The Toronto Blue Jays are reportedly monitoring the free agency of Blake Snell this winter, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Snell is the defending NL Cy Young winner after a stellar season with the San Diego Padres. He pitched 180 innings over 32 starts and led his league in ERA with a 2.25 mark. He joined Roy Halladay, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Max Scherzer, Pedro Martinez and Gaylord Perry as the only pitchers to win the Cy Young in both leagues.
Though his walk rate was a tad high as he put 13.3% of batters faced on first base, he struck out an incredible 31.5% of hitters. The 31 year old would obviously upgrade any team’s rotation but there are a few reasons he is not the best fit with the Blue Jays.
First of all, starting pitching is already a huge strength of the team. Kevin Gausman will head in to the 2024 season with a chance to win his own Cy Young. Chris Bassitt had an impressive debut season in Toronto, pitching 200 innings and proving to be a reliable performer every fifth day. Jose Berrios was great last season, Yusei Kikuchi seems to have figured things out and Alek Manoah deserves a chance to start in the rotation to prove he can bounce back as well.
The Blue Jays were fourth best in MLB in ERA at 3.78, and had the second most strikeouts with 1528 as a staff. That gives the Blue Jays a deep rotation that was among the best in baseball a year ago. Spending to add to that just isn’t the right place to invest.
And it would take an awful lot of spending to land Snell. Nightengale also reported the ace was looking for $240 million on his next contract which is an absurd amount of money to hand a 31 year old pitcher who hadn’t pitched more than 129 innings since 2018. With huge contract extensions on the horizon for Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (they are staying, right?) paying $25-30 million per year for Snell doesn’t make financial sense.
Instead, the Jays need to add some pop to their lineup. They hit the 16th most home runs in MLB in 2023, had the 8th best OBP and were 11th overall in OPS. Those are middling numbers and the team also lost Brandon Belt, Matt Chapman and Whit Merrifield as free agents.
Re-signing Kevin Kiermaier and bringing in soft hitting Isaiah Kiner-Falefa is not going to make up for Belt, who was great at the plate in 2023 and Chapman who got off to an incredible start before going cold for a while with the bat.
Relying on David Schneider to recapture the magic he began his MLB career with last season may not be the best route. Finding a second baseman or third baseman that can get on base and add some power to the lineup is where the Blue Jays should be focusing right now.
That could see them circle back on Chapman who is still available. Or check out the trade market where they could find Brendan Donovan or Jorge Polanco to be an upgrade.
A trade would of course cost the team some assets, but it would not cost the extraordinary amount of money Snell is demanding, and it would ensure they fill a position of greater need as well. That means is makes a lot more sense to target bats with any available funds and not necessarily breaking the bank to bring in an arm, no matter how elite he may look in the short term.