After a breakout season in which he was honored with the Cy Young Award, Blake Snell should be in line for a healthy raise… but instead he will have to settle for just over $15,000.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported yesterday that Tampa Bay Rays are planning on renewing Blake Snell’s contract for the 2019 season for only $573,700. A raise, sure… but the additional yet modest $15,500 that Snell is going to be making this year could prove detrimental in the Rays’ pursuit of a contract extension with the ace.
While Snell remained rather quiet on the issue he did make his displeasure known when asked by Topkin about the expected renewal:
"“If that’s what they want to do, that’s what they can do,’’ Snell said. “Hopefully this pushes me. Arbitration will be the business side, and that’s what I’ll tell them. I think fair is fair. It all comes around in the end anyway. At the end of the day, you get what you put in. I’ll be motivated.’’"
The Tampa Bay Rays have complete control of the renewal of Blake Snell’s contract as he is still under team control and not yet eligible for arbitration. But, any chance they once had of buying out his arbitration years in favor of an extension may now be gone. I could be wrong and I hope that I am, but Blake Snell is obviously upset with the situation and rightfully so.
Per Fangraphs $/fWAR model, Blake Snell’s 4.3fWAR was worth 37.1M in value to the Rays. In 2018 he made $558,200 and as a result provided the Rays with roughly 36.5M in surplus value. Rather than acknowledging the amount of value Blake Snell provided last season, the Rays chose to show their appreciation in the form of a meager $15,500 raise.
Marc Topkin outlined the Rays system when renewing contracts prior to arbitration eligibility:
"Their specific calculations are private, based primarily on service time though with “a slight margin” to accommodate performance.But the premise is clear: Pay them as little above the minimum as possible during these years by giving small incremental increases, knowing the balance of power tilts when the player gets to cash in via arbitration over the next three, then dramatically when they’re eligible for free agency after six."
Players that are not eligible for arbitration have no leverage in these contract renewal processes, and while moves similar to this may be quite common, it doesn’t mean that they are smart business moves. Sure, some money is saved up front, but these moves become especially dangerous when the player is of Snell’s caliber and is obviously deserving of more.
Now Blake seems determined to take them to arbitration to get what is “fair”. Unless the two sides can come to terms on a “fair” contract prior to arbitration hearings next year, the Rays could be in for 3 expensive hearings. They may want to rethink their “calculations” a bit moving forward as they could have just cost themselves the chance to lock up a franchise altering player on a relatively team friendly contract.
The Rays did not do themselves any favors by short-changing Blake Snell, who is well aware of his worth. Now, he will in all likelihood be determined to get top dollar in extension talks rather than willingly meet somewhere in the middle. Had the Rays built some goodwill prior to his first year of arbitration eligibility, an extension might seem a little more realistic than it does right now.
The good news is that the Phillies recently locked up Aaron Nola just weeks prior to his first arbitration cash-in. So, there still may be room for hope, but the Rays sure did not do themselves any favors.
Click below to read my thoughts on the Nola extension and the impact it could have on Blake Snell’s possible contract extension talks!
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The Tampa Bay Rays will play at home today against the Baltimore Orioles. The game is scheduled for a 1:05 PM start.