The Giants continue to explore the markets for Blake Snell and Matt Chapman as March draws near, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. One source tells Slusser there’s roughly a 50-50 chance that San Francisco comes away with one of those players.
Snell would address the bigger need, at least in the short term. San Francisco has a patchwork rotation behind Cy Young runner-up Logan Webb. The Giants signed longtime reliever Jordan Hicks to a four-year deal with the promise of a rotation job. Hicks’ personal high in innings at the MLB level is 77 2/3 from his 2018 rookie season. He hasn’t reached the 70-inning mark since then.
The options beyond Hicks are even less established. Kyle Harrison is one of the sport’s most talented pitching prospects, but he has seven MLB games under his belt. The southpaw averaged fewer than four innings per appearance over 20 Triple-A starts a year ago. That was partially to keep his workload in check but also reflected his inefficiency. Harrison struck out an excellent 35.6% of Triple-A opponents but walked upwards of 16% of batters faced.
Webb, Hicks and Harrison are the three locks for the Opening Day staff. Alex Cobb will begin the year on the injured list as he works back from hip surgery. Robbie Ray won’t be ready until around the All-Star Break at the earliest during his rehab from last year’s Tommy John procedure. Keaton Winn and Tristan Beck entered camp with the presumed edge on the fourth and fifth rotation spots. They’ve each been set back by injury during exhibition play. Winn was delayed by elbow soreness, although he maintained over the weekend he expects to be ready for Opening Day. Beck just left the team to undergo testing after experiencing discomfort in his right hand.
A starting five of Webb, Hicks, Harrison, Winn and Beck is already not ideal for a team that hopes to compete for a playoff spot. Losing either Winn or Beck would require dipping further into depth options like Sean Hjelle, Ethan Small, prospect Kai-Wei Teng or a non-roster invitee like Daulton Jefferies or Tommy Romero.
While Snell hasn’t been a consistent source of volume throughout his career, he’s coming off his second 180-inning season. He’d upgrade any rotation and would afford the Giants the luxury of plugging in the top two finishers in last year’s NL Cy Young voting. There’d still be some questions about the staff’s durability, but a top three of Webb, Snell and Harrison would have one of the highest ceilings in the league.
Of course, the question is whether they’ll line up on an agreeable price point. No team has yet met Snell’s ask. Jon Heyman of the New York Post wrote this afternoon that the southpaw may be open to considering a short-term offer that allows him to opt out and retest free agency. Fellow Boras Corporation client Cody Bellinger took that route on a three-year, $80MM pact with the Cubs over the weekend. It’s hard to envision Snell turning in a better platform season than the one he had in 2023, though. He allowed only 2.25 earned runs per nine over the course of the year and turned in a 1.23 mark from June onward.
The Yankees have reportedly had an offer out to Snell for weeks. Heyman reported this morning that his camp spoke with New York brass again yesterday but didn’t have any kind of breakthrough. The Angels have also been loosely linked to Snell.
Chapman, on the other hand, doesn’t play a position of strict need. The Giants have a solid third baseman in J.D. Davis. Were they to land Chapman, they’d likely flip Davis to a team with a more pressing desire for help at the hot corner. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and new manager Bob Melvin both have ties to Chapman from their days with the A’s. He’d markedly upgrade the infield defense, although it’s debatable whether he’s enough of an offensive improvement on Davis to make that move worthwhile.
Zaidi recently suggested the team was unlikely to make any more free agent splashes this offseason. Perhaps that was simply public posturing or the recent health uncertainty surrounding Winn and Beck could change the calculus. In any case, San Francisco should have payroll flexibility. Roster Resource projects their 2024 spending around $164MM. They’re at roughly $213MM in luxury tax obligations. That puts them about $24MM shy of both the base CBT threshold and last year’s Opening Day payroll.
Signing Snell, in particular, would likely push them into luxury tax territory — especially if they added him on a higher-AAV deal to avoid a lengthy commitment. It’d be easier to fit Chapman onto the ledger without going into CBT range, since they’d then have reason to shed Davis’ $6.9MM salary in trade.
The fees for surpassing the luxury tax would be relatively modest if they edged past $237MM. They’d only owe a 20% tax on spending between $237MM and $257MM. The Giants last paid the CBT in 2017. Snell and Chapman each declined the qualifying offer; signing either player would cost the Giants their second-highest pick in the upcoming draft and $500K in international bonus pool space.