The Toronto Blue Jays are in need of starting pitching and trading for Blake Snell might seem impossible, but it could work
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The Toronto Blue Jays are in need of starting pitching. After making a splash last offseason and landing Hyun-Jin Ryu, the club made their first playoff appearance since 2016 and are looking to make a return. That means that they’re going to have to think big, maybe even consider looking at options that might seem unlikely on first blush. This is where the idea of looking to the Tampa Bay Rays comes into play. While trading Blake Snell to an up and coming division rival seems crazy, it might just be so crazy it works.
First of all, the Rays are coming off a 2020 World Series appearance, so they’re not exactly rebuilding. They’re in a position to contend in 2021. So, trading a Blake Snell might be counter intuitive. But, most things the Rays do seems counter intuitive. That said, it is entirely possible that they do look to shop Snell.
According to MLBTR last week, the Rays are in even more financial difficulty than they normally are. Covid has done a number on their 2020 profits. They lost out on postseason qualifying bump that comes with post season home games being played in the Trop, their annual revenue sharing money and any revenue that normally comes from attendance during the season. It is the Rays, so that is not likely on par with other teams in the league. Still, what little money they generate took a significant hit in 2020.
The MLBTR piece suggests that trading Snell could be in the cards. The 27 year old lefty signed a 5yr/ $50M deal in 2019. He’ll make $11M in 2021, $13M in 2022 and $16.6M in 2023. This is certainly a price tag that would fit in the Blue Jays’ wallet and competitive window and it is a price tag that the Rays may not be upset to unload. In the past, we’ve seen them trade away quality starting pitching when it begins to become expensive. Covid may have made Snell too expensive.
In 2018, Snell went 18-5 and put up 4.8 fWAR on his way to winning the Cy Young award. He’s someone who collects his strike outs and won’t walk a ton. We know that the ability to throw strikes is something the Blue Jays’ front office is looking for this offseason. Snell is someone who fits that. He’s dealt with injuries over the past couple of years and wasn’t completely ready for the shortened season, which is not unusual as there were a number of people who found it difficult to ramp up in Spring Training, get shut down and try and get going again.
Snell is projected to put up 3+ fWAR over the next two seasons with an xFIP of around 3.30, which would certainly line up well with Ryu and Nate Pearson. He’s definitely a good get. The trouble is that it seems crazy that the Rays would consider trading him if they plan on making another World Series run, especially to a division rival. But, considering their situation, they may actually consider it…if the price is right.
One would have to imagine that the Rays would be looking for a package that would help them right now. They are weak at the catcher position, which plays well into the Blue Jays’ hand. They happen to be deep there. Perhaps, the Rays could look for Danny Jansen to start with. If Toronto is not comfortable with handing the starting job over to Reese McGuire or Alejandro Kirk (or signing J.T. Realmuto), they could offer up Kirk since there is some buzz around him these days. Toronto also had highly regarded Gabriel Moreno in the system. So, it would depend on how badly the Rays want a catcher.
One would also have to think that Tampa Bay would need pitching in return. Could Toronto look to send one of those starters that are lower on their depth charts, but are capable of taking a big league mound? Think Sean Reid-Foley, Anthony Kay, Thomas Hatch, Ryan Borucki and others. We know that the Rays are very creative with their usage of pitchers, so perhaps, they don’t need a Nate Pearson or even a Simeon Woods-Richardson or Alek Manoah back. Those guys wouldn’t really help them now anyway. But, smart teams would try and help themselves now and in the future, so a highly regarded prospect may be in order.
There are a number of possibilities when you start breaking down this idea. Baseball Trade Values is a site we can use to gauge value in these types of thought exercises. This site uses a player’s “field value” minus their contract value to find their surplus value. For a more detailed explanation, you should visit their site. Using their trade simulator tool, there are a couple scenarios we could consider.
For the first simulation, I sent Jordan Groshans, Jansen and Trent Thornton to the Rays. Groshans would hurt a little, but you have to give to get and he is a couple years way from helping the big league club. As well, depending on how Toronto addresses its offseason, Groshans may be superfluous. The value of the package is likely too much for Toronto to give up.
Including Kirk brings the value even closer, allows Toronto to keep their starting catcher and perhaps sell high on Kirk. That said, it is still a significant package to give up. Toronto would also be taking on Snell’s salary, which isn’t obscene, but should still be acknowledged.
Here s a package that could make Blue Jays’ fans feel better, but would also give the Rays value in return.
Orelvis Martinez is Toronto’s 7th best prospect, according to MLB, which is a nice prospect piece that can be added to a valuable catcher, a MLB starter in Trent Thornton and a back up outfielder in Derek Fisher. Sure, Blue Jays fans may not think that Fisher has value, but he is someone that statistically driven front offices actually like due to his speed and ability to hit the ball hard. Likely, the Rays would prefer the previous offer since Groshans has more future value and could play third next to the shortstop studs Tampa already has. The previous deal would be more attractive, one would think…certainly it would be easier For Tampa Bay to agree to.
Toronto could also have a number of other pieces to sell in Borucki, Rowdy Tellez or prospects like Adam Kloffenstein, Moreno or a Patrick Murphy.
Obviously, readers will point to the fact that the Rays are highly unlikely to trade to a division rival, especially one that is positioned the way the Blue Jays are. Heck, the Rays’ own situation makes them trading a valuable starter kind of unlikely. That said, their financial situation may not give them any other choice. That leads to the fun of trying to find a match. Some will say that this is a fool’s errand, and they may be right.
But, this entire discussion is based on two teams who are very adept at thinking outside the box. Perhaps, they could lineup in a deal that works for both of them.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.