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Analyzing the Blake Snell Trade For Both Sides

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The Padres and Rays are in agreement on a Blake Snell trade, sending the 2018 AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell to the Padres for Luis Patino, Francisco Mejia, Cole Wilcox, and Blake Hunt. Rumors of a Blake Snell trade were swirling, but this is an unorthodox move from a World Series contender.

The Rays, coming off of a World Series, have now lost two of the three aces of their 2020 staff, with Charlie Morton leaving for Atlanta and Blake Snell being moved to San Diego.

The Padres traded for Mike Clevinger at the trade deadline, but he will miss the 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery. Instead, they will have Blake Snell to be their ace in 2021, with Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack to back him up.

The Rays and Padres have a history of trading with each other, completing two significant deals last offseason. The Padres sent Hunter Renfroe and Xavier Edwards to Tampa Bay for Tommy Pham and Jake Cronenworth on December 6th, then in February, the Rays flipped reliever Emilio Pagan for Manuel Margot and Logan Driscoll.

Blake Snell Trade: The Rays

The Rays won the American League in 2020 but lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. Snell started Game-6 against the Dodgers, throwing 73 pitches in 5 1/3 innings while racking up 9 strikeouts and giving up just four hits. Pulling him was a controversial decision, and many will link Cash’s decision to the Blake Snell trade, but Snell might have been on his way out regardless.

The Tampa Bay Rays have a history of keeping a low payroll, and they rarely dish out contracts over $10M annually. They have an unmatched skill of finding cheap talent, and they signed Michael Wacha for one-year, $3M, a move that makes much more sense after moving on from their former Cy Young Award winner.

At first, this look may not make a lot of sense for Tampa Bay. They went 40-20 in 2020 and made their second appearance in the Fall Classic in their franchise history, but they gave Snell a five-year, $50M extension prior to the 2019 season. Snell has established himself as a top 10 pitcher in baseball, but his $10M salary is a lot for a team like the Tampa Bay Rays.

In the Blake Snell trade, the Rays received Luis Patino (#3 in Padres’ system), Francisco Mejia, Cole Wilcox (#7), and Blake Hunt (#14). The return is pretty solid, as the Rays landed a top 25 prospect and 3 more prospects, who still have time to develop before reaching the majors.

Patino made his MLB debut in 2020, but only threw 17.1 innings in 11 appearances (1 start). He showed promising signs, striking out 10.9 batters per nine innings, but his walk rate was inflated (16.5%). Patino is still ranked as the #23 prospect in the MLB Pipeline rankings, despite being behind MacKenzie Gore and CJ Abrams.

Mejia was once a top prospect (#14 in 2017), but he hasn’t amounted to anything since being called up in 2017 with the Indians. He was the main piece in the trade that sent Brad Hand to Cleveland in 2018, but has a negative career WAR and has only 362 PAs in his career. In Tampa Bay, he will have an opportunity to earn a starting role, especially with catcher being one of the biggest holes on their roster.

The final two pieces of the Blake Snell trade, Cole Wilcox and Blake Hunt, have less recognizable names, but they are young and will take a couple of years to develop into impact players at the major league level. Wilcox, a right-handed starting pitcher, has an estimated ETA of 2023 and was the Padres’ 3rd round pick in the 2020 draft. Hunt was a 2017 draft pick, who has an estimated ETA of 2022 and is the second catcher the Rays acquired in the Blake Snell trade.

The Rays were able to add to their farm system, which was already undoubtedly the best in baseball. Patino will become the Rays’ 7th top-100 prospect, the most of any team in the league, and 3rd within the top-25. Tampa Bay also has the #1 prospect, Wander Franco, who is set to make his debut in 2021.

Blake Snell Trade: The Padres

The thought process behind the Padres’ side of this deal is way more clear. The Padres have a lethal lineup behind Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, but their pitching rotation isn’t quite as star-studded. They traded for Mike Clevinger at the deadline, but he will miss 2021 due to injury.

The Padres have also had conversations with the Cubs over Yu Darvish in the past few days and Trevor Bauer is certainly still an option to join the Friars. Instead, they opted to trade for Snell, who probably would’ve been off-limits for any front office except Tampa Bay’s.

Snell has three more years of team control, at an amazing price of #10M annually, which is well below his market value. Obviously it’s a tough decision to move their prospects, but in the they were able to keep Gore in the Blake Snell trade, which seems like a huge relief for San Diego.

The Padres are making moves to go all-in next season, after being swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS this season. Although they probably won’t win the NL West, they should still be able to make the playoffs as a Wild Card team, but the format for next year’s postseason is still unknown.

Snell joins a Padres’ rotation of Dinelson Lamet, Zach Davies and Chris Paddack, as well as MacKenzie Gore if he is ready on opening day. If Gore isn’t the fifth starter, then Joey Luchessi or Adrian Morejon could fill that role. The 28-year-old Snell, since his 2018 breakout season, has a 2.85 ERA, 3.27 FIP. 23.0% K-BB%, and 3.43 SIERA. He has established himself as one of the games’ elite, and although he doesn’t throw a lot of innings, the Padres have a great bullpen (especially if they can retain Kirby Yates) so that shouldn’t be a huge deal.

The Padres already have Luis Campusano and Austin Nola, so losing Mejia and Hunt isn’t a big loss for them. Wilcox and Patino are the big pieces in the deal, but they are both expendable for San Diego, especially because they are getting three years of an elite starting pitcher back. Even after the Blake Snell trade, the San Diego Padres have Gore and Ryan Weathers as well as Justin Lange and Reggie Lawson in their minor league system.

The Blake Snell trade also sets up the Padres for a 2022 rotation of Snell, Clevinger, Lamet, Gore and Paddack, which could definitely contain 3-4 of the league’s elite arms.

Blake Snell Trade: Grades/Final Thoughts

The Blake Snell trade makes sense for both sides, as Tampa Bay cuts the 2nd biggest contract on their payroll while getting young, controllable talent in return. The Padres picked up a legitimate ace for their rotation, and they didn’t even need to give up MacKenzie Gore.

Although trading with the Rays usually doesn’t work out, the Padres have had success trading with them. The San Diego Padres have a shot to compete with the defending World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West title next season, and adding Snell only increases their odds. This Blake Snell trade also turns the Padres into immediate World Series contenders, especially behind their star-studded offense.

Although the Rays may not return to the World Series right away in 2021, they added another top-25 prospect to the best farm in baseball, extending their contention window significantly. Tampa Bay already lost Charlie Morton, so keeping Snell didn’t seem like the right move, especially because they still have options like Ryan Yarbrough, Josh Flemings and Brendan McKay to fill out their rotation next season

Final Grades: San Diego Padres – A, Tampa Bay Rays – B+

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