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Tampa Bay Rays: It is time to lock up Blake Snell

By Austin Reimann
ST PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: Blake Snell #4 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws a pitch in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 29, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: Blake Snell #4 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws a pitch in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 29, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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The date was November 26th, 2012 and the Tampa Bay Rays had just signed the then face of the franchise Evan Longoria to a 10 year deal, adding 6 years of control. Now, more than 6 years later the Rays have a new face and it is time to lock him up for the foreseeable future.

Fast forward to the year 2022, it is the trade deadline and the Tampa Bay Rays are looking to ship off yet another Cy Young award winning left-handed starting pitcher, his name, Blake Snell. It isn’t unreasonable to assume that by this point, Snell has added another Cy Young award, or two, and additional all-star appearances to his resume and would demand a huge haul in trade talks.

It is the Rays way, after all. They did it with David Price in 2014 and if they don’t extend Blake Snell, they will do it again in 2022.

In defense of the Rays, they could not afford to pay David Price and couldn’t afford to let one of the best players in franchise history walk without any return. Well, times have changed and not only can the Rays afford to extend Blake Snell, but in 2022, they won’t need to trade him in an effort to restock their farm system. Instead of rebuilding, in 2022, the Rays will be in the middle of another golden age of Rays baseball.

On the brink of that next golden age of Rays baseball, it would behoove the Rays to lock up their ace and new face of the franchise. As they plan on contending for a title behind their young core, they will lean on Blake Snell to lead the aforementioned youth. With cornerstone players, Willy Adames, Jake Bauers, and Austin Meadows all under team control through 2024, wouldn’t it make sense to extend Snell through at least through 2024.

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Future Rays Brent Honeywell, Jesus Sanchez, Brendan McKay and future superstar Wander Franco haven’t even made it to the Major Leagues yet and the future is bright. Including the names above, the Rays possess one of deepest farm systems in all of baseball and are expected to enter a sustained period of success as a result.

It is hard to believe that Blake Snell wouldn’t want to be a part of this success. It is also hard to believe that the Tampa Bay Rays wouldn’t want Blake Snell to be at the forefront of their expected success.

I don’t think it is a  question of whether or not they will approach Blake looking to work out a deal, it is a question of when. I say now. The more success that Blake Snell experiences, the more dollar signs he will envision as he approaches free agency in a time where pitchers are some of the best paid athletes on the planet.

So, before Blake experiences his inevitable successes, it is time for the Rays to entice him to secure his future in Tampa Bay with a rewarding contract.

Still a year away from arbitration eligibility, the Rays have time to lock up their ace but will likely look to do so before his first year of arbitration just as the Cardinals did with their young ace, Carlos Martinez.

Carlos Martinez’s contract:

5 years and 51 million dollars through 2021

2 club options worth 35 million for 2022/23

Possible total: 7 years and 86 million dollars… Roughly 12 million per year

5 years and 51 million dollars with 500,000 buyouts (x2)

What does this mean?

If we compare the two seasons leading up to Martinez’s extension to Blake Snell’s last two seasons assuming that he signs an extension this offseason, we will see a lot of similarities.

Martinez’s 2 seasons: 375 IP / 30-16 / 3.02 ERA / 3.42 FIP / 132 ERA+ / 1 All-Star

Snell’s 2 seasons:         310 IP / 26-12 / 2.79 ERA / 3.47 FIP / 150 ERA+ / 1 All-Star, Cy Young

The records, ERA and FIP are similar, the only major difference we see is in the ERA+ which is skewed due to Blakes crazy ERA+ of 219  this season. Both Martinez and Snell appeared in an All-Star game.  Besides Snell’s Cy Young recognition, the two were pretty similar.

I know Snell had a dominant 2018, but Martinez does have a 65 inning edge on Snell. We don’t know how an extra 65 innings would have affected Blake’s statistics, but assuming they resembles his numbers in 2017, this comparison becomes almost identical. If the extra 65 innings mirror his historic 2018 campaign, then Snell gains an obvious edge over Martinez in this discussion, which due to the difference in innings pitched, is a slippery slope.

Due to the similarities between theses two young aces, we can look to Martinez’s contract as a guide when discussing a Snell extension.

Dollars and Sense…

If I am the Rays, I am approaching Blake right now. There is no sense standing by and watching his value rise even more while he experiences more success in 2019. Financially, a contract extension makes sense for the Rays. Tampa Bay can afford to reward Blake for his efforts in 2018 with a raise in 2019 and beyond.

Technically, Blake is under team control for one more year before he reaches arbitration eligibility and they very well could renew Blake Snell’s 2019 contract and build good will by giving him a substantial raise from his 2018 salary of $558,200. The largest one-year contract renewal by a team occurred in 2017 when the Cubs renewed Kris Bryant’s pre arbitration contract for 1.05 million.

Noting the way the Rays do business, they will likely do something similar to this, rewarding Blake Snell with a raise. If they only renew his contract for 2019, then the Rays run the risk that he refuses to sign an extension and instead heads towards arbitration. If Blake does opt for the arbitration process, it could get very pricey for the Rays in 2020-2022.

Instead, they could buy out all three of Blake’s arbitration years and his first  three years of free agency. A deal like this may not come until next year but they should offer it this year giving him a nice raise and peace of mind.

Potential Contract:

7 years and 80 million dollars through 2025

2 club options worth 20 million per year in 2026 and 2027

Both options hold a 1 million dollar buyout

Possible total: 9 years and 120 million dollars

7 years and 80 million dollars with 1,000,000 buyouts (x2)

The contract above buys out his 4 remaining years of team control (3 Arb. Seasons) and his first 3 years of free agency, while giving the Rays the option of extending his time in Tampa an additional 2 years. The initial 7 years would extend Blake through his age 32 season. With the options, Blake could be a Ray through the age of 34.

It could look like this with the options in bold:

’19      ’20      ’21       ’22        ’23        ’24        ’25        ’26        ’27

5 mil/8 mil/10 mil/12 mil/15 mil/15 mil/15 mil/20 mil/20 mil

I can’t predict the financial situation of future Rays teams, but what I do know is that after 2023, the Rays have no financial obligations on the books. The only obligation they do have until that point is Kevin Kiermaier’s contract.

Next. Predicted 25-man roster. dark

They have the flexibility to execute an extension with their ace and they should take this opportunity to do so. Don’t let Rays fans fall in love with another player only to see him traded away for 18 and 19 year old prospects years away from contribution.

An extension like the one above provides Snell with peace of mind for years to come as he has the possibility of earning 120 million dollars. It shows the 2019 free agent class that the Rays are serious about their future and are ready to contend this year and the years that follow behind their Cy Young winner. The extension also gives the Rays clarity about future financial commitments as they look lock up their other young players.

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Mr. Neander, it is time to usher in the latest wave of baseball excitement in Tampa Bay with the extension of the new face of the franchise. Lets get this done.

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