The Angels have lost Shohei Ohtani to the Dodgers and never appeared to be a finalist for NPB star Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but they’re pursuing the biggest fish remaining on the free agent market, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, who reports that the Halos have made reigning NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell “their priority” now that Ohtani has officially departed. The Giants, too, are interested in Snell, per Slusser.
Signing Snell would be a departure from the norm for either club. The Angels’ three-year commitment to Tyler Anderson last offseason was the organization’s first multi-year deal for a free agent starting pitcher since signing Joe Blanton to a two-year contract a decade prior. Owner Arte Moreno has been comfortable with long-term deals for position players — oftentimes mega-deals that haven’t worked out favorably (Albert Pujols, Anthony Rendon, Josh Hamilton) — but has generally been wary of similar commitments to pitchers. The Angels did pursue Gerrit Cole when he was a free agent, but they of course lost out to the Yankees’ then-record bid of $324MM. (Yamamoto topped that mark by $1MM when he agreed to terms with the Dodgers.)
Similarly, the Giants have eschewed long-term deals for starting pitchers in five years under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. San Francisco hasn’t gone beyond three years on any starting pitcher under the current regime — arguably a shrewd philosophy but also the reason that Kevin Gausman is starring for the Blue Jays on what now looks to be a wildly affordable five-year, $110MM contract. Zaidi’s club has gone to three years to sign Anthony DeSclafani and issued two-year deals for veterans Alex Wood, Alex Cobb, Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling, but longer-term pacts haven’t been in this front office group’s playbook.
Then again, the Giants also haven’t been consistently successful under this front office regime. Their 107-win season in 2021 stands as a clear highlight, but the Giants have fallen well shy of the lofty expectations set by that outlier season. Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic suggested earlier this week in his latest Giants mailbag that ownership could be providing “a little more direction from above” than in prior offseasons — particularly when it comes to this sort of long-term pursuit (one that, as Baggarly rightly notes, is largely possible by virtue of the front office’s prior aversion to taking on this sort of long-term risk). To be clear, Baggarly wasn’t addressing Snell in particular but rather the general philosophical shift associated with pursuing larger-scale additions from the free-agent market.
From a payroll vantage point, both the Halos and Giants can handle a weighty commitment to Snell, who’s reportedly been seeking a commitment of $200MM or more. San Francisco currently projects for a $158MM payroll, per Roster Resource, to say nothing of the fact that the Giants are about $45MM shy of the $237MM luxury-tax threshold. (Luxury tax is calculated by the sum of the average annual value on the payroll and can thus differ from the bottom-line dollars paid out in a given year; contracts are often backloaded or frontloaded for varying purposes.) The only two players signed beyond the 2025 season are ace Logan Webb (five years, $90MM from 2024-28) and newly signed center fielder Jung Hoo Lee, who inked a six-year, $113MM pact.
As for the Angels, they’re stuck paying the aforementioned Rendon $38MM for each of the next three seasons on his backloaded deal. There’s little no hope of trading that cumbersome contract away, so the team can only hope for a return to his Nationals form — unlikely as it may be as he enters his age-34 season. Anderson is signed through 2025 at $13MM per season, and the Angels still owe former MVP Mike Trout $34.45MM annually through the 2030 season.
Even with the huge commitments to Trout and Rendon, the Angels project for a $152MM payroll in 2024 and sit at just $167MM in terms of luxury-tax obligations. That leaves ample room to sign Snell, even if doing so would require shattering the franchise-record for a starting pitcher contract (Jered Weaver’s five-year, $85MM deal).
It stands to reason that with both Ohtani and Yamamoto now off the board, the market for Snell will continue to crystalize in the coming weeks. Several runners-up for Yamamoto, in particular, could pivot to consider Snell — although various reports out of New York have indicated that the Mets aren’t expected to be among them. Will Sammon of The Athletic wrote last weekend that the Mets weren’t planning to pursue other top-tier free agents if they fell short in their bid for Yamamoto, whom they considered to be uniquely aligned with their long-term plan given his youth. MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo echoed that sentiment today, reporting that the Mets shouldn’t be expected to pursue Snell or fellow free agent Jordan Montgomery.