The San Diego Padres have acquired left-handed starter Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for a multi-player package, sources have confirmed to CBS Sports. The Rays will receive right-handers Luis Patino and Cole Wilcox, and catchers Blake Hunt and Francisco Mejia in the 4-for-1 trade. The teams announced the deal Tuesday.
Snell, 28, won the 2018 American League Cy Young Award and has compiled a 2.85 ERA (148 ERA+) and 3.54 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the last three seasons. He is owed $39 million through 2023, which extremely affordable in the grand scheme of things but also a bit pricey for the Rays, who operate on shoestring budgets.
Tampa has now parted ways with two of their top three starters this offseason -- they declined Charlie Morton's $15 million club option last month and he subsequently signed with the Braves -- leaving Tyler Glasnow as the team's only remaining ace. The Rays will have to figure out how they'll fill out their rotation behind Glasnow, Michael Wacha, and Ryan Yarbrough before spring training.
As for the Padres, Snell gives them a legitimate top of the rotation arm on a team-friendly contract. Even without Mike Clevinger, who will miss 2021 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, San Diego has an impressive rotation loaded with upside:
- RHP Dinelson Lamet
- LHP Blake Snell
- RHP Chris Paddack
- RHP Zach Davies
- LHP Adrian Morejon
- LHP Joey Lucchesi
The Padres were able to complete this trade -- as well as the Clevinger trade -- without giving up lefty MacKenzie Gore, arguably the top pitching prospect in the game. Gore could make his MLB debut next season and it's entirely possible the Padres will go into 2022 with a rotation featuring Lamet, Snell, Clevinger, Paddack, and Gore.
San Diego had the third best record (37-23) and second best run differential (plus-84) in baseball in 2020, and they're poised to be even better in 2021, even without Clevinger. They'll have Snell, a full year of trade deadline pickup Austin Nola, and a healthy season of Tommy Pham, plus youngsters like Paddack and Fernando Tatis Jr. will have more experience under their belt.
The problem for the Padres? They're in the same division as the defending World Series champion Dodgers, who figure to go into next year as favorites to repeat. This current Padres team looks like the biggest threat to the Dodgers in the Andrew Friedman era. Los Angeles has won eight straight division titles and San Diego should give them a run for their money in 2021.
Patino, 21, is the headliner going to the Rays. He was roughed up in his MLB debut this past season (10 runs in 17 1/3 innings) but MLB.com ranks him the No. 23 prospect in the game. Our R.J. Anderson ranked Patino the No. 2 prospect in San Diego's system behind Gore earlier this month. Here's a snippet of his write-up:
Patino is on the smaller side, but he has big-time stuff, including an above-average fastball and breaking ball. Patino still needs to work on his changeup and his command; provided he makes progress -- do note his age -- he should get a chance as a mid-rotation starter. Otherwise, he has a promising future in relief, where his size wouldn't be talked about as frequently.
The 25-year-old Mejia was a top prospect in the not-too-distant past. Acquired from Cleveland in the Brad Hand trade, Mejia has struggled to establish himself at the MLB level, and is a career .225/.282/.386 hitter in 128 games. Including Mejia in the trade tells us the Padres are confident in Nola and Luis Campusano as their catchers of the present and future.
Wilcox, 21, was the 80th overall pick in the 2020 draft and has yet to play a professional game. Hunt was the 69th pick in 2017. The 22-year-old is a .258/.341/.384 hitter in 175 career minor league games, none above Single-A, and he stands out most for his throwing arm behind the plate. Hunt and Wilcox are long-term projects. Mejia and Patino should have more immediate impact.
The Rays had the second best record (40-20) and the third run differential (plus-60) in baseball this past season, and went to Game 6 of the World Series. They're still formidable -- no team is as good at digging up quality players on the cheap -- though Morton and Snell will be hard to replace. Ace-caliber starters are in short supply and that's two aces out the door in one offseason.
Earlier this offseason we ranked Snell fifth on our trade candidates list. Lance Lynn, who placed fourth, was traded to the White Sox last month. Trevor Bauer is the only comparable starter available in free agency this offseason.