The Tampa Bay Rays have been successful in the philosophy of being budget-conscious and remaining competitive with the use of analytics, an emphasis on developing prospects, and trading players before they are eligible for a big payday. The American League Champions made another proactive move on Sunday, dealing pitcher Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres for a package of prospects.
The 28-year old former Cy Young Award winner went 4-2, with a 3.24 ERA in 50 innings with Tampa last season and 2-2 in the playoffs. In exchange, San Diego sent pitching prospects Luis Patiño, Cole Wilcox, and catchers Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt in the deal.
Snell has three years remaining on a five-year, $50 million contract, but the back-loaded deal has him earning $10.5 million in 2021, $12.5 million in 2022 and $16 million in 2023.
The trade followed the Rays modus operandi of dealing pitchers with term left on their contracts, as they did in 2012 with ace James Shields, 2014 with David Price, and 2018 with Chris Archer. The deal for Shields brought back Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, shortstop Willy Adames was part of the return for moving Price.
The Archer swap was the biggest bonanza for Tampa, as they acquired pitcher Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows in the deal. Glasnow and Meadows did not fulfill their expectations with the Pirates, but have both thrived with the Rays.
The 20-year-old Patino is a right-handed starting pitcher rated the #15 MLB prospect according to the 2020 Baseball Prospectus, while Wilcox was drafted in the third round of the 2020 Amateur Draft after pitching two years for the University of Georgia.
Mejia was acquired from Cleveland in 2018 and has been considered one of the best catching prospects in baseball, but the 24-year-old has not been able to repeat his success in the minor leagues, hitting .077 in part-time duty with the Padres last season. Tampa is hoping to make the young backstop another of their reclamation projects in a platoon with veteran Mike Zunino in 2021.