HomeMLB RumorsGiants To Sign Blake Snell

Giants To Sign Blake Snell

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The Giants have made another Spring Training strike. San Francisco is in agreement, pending a physical, with Blake Snell on a two-year, $62MM contract that allows him to opt out after the upcoming season. The Boras Corporation client will reportedly receive a $15MM salary in 2024 and has a $17MM signing bonus that will not be paid until January 2026. Snell will receive the bonus even if he opts out, so that decision essentially amounts to a $30MM player option for the ’25 season.

San Francisco adds the defending NL Cy Young winner to the top of a staff that also includes last year’s runner-up, Logan Webb. A two-year deal certainly isn’t what Snell had in mind at the beginning of the winter. The 31-year-old hit free agency coming off an otherworldly finish to the 2023 campaign. Snell’s platform season actually started shakily, as he allowed 15 runs over his first 23 frames. From the start of May onward, he was the best pitcher in the majors. Snell allowed only 1.78 earned runs per nine through 27 starts and 157 innings after April.

Despite the tough first month, the southpaw finished the year with an MLB-best 2.25 ERA across 180 frames. He punched out 31.5% of opposing hitters, a mark surpassed by only Spencer Strider and Tyler Glasnow among pitchers with at least 100 innings. No other starter missed more bats on a per-swing basis. Opponents made contact on just 64.2% of their swings against Snell, narrowly better than Strider’s 64.3% figure for the lowest rate in the majors.

As a result, Snell cruised to the second Cy Young of his career. He received 28 of 30 first-place votes. He’d won the American League Cy Young as a member of the Rays five seasons earlier behind an AL-leading 1.89 ERA over 31 starts. He joined Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom as active pitchers with multiple Cy Young wins.

The 2018 and ’23 seasons are, rather remarkably, the only seasons in which Snell has appeared on Cy Young ballots. That points to some amount of inconsistency over the course of his career, which is mostly attributable to scattershot control. Snell has walked nearly 11% of batters faced over his seven-plus big league seasons. Last season’s 13.3% walk percentage was the highest rate of his career. Snell led the majors with 99 free passes, the first pitcher to do so in a Cy Young-winning campaign in more than 60 years.

Snell has never been a bad pitcher, but the inconsistent strike-throwing has kept him from turning in ace production on an annual basis. He posted an ERA ranging from 3.24 to 4.29 in the four seasons between his award-winning campaigns. While Snell fanned over 30% of opposing hitters every year, working deep counts kept him from logging massive workloads. He has averaged a little less than 5 1/3 innings per start over the course of his career. He reached the 180-inning mark in each of his Cy Young campaigns but didn’t surpass 130 frames in any other season.

It seems the market didn’t value Snell as a clear-cut ace despite the strength of his platform year. The only other publicly reported offer which he received was a six-year, $150MM proposal from the Yankees back in January. When Snell didn’t accept, New York inked Marcus Stroman to a two-year deal. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that the Yankees took their offer off the table last month and declined to reengage over the weekend.

Given that Snell ultimately settled for a two-year guarantee at a marginally higher annual rate, there’s a strong argument that his camp erred in not accepting New York’s offer. At the very least, he’s taking more risk in going with a short-term pact for the chance to retest the market next winter. Still, it’s not all that surprising he didn’t jump on a $150MM guarantee.

That’s well below the seven-year, $172MM deal which Aaron Nola secured from the Phillies earlier this offseason. It’s also shy of the six-year, $162MM pact that Carlos Rodón landed from New York a year ago. Snell and Rodón are broadly similar pitchers — power lefties with questions about their ability to consistently log huge innings totals — but the former was coming off a better year than Rodón posted in 2022.

It’s possible Snell received similar or better offers from other teams that went unreported. In any case, he clearly didn’t find the kind of long-term pact that he envisioned. That seemed increasingly unlikely the longer he remained unsigned. The incumbent Padres were never a factor as they sliced payroll this winter. Teams like the Mets and Red Sox jumped out of the market fairly quickly. As the offseason dragged along, more teams downplayed the possibility of making a top-of-the-market splash. Beyond the Yankees, Snell reportedly drew interest from the Angels. The Astros were a late entrant last week before balking at an annual commitment above $30MM.

Snell joins fellow Boras Corporation clients Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman in settling for guarantees well below what most people expected entering the offseason. They’ll all have the ability to retest free agency next winter. Bellinger inked a three-year deal with opt-outs after 2024 and ’25; Chapman signed for two years with an opt-out following next season. Jordan Montgomery, the last unsigned member of the so-called “Boras four,” has reportedly continued to hold out in search of a long-term deal. With a week and a half until Opening Day, it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to find anything close to that.

It’s yet another huge free agent strike for the Giants, who have attacked the late stages of free agency with a vengeance. After a few offseasons of missing out on their top targets, San Francisco has successfully slow-played this year’s market. Since the beginning of Spring Training, they’ve added Jorge Soler, Chapman and Snell. Soler’s three-year, $45MM deal was around pre-offseason expectations. The latter two contracts were well below what the Giants could’ve envisioned in November.

Snell puts the finishing touch on a winter that also saw San Francisco shell out $113MM for KBO star Jung Hoo Lee and $44MM for reliever turned starter Jordan Hicks. The Giants also pulled off a major trade with the Mariners that sent Mitch Haniger and Anthony DeSclafani to Seattle for rehabbing starter Robbie Ray. The 2021 AL Cy Young winner won’t be a factor until around the All-Star Break, but he could eventually add another high-ceiling arm to the rotation.

It’s still a potentially top-heavy group, but there’s now a ton of upside. Snell and Webb should form an excellent 1-2 punch. Top prospect Kyle Harrison will occupy the #3 role. Giving Hicks a starting job despite his injury history and below-average control is a gamble, but his power arsenal at least makes that an intriguing flier. Veteran righty Alex Cobb could be back from last fall’s hip surgery by May. Prospects Keaton Winn and Mason Black are back-of-the-rotation depth options early in the year.

Snell’s late signing date could have him a bit behind schedule. He has been throwing and reportedly tossed four simulated innings in front of scouts last week. There’s not a ton of time to build rapport with catcher Patrick Bailey before Opening Day, but that shouldn’t be an issue too deep into the season. Snell is at least plenty familiar with manager Bob Melvin, his skipper for the last two years with the Padres.

San Francisco’s late-offseason aggressiveness has pushed them into luxury tax territory for the first time since 2017. While the delayed payment of the signing bonus reduces the team’s commitment in the short term, the $31MM average annual value is the relevant number for tax purposes. RosterResource calculates the club’s competitive balance tax number right around the $257MM line that marks the second tier of penalization. For teams that didn’t pay the tax the preceding season, the fees are fairly modest. In contrast to the Yankees (who would’ve been taxed at a 110% rate as a third-time payor that is in the top bracket), the Giants are only hit with a 20% fee on spending between $237MM and $257MM.

The Snell deal comes with a roughly $4MM tax bill. They’ll be taxed at a 32% clip for future spending up to the $277MM mark with escalating fees thereafter. While it’s likely this marks their last major investment of the winter, they’re surely hopeful of being in a position to add at the trade deadline.

Snell declined a qualifying offer from the Padres. The Giants already forfeited their second-round pick and $500K of international bonus pool space to add Chapman. They’ll lose their third-rounder (#87 overall) and another $500K from their international bonus pool for Snell. San Diego paid the CBT a year ago, so they’re limited to the lowest compensation for losing a qualified free agent: a selection after the fourth round. The Padres received the #135 pick for losing Josh Hader and will now get another selection in that range.

Paying the CBT and parting with draft capital are costs the Giants are happy to pay to get Chapman and Snell on short-term deals. San Francisco was comfortable with similar contract structures for Rodón and Michael Conforto in previous offseasons. Both players could walk next offseason for nothing — they’re ineligible to receive another qualifying offer in their careers — but that’s a risk worth taking to continue loading up in a division full of star talent with four legitimate threats to make the playoffs.

Jon Heyman of the New York Post first reported Snell and the Giants agreed to a two-year, $62MM deal with an opt-out. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported the signing bonus and salary breakdown.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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