It hasn’t been a month yet since the Tampa Bay Rays lost the World Series and already GM Erik Neander is blowing up his pennant-winning roster to cut payroll.
Been there, done that. But unlike the Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and other small-market teams that tend to pile up losing season after losing season, the Rays always seem to find a way to either stay very competitive or contend while playing in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox.
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So far this offseason, the Rays have declined club options on pitcher Charlie Morton ($15 million) and catcher Mike Zunino ($4.5M) plus outfielder Hunter Renfroe ($3.3M prorated to $1.2M in 2020) was designated for assignment heading into his second year of salary arbitration.
The next to go could be the Rays’ highest-paid player, ace left-hander Blake Snell.
According to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, “the Rays have told other clubs that they’re open to the idea of trading Snell” because moving the 2018 AL Young winner “represents the club’s best chance to create some much-needed flexibility.”
Can the Yanks get Snell, who has three seasons and $39 million remaining on his five-year, $50-million contract?
It’s highly unlikely that two division foes that became hated rivals in the last few years would engage in a blockbuster deal, but Snell definitely would be a great fit in the Yankees’ rotation and they have plenty of young talent to offer Tampa Bay.
What would it take for the Yanks to pique the Rays’ interest?
Probably a lot more than GM Brian Cashman would be willing to give up.
An NL executive told MLB.com that Snell “would bring back a massive return.”
Remember, the Rays have a reputation of winning trades, and in July 2018 they made one of the all-time steals acquiring young-gun starting pitching Tyler Glasnow, outfielder Austin Meadows and touted pitching prospect Shane Baz for veteran starting pitcher Chris Archer.
If that’s what it took for the Rays to part with Archer, who isn’t in Snell’s class, they’d probably ask for Deivi Garcia, Clint Frazier and Clark Schmidt for Snell. All three Yanks were untouchable last summer when Cashman stayed pat instead of trading for starting pitchers Mike Clevinger and Lance Lynn before the Aug. 31 deadline.
Bottom line: Snell, who turns 28 on Dec. 4, surely will be moved elsewhere if he’s moved at all. And if he’s traded, it’ll further weaken the Rays, who won the AL East last season with a 40-20 record before ousting the Yanks in the playoffs in Game 5 of a best-of-five ALDS.
Possible suitors for Snell that could affect the Yanks include the Houston Astros, who may be looking to rebuild their once-stellar rotation. Gerrit Cole left Houston as a free agent after the 2019 season to sign with the Yanks and fellow ace Justin Verlander will miss the 2021 season recovering from Tommy John