated trade value is sitting at 17.9, which still makes the deal within three points in either direction of being a fair deal.
Baseball Trade Values validated the trade but rated it as a moderate overpay on the White Sox end because they’re using only the median estimates, while I’m using Snell’s high-end estimate and Cease’s low-end estimate, which brings the total values to 63.1 (Vaughn/Cease) for Tampa Bay, and 61.9 (Snell) for Chicago.
So, we’ll call that a fair deal, and scenario number one.
Tampa Bay Receives
- Andrew Vaughn (1B/DH)
- Dylan Cease (RHP)
- Blake Snell (LHP)
Tampa frees up payroll in exchange for the White Sox’s top prospect who can play first base and slug for them for however long they remain a favorite to compete for an American League pennant. They’ll also get Dylan Cease, who despite his struggles in Chicago, is immensely talented and full of potential that Tampa’s player development staff can possibly tap into.
The White Sox get an ace-type left-hander in his prime to slot in behind Lucas Giolito through 2023.
If the White Sox want to keep Dylan Cease and let him work with Ethan Katz at the major league level in 2021 and beyond, then they can package a couple more players along with Vaughn.
The pairing of Jonathan Stiever and Jared Kelley would put the cumulative estimated value heading to Tampa Bay at 55.9 according to BTV, and a trade accepted according to the site’s calculations. We’ll call that package scenario number two.
Tampa Bay Receives
- Andrew Vaughn (1B/DH)
- Jonathan Stiever (RHP)
- Jared Kelley (RHP)
- Blake Snell (LHP)
In this scenario the Rays again get Vaughn to eventually anchor the middle of their lineup while receiving a prep arm with high upside in Jared Kelley, and Jonathan Stiever who could slide into the bottom of their starting rotation sometime in 2021.
Again, the White Sox land Blake Snell.
This package makes a lot of sense, and while it hurts to ship off a high upside prep arm like Kelley, this is what a franchise ready to win now has to do. Losing Vaughn in either of the deals creates a potential hole at the DH spot in 2021, but that actually gives the White Sox some flexibility in the lineup, and I’ve contested for some time now that just simply penciling Vaughn into an everyday job on a competing major league team seems a tad bit overzealous.
In these scenarios the White Sox land a big-game left-handed starter who has postseason experience to slot behind Lucas Giolito for the next three seasons,m. In losing Vaughn to Tampa Bay they keep Eloy Jimenez‘s future home (DH) open, allowing themselves to use the position by-committee in the interim.
Big trades feel uncomfortable, but they’re vital for teams hoping to win a championship. It’s time for the White Sox to take the next step.
Featured Photo: Getty Images