Updated: Jan 7, 2021
Blake Snell, the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner, is set to join the San Diego Padres once the trade is official, as first reported by Jeff Passan.
The Rays will acquire Luis Pantiño, Francisco Mejia, Blake Hunt, and Cole Wilcox in return for Snell, according to ESPN and Dennis Lin. Pantiño, the biggest name going from San Diego to Tampa Bay, is the seventh-best right-handed pitching prospect and the 23rd-best overall prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.
With this move, the Padres put themselves in a position to not only threaten the Dodgers’ dominance of the National League West, but to have a legitimate shot at winning a World Series title. The Padres rotation now boasts two aces in Dinelson Lamet, who earned Second Team All-MLB honors in 2020, and Snell. Meanwhile, Chris Paddack and Zach Davies are better arms than their third and fourth spots in the rotation would suggest. MacKenzie Gore, the top pitching prospect in baseball, should also be ready to contribute in 2021. The Padres offensive attack will retain its core of Cronenworth, Hosmer, Machado, Myers, and Tatís Jr. for the 2021 season, putting them in a strong position to torment opposing pitchers at a similar rate as they did in 2020, where they scored the third-most runs per game in baseball.
(Photo by Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)
The trade for Snell should be enough to worry other National League teams on its own, but the move may be a signal of further things to come: it is not unrealistic to envision a scenario in which the Padres go all in on the 2021 season and sign Trevor Bauer. Bauer, the top starting pitcher in free agency, has made it clear that he is willing to play on a one-year contract. The Padres could create a “super rotation” for the 2021 season by inking Bauer to a one-year deal. The team could then let Bauer walk in free agency with Mike Clevinger scheduled to return in 2022 and Snell still under contract. San Diego could also trade for Yu Darvish in order to construct their “super rotation,” and they are reportedly in talks to do so.
Snell is due $39 million over the remaining three years of his contract, leaving the Padres with adequate flexibility to further improve their roster if they choose to do so.
The other side of this trade sees the Rays reloading for the future after losing the 2020 World Series. Tampa Bay’s conservative approach to spending is no secret among baseball fans, and this move allows the Rays to keep a low payroll for years to come as cheap but highly regarded prospects should continue to flow into the Major League roster. It is not unreasonable to think there was more to Snell’s exit from Tampa Bay than financial reasons, however. Snell famously expressed frustration when the Rays traded Tommy Pham last offseason. Snell also appeared irritated at certain decisions to pull him from games during the Rays’ 2020 playoff run, including the now-infamous decision to remove him from Game 6 of the World Series.
After losing Charlie Morton in free agency and Snell via trade, Tampa Bay finds themselves a lesser force in 2021 than they were the previous season. The team has the best farm system in baseball and will likely be fine in the long run, but fans’ frustration has to be mounting as they saw their team come so close to capturing its first World Series title, only to watch their homegrown superstar be traded away the following offseason.