If the Detroit Tigers wanted all-in, Blake Snell would be the move to make–but the cost to acquire the Cy Young Award winner would prove prohibitive
It remains to be seen what the Detroit Tigers plan to do this offseason. Thus far, they made waves by hiring former Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch. In his presser, Hinch alluded to an ownership commitment to winning, something the team has done little of over the past four seasons. If the intent is indeed winning, what better way to communicate that by adding yet another Cy Young left-hander from the Rays as the Detroit Tigers did with David Price in 2014?
Blake Snell would provide a true ace to the staff that is under control for the next three seasons as the Detroit Tigers try to ‘build-up,’ so he falls in line with the club’s long-term goals. GM Al Avila has said in the past their goal is to acquire talent to make them better both in the immediate future but also beyond this year. Beyond just the control, his contract is also team-friendly. Snell is paid $10.5 million, $12.5 million, and $16 million the next three seasons, respectively, according to Sportrac.
What are three cheap years of an ace pitcher worth? Personally, I have found that using templates for trades is the most objective way to do it. Otherwise, we get into fantasyland proposals the opposing team would decline before Avila could finish. The David Price trade is the nearest to us, but it is not the best to compare. Not only was that trade six years ago in a completely different trade market, but the Detroit Tigers only acquired about a year and a half of Price.
The more recent and relevant example is the Chris Sale between the Chicago White Sox and the Boston Red Sox. Both are left-handed. Both are in their late-20’s. Both were under team-friendly contracts and had three years of control remaining before they hit the open market. While the pandemic has made for a shift in landscape, the market for pitching remains robust as we have witnessed with the Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton deals. A similar ask would make sense from Tampa.
In exchange for Sale in 2016, the Red Sox traded Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, and Victor Diaz. At the time, Moncada was widely regarded as the best prospect in baseball, Kopech was also a top-50 guy, and Basabe and Diaz solid lotto-ticket types.
With this in mind, here is my best guess at an equivalent deal:
It’s a hefty price tag, no doubt. In Snell’s words, these aren’t exactly slapd**k prospects we’re discussing. In Mize, the Rays get an MLB-ready prospect that’s top 10 in the game by most publications. Greene would be the Michael Kopech of the deal, who was the 67th-best prospect in baseball at the time of the trade. Meadows would hopefully reunite with brother Austin, and Salazar a lotto ticket throw-in.
I would hesitate heavily at the deal. Had the Tigers been acquiring MLB talent to add to Snell over the past couple of seasons, it would be another solid add. However, the team as it stands needs more than half of the MLB roster overhauled and Snell may be on the last year of his deal by the time the club is serious.
Additionally, while Snell is a proven commodity, there is a chance Mize might be able to put up Snell-like production long-term. If Mize were in Double-A, the question becomes a bit more interesting. But Mize is ready and figures to be a part of Detroit’s staff at the start of the 2021 season, so while the improvement would be evident short-term, it may not be the best long-term move.
Snell would be a cherry-on-top-type add, not the start of an all-in bonanza of an offseason. The Detroit Tigers have been methodical with their approach to the rebuild thus far so I do not expect anything near this bold any way, but even still, I cannot say I would pull the trigger if I were in Al Avila’s shoes. At the same time, the Rays should not ask for less.