The San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays agreed on a deal that involves Blake Snell.
The MLB hot stove has been, for lack of better wording, cold as ice.
After a coronavirus-racked season led to lower revenues and only 60 games, front offices have been iffy on making moves.
Leave it to A.J. Preller to drop a pipebomb on the stove to get it cooking.
Late Sunday night, the San Diego Padres and the Tampa Bay Rays swung a deal to send Blake Snell to the West Coast for a prospect package of Luis Patino, Francisco Mejia, Blake Hunt, and Cole Wilcox. The deal is pending medical reviews.
BREAKING: The Padres have an agreement in place to acquire Blake Snell from the Rays, sources tell @JCTSports, @Ken_Rosenthal and me. Luis Patiño, Francisco Mejía, Blake Hunt and Cole Wilcox would head to Tampa. Deal pending review of medical records.
— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) December 28, 2020
Preller and Tampa Bay general manager Erik Neander are quite familiar with each other, and as is this is the third major trade the pair have executed in the past two offseasons.
Shortly after falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, Tampa Bay informed teams that they were “open” to the idea of trading the former Cy Young award winner but weren’t actively shopping him.
The trade comes exactly two months after Snell was pulled early from Game 6 of the World Series, a decision that came back to haunt the Rays as the Dodgers clawed back to win the game and the title.
Snell doesn’t come cheap, but then again, neither did Mike Clevinger. In the 2020 season, Snell pitched to a 3.24 ERA in 50 innings. Along the way, he struck out 31% of batters and walked just 8.9% with a 4.35 FIP, 3.06 xFIP, and a 3.57 SIERA.
Perhaps the biggest boon is his contract. Snell signed a five-year, $50 million contract extension with the Rays back in 2019 and will be making a bargain $10.5 MM in 2021. The contract increases to $12.5 MM in 2022 and $16 MM in 2023 with salary escalators should he win the Cy Young award.
The obvious headliner for Tampa Bay is Patino. Heading into the offseason, Patino was one of the “untouchable” prospects mentioned by Preller, but he will now be heading to Tampa Bay. As the No. 3 prospect in San Diego’s farm system according to MLB.com, Patino made his debut in the bullpen during the shortened 2020 season.
His debut came with diminishing results. The then-20 year old pitched to a 5.19 ERA in just 17.1 innings, striking out 21 batters while walking 14. However, he is still just 21 years old with a high ceiling alongside a fastball that sits at 97 mph.
Mejia is a former top-ten prospect who has seemingly fallen out of grace with the San Diego front office. Since being acquired from the Cleveland Indians in 2018, Mejia has hit a collective .229/.282/.398 batting line with 84 strikeouts, 13 walks, and 12 home runs.
While he possesses a strong throwing arm, he still struggled to throw out would-be base stealers. Mejia only threw out six runners as opposed to the 30 runners that took a base. It was these struggles, combined with various injuries, that led him to a timeshare with Austin Hedges.
With the emergence of Luis Campusano and Austin Nola’s acquisition from the Seattle Mariners, there was no room for Mejia on the roster.
Hunt has emerged as a top-100 prospect himself as he has impressed in recent workouts. Ranked 14th among San Diego prospects by MLB.com, Hunt slashed .255/.331/.381 over 376 plate appearances in Low-A Fort Wayne during the 2019 season.
Wilcox made waves as a third-round pick as he received a $3.3 million signing bonus. While he was a potential first-round pick, money and signability issues led to him falling to the Padres in the third round. He and first-round pick Robert Hassell III were the only 2020 draftees to be invited to the Padres Alternate Training site at the University of San Diego.
With the acquisition of Snell, San Diego’s 2021 pitching rotation appears to be set for the time being, with Snell leading the pack followed by a presumably healthy Dinelson Lamet, Zach Davies, and Chris Paddack. 2022 looks to be even deadlier with the potential return of Clevinger and the looming debut of MacKenzie Gore.
Don’t count out another out-of-nowhere move from Preller. Because with him at the helm, anything is possible.