The Yankees have made an opening contract offer to free agent starter Blake Snell, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Terms of the proposal aren’t clear, but Heyman adds the team and Snell’s representatives at the Boras Corporation remain “far apart” in talks.
New York is one of the teams that has been most frequently connected to Snell in recent weeks. That’s at least in part because they’re seemingly involved on most or all of the big-name pitchers available. They’ve been linked to old friend Jordan Montgomery and right-hander Marcus Stroman in free agency. On the trade front, reports have tied the Yankees to the likes of Dylan Cease, Jesús Luzardo and Shane Bieber.
It doesn’t seem they’re all that close on any of those players. Heyman reports the Yankees have thus far balked at Chicago’s asking price on Cease, which he adds involves a prospect package centered around 2022 first-round pick Spencer Jones. Baseball America recently ranked Jones, who hit .268/.337/.450 with 13 homers in High-A last year, as the #2 talent in the New York farm system. That’s consistent with various reports that Chicago wants multiple high-end prospects for Cease.
Meanwhile, Heyman notes there’s been “no traction” between the Yankees and Miami on talks involving Luzardo or righty Edward Cabrera. It’s unclear whether rentals like Bieber or Corbin Burnes will move this offseason. If New York doesn’t pick up steam on any of their trade conversations — they’ve surely discussed possibilities beyond what has been publicly reported — that could increase their urgency to add a top-of-the-rotation starter via free agency.
Snell and Montgomery are the clear top two options available. The incumbent Rangers have been linked to Montgomery throughout the offseason. Teams like the Angels, Giants, Phillies and Red Sox have been tied to both left-handers. The Giants and Halos have been more frequently linked to Snell than have the latter two clubs.
The Yankees are the first team known to have an offer on the table (although that’s certainly not to say there aren’t others that were unreported). Snell is coming off his second career Cy Young campaign. He worked to an MLB-best 2.25 ERA over 180 innings. He fanned over 31% of batters faced and was utterly dominant down the stretch, posting a 1.23 ERA from June 1 onward. His command is erratic, but few pitchers are as difficult to hit when they’re on.
A pursuit of Snell is fairly reminiscent of last winter’s run at Carlos Rodón, another left-hander with huge stuff coming off an excellent platform year despite some career inconsistency. Rodón’s six-year, $162MM deal looked disastrous in year one. While one could argue that should make the Yankees gun-shy about pursuing a similar pitcher, it also increases the need for another high-end starter. Neither Rodón nor Nestor Cortes looked like top-of-the-rotation arms last season. That leaves New York looking for another star to pitch behind Gerrit Cole and reduce some of the pressure on Rodón and Cortes.
MLBTR predicted a seven-year, $200MM deal for Snell, who turned 31 last month. A signing team would also forfeit draft compensation because he rejected a qualifying offer from the Padres. For a team that paid the luxury tax like the Yankees, that’d be their second- and fifth-highest selections next year and $1MM in international signing bonus space. New York’s luxury tax payroll sits around $291MM, according to Roster Resource. They’re taxed at a 95% rate on spending up to the $297MM mark and will pay a 110% tax on every dollar beyond that figure.