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Rays Trade Target: LHP Blake Snell

Heard of him?

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American League Championship Series Game 1: Tampa Bay Rays v. Houston Astros Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

When the Tampa Bay Rays lost the 2020 World Series, the narrative that followed was about Blake Snell. The Rays starter was dominant, putting up a transcendent performance when his team needed it most, but started to get distracted when he saw the bullpen warming in Game 6 with injured closer Nick Anderson.

You know what happened next. Cash pulled Snell, Anderson lost the game, and the Rays traded Snell the following December to the San Diego Padres, bringing young starter Luis Patiño (who is in Durham righting his season following multiple injuries), pitching prospect Cole Wilcox (who had the talent to pull first round draft pick money, but is currently recovering from Tommy John), major league catcher Francisco Mejia (who is currently injured but was the starter much of the season), and catching prospect Blake Hunt (who was surprisingly left off the 40-man roster this off-season).

At the time of the deal, CBS Sports’s RJ Anderson gave the Padres an ‘A’ rating for the deal, and the Rays prospect haul a ‘B’ rating. Today both teams might get a ‘C’ due to missed opportunities.

Yes, unfortunately, the Snell trade has not worked out well for the Padres. Inconsistent starts, the 3rd time through the order penalty, and frustrating walk rates have plagued the 2018 Cy Young winner during his tenure in San Diego.

On the whole Snell’s 2021 season was about league average with a 4.20 ERA (104 ERA-) over 128.2 innings. Thus far in 2022 his 4.43 ERA (113 ERA-) is slightly worse in 61.0 innings, but in each of his San Diego seasons Snell has boasted a 91 FIP- with strikeout rates at or above 30%, and his fastball is still averaging near 96 mph.

In other words, Snell is still Snell, so it stands to reason the Rays could harness his best all over again. In his most recent outing last Friday, Snell went 6.0 innings pitched allowing just 1 run on 4 hits and 1 walk with 7 strikeouts.

With 1.5 years remaining on his contract, including one more year of team control at $16M in 2023, the Padres could be interested in shedding money to give them more room with the tax and potentially make their play for the biggest fish on the market for which they are emerging as the front runner: Juan Soto.

The Rays — of all teams — would welcome the chance to add Snell, one of the most popular Rays players in recent memory, back into an inexperienced rotation that has been beset with injuries and pushing against innings limits.

Snell’s best years have been with Kyle Snyder. Having the chance to acquire Snell for a much-reduced trade price, while knowing all the ways to help Blake return to form seems almost too perfect an opportunity.

Get Snell back in his comfort zone with Snyder, and the upside is the triumphant return of the Snellzilla.