As Tampa Bay Rays fans we shouldn’t be surprised by anything. And so probably you were taken aback, but not shocked, when Mark Feinsand of MLB.com wrote, “Rays open to trading ace [Blake] Snell.”
For a team coming off a World Series appearance the idea of trading their best starting pitcher while most of the team remains intact wouldn’t seem possible, but the Tampa Bay Rays aren’t other organizations.
The Rays are willing to listen on anybody and if the right deal presents itself they aren’t afraid to make an unpopular move in the present to make sure the team can compete in the future. And with Trevor Bauer is the only top of the rotation pitcher on the free agent market, the interest in Snell would be strong.
Feinsand suggests that the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels are two teams could match up on a Snell trade. Could they? Let’s take a look.
Jerry Dipoto finds himself in the middle of every trade discussion, so this isn’t really surprising.
The Mariners are Snell’s hometown team. They likely aren’t ready to be competitive in 2021, but they have a very highly regarded farm system that could make the Rays consider moving Snell.
Julio Rodriguez (#6) and Jarred Kelenic (#9) are top ten prospects in the game according to Baseball America. Both are outfielders that haven’t played in the majors yet but are close. The Rays would need one of these guys to force them to move Snell.
The second piece would likely need to be right handed pitcher Logan Gilbert (#55) who was drafted 14th overall in 2018 out of Stetson University or Emerson Hancock (#47) who was selected sixth overall in the 2019 draft out of the University of Georgia.
JT’s Trade Offer: OF Jarred Kelenic, RHP Logan Gilbert, and C Cal Raleigh for LHP Blake Snell
A top end outfielder and starting pitching prospect would likely get the Rays attention, but the Rays are looking to win in 2021, and these guys likely don’t get them there.
Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels have needed pitching for Mike Trout’s entire tenure. Going into 2021 things don’t look much different. The offense is really good, but they seem to always end up lacking enough pitching.
As with the Mariners, the top two prospects in the Angels system are outfielders. Baseball America’s number two overall prospect Jo Adell and number 38 overall prospect Brandon Marsh are MLB ready outfielders that would need to headline the deal.
Griffin Canning could be a Major League piece the Rays could be interested in. He has five years of team control remaining and in 146.2 MLB innings he’s put up a 4.36 ERA/4.35 FIP/4.77 xFIP. He’s not great, but would fill the spot left vacant in the Rays rotation.
JT’s Trade Offer: OF Jo Adell, RHP Griffin Canning, and SS Kyren Paris for LHP Blake Snell
This deal would provide immediate MLB returns. Adell struggled in his first cup of coffee in 2020, but still has the prospect pedigree. The Rays would have to believe in Adell’s upside for this deal to make sense but could be some kind of framework that could make the Rays say, “Deal.”
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres have been very active in trade talks and have a history of trading with the Rays. Completing a trade for Snell would be their biggest deal yet.
The big prize in the Padres system is Baseball America’s number four overall prospect MacKenzie Gore. Despite the injuries down the stretch the Padres didn’t call up Gore, but he’s knocking on the door of the Major Leagues.
The Padres have enough Major League pieces of interest that they could likely make a deal without including Gore, but it would hurt the current roster.
Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddock have three and four years of team control remaining respectively. They are above average starting pitchers with some MLB track record. Without Gore one of these would need to be included.
Trent Grisham is coming off a very good season where he put up a 121 in his first full season. He put up +7 DRS and +7.5 UZR in just under 500 innings manning center field. Grisham has a combination of power and defense that the Rays tend to covet.
JT’s Trade Offer: RHP Dinelson Lamet, OF Trent Grisham, and RHP Cole Wilcox for LHP Blake Snell and OF Kevin Kiermaier.
This is an interesting challenge trade that could see the Rays saving some money, but not making their major league team worse in the short term. The Rays would take on more risk, but the Padres would be picking up more cash.
It’s a tough match for the Padres who likely would want to pick up more pitching given Clevinger’s injury, but need to do better than just come out even.
It is standard operating procedure for the Rays to discuss all their players as potential trade pieces. By surplus value all of these potential trade deals I conjured seem wildly in the Rays favor and they are. I wouldn’t expect any team to say yes, but I also think these are the kind of returns the Rays would expect if they were to trade Snell.
The process here would be similar as it was in the Archer trade. The Rays set a high price and figured if another team met it they’d take it seriously. I structured these trade deals with that model in mind.
Realistically, a Snell deal is more likely a year from now. Two years of team control remaining seems to be the point where the Rays trade price and the market price are most in equilibrium.
I expect Snell to be the Rays starter on Opening Day next season, but if the Rays get the right offer, he could be opening for another team instead.