Blake Snell Rumors: Rays are listening; will the Cubs come calling?

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /
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Blake Snell rumors are flying. It’s hard to see how the Cubs could factor in.

The Chicago Cubs don’t know which way they are going. Are they going to blow it up or hang on for ‘one more’ hurrah with the core that’s fallen short in recent years. Regardless, the latest Blake Snell rumors out of Tampa Bay say the Rays are ‘open’ to trading the former Cy Young winner.

Snell turns 28 next week. Earlier this month, the Cubs declined the $25 million option on a southpaw of their own in Jon Lester, instead paying him a $10 million buyout. With Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood joining Lester in free agency, the Cubs need starting pitching. But I’m here to tell you – in regards to Snell – it’s just not going to happen.

The Tampa Bay lefty will earn $10.5 million in 2021, $12.5 million in 2022 and $16 million in 2023. While it’s possible to work out how Chicago could add that payroll (trading Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber would help) – it seems pretty unlikely a trade lines up between the two sides given this is a clear cost-cutting move for the Rays. They’re not taking on contracts – they’re looking to shed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see a trio of Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and Blake Snell atop the Cubs’ rotation for years to come. Really, I would. Chicago lacks the prospect capital to make the deal happen – regardless of how nicely Snell would fit into the team’s future plans.

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Snell has been an All-Star, won a Cy Young Award and, during that accomplished 2018 season, he also won the ERA crown. In five big league seasons, he carries a 3.24 ERA and 3.50 FIP. So while he’s yet to duplicate his 2018 performance (1.89 ERA, 5.6 H/9 and 180 2/3 innings), he’s hardly been a slouch for the Rays.

With roughly $40 million due to him in the next three years, the Rays will be swimming in suitors. That’s a very palatable number given what free agent arms are going for this winter (often-injured Drew Smyly got $11 million on a one-year deal and 37-year-old Charlie Morton just got $15 million).

Looking past that Cy Young performance three years ago, Snell enjoyed his best single-season showing in 2020. Albeit in an abbreviated 60-game schedule, he worked to a 3.24 ERA, striking out 63 in just 50 innings of work with a 131 ERA+. He also boasted an 89.1 percent LOB% – the best of his career.

One thing that dogged Snell was the long-ball. In the shortened campaign, he allowed 10 homers in just 11 outings. That works out to 1.8 HR/9 – which ranks near the bottom of AL starting pitchers. If he wants to get back to Cy Young form, he’ll definitely need to get this cleaned up. Hopefully, with a more ‘normal’ 2021, he’ll be back on track.

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Snell is an intriguing guy to see on the trade block. Arms come at a premium and the Rays know that better than anyone after spending years trading away young arms before they can hit free agency. While the Cubs seem unlikely to bite on the lefty, you can bet his presence will shape the pitching market this offseason.

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