Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Blake Snell, Giants agree to deal: NL Cy Young winner to sign two-year, $62M deal with San Francisco

The reigning NL Cy Young winner finally has a team for the 2024 season. Left-hander Blake Snell and the San Francisco Giants have agreed to a two-year contract worth $62 million, CBS Sports’ Jim Bowden has confirmed. Jon Heyman reports that the deal includes an opt-out. The team has not yet confirmed the signing.

Snell, who will pitch all of 2024 at age 31, is the latest big name free agent to take a short-term contract. Cody Bellinger returned to the Chicago Cubs on a three-year, $80 million deal, and Matt Chapman Giants on a three-year, $54 million contract. Bellinger and Chapman can opt out of their contracts after each season.

Jordan Montgomery is now the top unsigned free agent and, like Bellinger and Chapman and Snell, he is a Scott Boras client. It is unknown whether Montgomery will accept a similar short-term contract with opt outs, though the wind is certainly blowing in that direction. With Snell off the board, 45 of our top 50 free agents have signed with Opening Day less than 10 days away.

Snell became the seventh pitcher to win the Cy Young in each league last season, joining four Hall of Famers (Roy Halladay, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gaylord Perry), one future Hall of Famer (Max Scherzer), and one pitcher who would be in the Hall of Fame if not for performance-enhancing drug suspicions (Roger Clemens).

This past season, Snell struck out 234 batters and posted a 2.25 ERA in 180 innings. He was terrific the final four months of the year, pitching to a 1.20 ERA and holding opponents to a .156/.273/.217 batting line in his final 23 starts. Snell allowed only 19 runs in those 23 starts. Excluding openers, It is the fewest runs allowed in any 23-start span in baseball history.

As good as Snell was last season, he does come with red flags. He led baseball with 99 walks, and he’s consistently run a higher-than-league-average walk rate throughout his career. Also, because he walks and strikes out so many batters, Snell rarely pitches deep into games. He has averaged 5.3 innings per start the last three years, almost exactly the MLB average.

Our R.J. Anderson ranked Snell the No. 6 free agent available this offseason, and the No. 3 among full-time pitchers. Here’s a snippet of his write-up:

There’s no knocking his bat- or barrel-missing abilities, but his control leaves a lot to be desired. He threw fewer than 60% strikes this season, and his walk rate was nearly one of the 20 highest posted by a starting pitcher in the Expansion Era. The central conflict in Snell’s game is that he’s as chase-dependent as any starting pitcher — fewer than one-third of his secondary pitches were located within the zone — yet his coercive ability grades as below-average statistically. That combination leads to a lot of deep counts and a lot of early exits; this season marked the second time that he’s a) started 30 or more games and b) cleared 140 innings. Snell’s stuff has allowed him to overcome, and for all we know, that’ll continue to be the case. Still, you can’t blame anyone who develops the collywobbles when they think about the left-tail possibilities of his skill set.  

Snell’s upside is Cy Young-caliber. We saw it this year and we saw it in 2018 as well with the Tampa Bay Rays. We’ve also seen him dominate in the postseason (we all remember the 2020 World Series controversy). Snell at his best is as good as any pitcher in the game. To get that upside, you’ll have to sit through a lot of walks and long innings, but he’s a dominator when he’s on.

The San Diego Padres, Snell’s former team, made him the qualifying offer earlier this winter. Because they paid competitive balance tax in 2023, they will only receive a compensation draft pick after the fourth round for losing the Cy Young winner to free agency.

With a little more than two weeks to go before Opening Day, Snell may have enough time to build up and be part of the rotation to start the regular season. The late signing means he could be cutting it close, though.

Snell, who should slot in behind staff ace Logan Webb in the Giants’ rotation, caps an active offseason for the club and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. In addition to Snell, the Giants this winter have also landed Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee, slugging DH Jorge Soler, third baseman Matt Chapman, and reliever-turned-starter Jordan Hicks. The Giants are angling to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2021.

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