In the aftermath of the offseason’s top free agent pitcher, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, signing with the Dodgers late last month, the market for #2 pitching free agent Blake Snell has begun to pick up. The Red Sox, Phillies, Giants, and Angels have all been connected to Snell in recent weeks and the Yankees are known to have made an offer for the lefty’s services. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale provides details on that offer, suggesting that while Snell’s camp is seeking “at least $240MM” this winter, the Yankees’ offer came in “nearly $100MM” below that target.
Since those initial connections, both the Giants and Yankees have made rotation additions that might take them out of the market for Snell: The Giants picked up Robbie Ray in trade with the Mariners and signed Jordan Hicks to bolster their rotation mix, while the Yankees added Marcus Stroman to their own starting five. While it’s unclear whether or not either club’s interest in Snell persists beyond those additions, it’s at least fair to say that they’re in a less desperate position regarding starting pitcher than they were a few weeks ago. Even if those two clubs are no longer part of Snell’s market, however, Nightengale suggests that there are “several” teams that remain engaged with Snell’s camp in hopes his hefty price tag will drop as the offseason continues. In particular, he notes that the Blue Jays “have been quietly monitoring” Snell throughout his free agency.
Toronto would be something of a surprising fit for Snell. While the club was among the finalists involved in the Yamamoto sweepstakes, the club has seemed to eschew a more general foray into the pitching side of free agency this winter in favor of bolstering a lineup that lost Matt Chapman, Whit Merrifield, and Brandon Belt to free agency this winter after key bats such as George Springer, Alejandro Kirk, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. under-performed in 2023. By contrast, starting pitching proved to be a notable strength of the Blue Jays’ roster last season as the club was led by ace righty Kevin Gausman and saw strong rebound campaigns from both Yusei Kikuchi and Jose Berrios after difficult seasons in 2022.
With that being said, the Blue Jays made clear they had money to spend this winter with their strong bid for the services of Shohei Ohtani last month and the club’s recent additions of Kevin Kiermaier and Isiah Kiner-Falefa make a strong pursuit of Cody Bellinger or Chapman, the offseason’s best remaining positional free agents, less likely than they appeared to be earlier this winter. With money available and few clear fits in free agency to spend it on, a pursuit of Snell could place Toronto’s rotation firmly among the best in the game. The reigning NL Cy Young award winner, Snell led the majors with a sterling 2.25 ERA in 180 innings of work last season and would create an enviable duo at the top of the club’s rotation alongside Gausman.
A pursuit of Snell would also provide the Jays with protection against potential injury or ineffectiveness that they lack after veteran southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu departed for free agency back in November. While the club’s rotation looks strong on paper, a regression from Kikuchi or Berrios or continued struggles from Alek Manoah after an abysmal 2023 campaign could hamper the club’s ability to emerge from a competitive AL East with a playoff spot next season. Even Chris Bassitt, despite serving as one of the most reliable mid-rotation starters in the game in recent years, threw a career-high 200 frames last year across 33 starts and is entering his age-35 season in 2024. While top prospect Rickey Tiedemann could factor into the club’s rotation mix sometime next season and provide the depth the club’s starting five currently lacks, the addition of another quality rotation piece such as Snell would take pressure off of a 21-year-old hurler with just four innings of work at the Triple-A level headed into what could be his rookie campaign.
Of course, adding a bat-first player to the club’s beleaguered offense is surely a higher priority than a pursuit of any pitcher, and the club may prefer to keep its financial powder dry with an eye on a robust free agent class next offseason that currently projects to include offensive stars such as Juan Soto, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman. Nightengale seemingly indicates that the Blue Jays don’t have interest in adding Snell at his current, hefty asking price, and even if the price on his services does drop its likely a rotation-needy club such as the Red Sox or Angels would have more incentive to win a bidding war than Toronto. If the Blue Jays are hoping to add depth to their rotation without breaking the bank, pursuing a hurler capable of swinging between the rotation and the bullpen such as Alex Wood, Jakob Junis, or previously-rumored target Yariel Rodriguez could provide the club with additional depth while leaving the door open to a pursuit of Bellinger, Chapman, or any of next winter’s star free agents.