The Padres appear to be heading towards a massively disappointing ending to the 2023 season. What should they do with impending free agent Blake Snell?
Blake Snell is pitching out of his mind right now. An argument can be made that he is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. In his last 16 starts, he has Cy Young numbers, with a 2.10 ERA with 123 strikeouts in 90 innings.
Overall on the season, Snell owns a stellar 150 ERA+ and is second in the National League with 139 strikeouts.
The problem is it appears he is leading a team that is dead in the water. The Padres seem lifeless. They fold at any hint of adversity. It’s time to face the reality. At this point, it might be time to think about what kind of value the Padres could get from trading their lefty starter. The team’s season seems to be circling the drain if it hasn’t already begun its journey down through the plumbing.
Snell will be a free agent at the end of the season. There is always the possibility that the Padres will attempt to extend him. However, at eight games out of a playoff spot and FanGraphs giving them a 24.1 percent chance to make the postseason, it might be time to face the facts. The Padres might have to choose between getting some value for Snell now or risk having him walk at the end of a disappointing season and get nothing in return.
No, an article on having to sell off some of the top players on this team is not something anyone expected to read or write when the season started. This is not to suggest the Padres should have a complete fire sale, including dealing away Juan Soto. But Snell’s market should be uniquely strong.
However, this is a prime opportunity to cash in on Snell having one of the best stretches of his entire career. Let’s be honest; he has not always been the most reliable starter in San Diego. He has cold stretches that are extremely frustrating. His ceiling has always been high, but his lows are maddening.
The Padres could merit a handsome return for Snell right now, even with him being a rental. There is historical evidence that the Padres could pry at least two top-level prospects from a suitor.
Let’s examine two rental starting pitcher trades of the past and see what the team acquiring the pitcher gave up.
First, let’s start with a familiar name. The Dodgers were looking to upgrade their starting rotation ahead of a run to the World Series in 2017. They swung a deal with the Texas Rangers for veteran righty Yu Darvish.
Calhoun was rated as the Dodgers’ No. 4-ranked prospect in 2017. Davis was 29th in their organization. Alexy was a throw-in who has made just nine appearances in the big leagues.
Overall, the Rangers got two of the Dodgers’ top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.
Going back a bit further, the price was even steeper for David Price. Perhaps this might be more of an accurate depiction of Snell’s situation, as currently one of the best lefty starters in baseball, like Price was for the Tigers in 2015. He owned a 2.53 ERA and 158 ERA+ in 21 starts for the Tigers ahead of that trade deadline, very similar numbers to Snell’s this year.
All three were in the Blue Jays’ top 30 prospects list. Norris was at No. 1 in the organization and 17th in all of baseball. Labourt ranked 13th in the organization, and Boyd was 22nd.
Essentially, the Tigers got a top 20 prospect in all of baseball, plus two more solid prospects in the Blue Jays’ farm system for Price’s remaining two-plus months of a contract.
This is the kind of haul the Padres should expect from a possible suitor for Snell.
Some top-tier talent could be traded 👀
— B/R Walk-Off (@BRWalkoff) July 17, 2023
The Orioles are looking to go for it this year. They are right in the mix in the AL East. They rank 20th in starting pitching fWAR. They could use Snell.
Window shopping around their farm system, the Padres could try and pry the likes of Heston Kjerstad and Cade Povich from Baltimore. Kjerstad is one of the top outfield prospects in all of baseball, ranking 36th in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100. The lefty corner outfielder is currently batting .324 with a 143 wRC+ in Triple-A. Baltimore likely would hesitate to deal him away, but you got to pay the price for quality starting pitching in this market.
Povich could essentially replace Snell as a touted lefty. He has a five-pitch mix and has a 13.7 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate in Double-A this year. He ranks as Baltimore’s 11th prospect.
Yes, the Padres could attempt to get two of the Orioles’ top 11 prospects for Snell. It also depends on how urgent the Orioles are about going for it this season.
The Reds are another surprising team that is looking to buy on pitching this deadline. They are just two games out of the NL Central and rank 24th in starter WAR. Snell gives them instant credibility in the rotation. They, like the Orioles, have a deep farm system the Padres can attempt to dip into.
Reds No. 4 prospect Andrew Abbott has already made his MLB debut. He is also the 57th-ranked prospect in all of baseball.
Cincinnati might picture him as part of the key group of players for a stretch run. However, if they want a former Cy Young-winning lefty for a run at an exciting postseason, they will need to pay up.
The 24-year-old has been impressive thus far at the big league level, turning in a 2.45 ERA and 193 ERA+ in 47 2/3 innings. In theory, Abbott could step right in where Snell left off in San Diego if this trade went through.
If the Padres can convince the Reds to part with Abbott, the two sides can agree on a lesser prospect to throw in the deal as well. But if teams want Snell, the Padres need to be satisfied with the return.
History tells us that a lefty starter in his prime, even with an expiring contract, should merit at least one top-10 organizational prospect and another solid prospect or two. At least one of those prospects should be in the MLB Pipeline Top 100. The Padres should not part with Snell for less than that.
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.