The Rays have optioned left-handed starter Blake Snell to Triple-A Durham, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The club will recall reliever Ryne Stanek to take Snell’s roster spot, Topkin adds (on Twitter).
Tampa Bay elected to demote Snell after he turned in arguably his worst start of the year in a 6-3 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday. The 24-year-old went 5 2/3 innings, marking the seventh time in eight starts this season that he hasn’t completed at least six frames, and yielded six earned runs on six hits and three walks, with five strikeouts. In 42 innings this year, Snell has logged a bloated 4.71 ERA with a disappointing strikeout rate (7.29 per nine innings) and a horrid walk rate (5.36).
Snell also struggled with control as a rookie last season (5.16 BB/9), but the former top prospect managed to offset that to a degree with a stellar 9.91 K/9, which helped him post a quality ERA (3.54) in 89 innings. Since then, though, Snell has lost some fastball velocity and generated fewer swinging strikes, as his rate has fallen from 10.9 percent in 2016 to 8.8 percent this year. Overall, Snell has been the weak link in a Rays rotation that has otherwise been a strength in 2017, with Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Matt Andriese and Jake Odorizzi having recorded positive results.
With Snell returning to the minors, veteran swingman Erasmo Ramirez is likely to take his rotation spot, per Topkin, though he notes that the Rays might not need a fifth starter imminently. Snell’s demotion shouldn’t affect his long-term control, as he entered the season with 110 days of service time and is now closing in on the 172 necessary to accrue a full year. Thus, assuming Snell returns to the majors this season, he should still remain on track to reach free agency after the 2022 season.