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Mudville: April 16, 2024 4:51 am PDT

Time to talk turkey.

That’s my way of getting into trade talk on Thanksgiving you can talk about around the table. Will the Rays trade former Cy Young winner Blake Snell?

If the return haul is right, I definitely see the Rays making this trade and here’s a bunch of reasons why.

First of all the Rays are the Rays. They can’t do business like the other teams in the AL East. They have to be so creative that it hurts sometimes.

Secondly, Snell would bring back high level inexpensive talent. The Rays are cheap. And this plays into their central philosophy. Mix the talent around the diamond.

Thirdly, and this gets to the heart of it all, the human condition. Never underestimate ego when it comes to organizations and that means front office ego and ownership ego, not players’ ego.

Snell would be a constant reminder to the Rays’ of their biggest failure as a franchise every time he pitches with a Rays jersey on his back. The decision to remove him was one of the worst decisions ever made in World Series history and you can tell that this hurts the Rays organization down deep the way they have tried to spin it as this is the way the Rays always do business.

This was an organizational decision put into practice by manager Kevin Cash, a decision based on what had occurred in the past instead of what was happening right then and there in the present, right in front of Cash and the cloistered front office and ownership group.

Cash jettisoned Snell as he was pitching a shutout in the sixth inning of Game 6 against the Dodgers with a 1-0 lead, a manageable pitch count and a high strikeout count after the lefty allowed a simple one-out single to Austin Barnes.

Captain Hook could not wait to race out of the dugout to get Snell out of the game and soon the World Series was kaput because he went to an overworked bullpen that had nothing left and was actually spent at the end of the ALCS because of the at-bats the Astros hitters were putting on the Rays relief pitchers in those seven games.

Explain it away any way you want, but that is exactly what happened.

Don’t forget Kevin Cash was a catcher. To me that is huge. All catchers I’ve known through my 45 years of covering sports, especially not offensive minded catchers (Cash was a .183 lifetime hitter) they live and die with the pitcher and when the pitcher is having a great game, they will go to war with the manager to defend their pitcher. Again, the human condition.

If Cash were behind the plate that October night catching Snell, he would have stood up for his pitcher. There is no way Cash did not have the same feelings in his heart at that moment and that is the reason the change was made the second he stepped out of the dugout and raised his right arm.

This was an organizational decision, Cash and carry. Cash was carrying out the game plan. He was being the good soldier.

This was a decision that was supposed to proclaim, we are smarter than you, we do business the Rays way no matter what, whether it is July or October. The system works. The system is our master.

But it blew up in the Rays’ face. So be it.

Blake Snell

Every time Snell pitches for the Rays going forward that memory, that reality, would be brought to the surface again and again. That is one harsh reminder to the Rays and the way they have opted to run their game management and the reality of losing what might be their last chance to win a World Series in a long, long time.

Does an organization want to be reminded of that fact over and over, and not just by media, but by fans, players and internally, about one of the biggest mistakes made?

No. Better to make a trade, move on, bring back young talent and try to find a new way that fits the Rays way and save a ton of money in the process. Trade when the player’s value is at its highest because there are so many teams out there desperate for a lefty talent like Snell.

And there is this upside for the Rays. The postseason is going to be much easier to make in the future than prior to 2020 with Rob Manfred’s new rules so the Rays will have the chance to do it their way again. If they merely make the postseason and have a round or two of success that is a big year for them.

Their bar is much lower than say the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and big market teams.

Look at what has already happened this offseason. The Rays, being cheap, have already let Charlie Morton walk away to the Braves and a one-year $15 million contract. Atlanta did not make it past the NLCS and the Dodgers despite a 3-1 lead because the Braves could have used one more starter like the Rays had in Morton.

Now they got him.

As one top talent evaluator told BallNine this week of the Morton move and possible Snell trade: “What, you were not happy going so deep into the playoffs, coming up two wins shy of a World Series victory.’’

“Up in Boston, it’s hard to figure out exactly what John Henry likes, other than soccer”

If such a trade does go down the Rays will once again be telling everyone: “We believe in our system more than we believe in any individual players. It’s who we are and we need to flood the zone with young talent to keep it going this way.’’

That is their right. It’s just the way it is, and for the Rays their system works great for them and they may also include centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier in such a trade, relieving them of another financial burden, a double financial win for the Rays.

This system works for the Rays.

Also, despite Snell saying he wants to remain a Ray, that could be all window dressing. The competitor in Snell has to be pissed he was removed from that game and you can be sure he let his true feelings known to Cash and the Rays front office.

Perhaps he wants to move onto a team with a little more financial freedom. Perhaps he can go home to pitch in Seattle. The Mariners appear to positioned with young talent to make such a trade and Jerry Dipoto lives for such trades and has a trade history with the Rays.

The Angels also could be an interesting trade partner now that they have a new GM in Perry Minasian. They desperately need to bring in an ace for a team with a 5.09 ERA and Minasian understands clubhouse culture better than most GMs, having grown up in the Texas Rangers clubhouse. That is key in a front office culture dominated by Ivy Leaguers.

A Photoshopped Charlie Morton

Snell is the type of starter who helps all the way down the line in a pitching staff and the Angles need to win now. The AL West is wide open with the Astros losing key free agents, having Justin Verlander coming back from Tommy John surgery and willing to trade shortstop Carlos Correa. The A’s also are down 10 free agents. If the Angels add Snell, what a difference that would make for a team that  boasts Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. Don’t forget too, the Angels have a player’s manager in former Rays and Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

To me, that would be the perfect landing spot for Snell in a trade.

We know the Rays can’t survive like the Yankees, Red Sox or the Blue Jays in the AL East. The Orioles remain a non-factor.

The Yankees have all that money and all those World Championships, 27, but only one over the last 20 years. Yankee years is the opposite of dog years and that’s a lifetime to a Yankee fan.

The Red Sox are cutting back and have a former Ray executive Chaim Bloom running their show because evidently with all their money and prestige, they want to be more like the Rays.

That’s the funny thing about baseball. Teams flush with cash like the Yankees and Red Sox are envious of the ways of the Rays and they have proven it by their actions.

The Red Sox hire a GM away from the Rays. The Yankees and Brian Cashman are betting so much on analytics and new systems they have gotten away from the core belief of the Yankees, out-spend the competition and get the best players available.

Remember, in 2009 when the Yankees opened a brand new Yankee Stadium after failing to make the playoffs the last year of Yankee Stadium II, they spent all the money in their baseball world to add CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett.

But that wasn’t good enough. They thought they could do it another way. We are still waiting for the next championship to drop in the Bronx and with the Mets and their windfall now in Queens and owner Steve Cohen, this will be a fascinating New York, New York battle.

A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia

Up in Boston, it’s hard to figure out exactly what John Henry likes, other than soccer, but this is still a franchise with financial clout and since 2004 John Henry has won four World Championships to the Yankees and Hal Steinbrenner’s one. Advantage, Red Sox.

Then comes Toronto. The Blue Jays are on the upswing and they are trying to spend money this offseason unlike other teams as their team has been linked to some elite free agents like George Springer and DJ LeMahieu. It would be a shock to me if the Blue Jays signed either of those players. Springer seems destined to the Mets and LeMahieu, who was the perfect Yankee, speak softly and carry a big stick, seems destined to get back with the Yankees … once he can squeeze the best deal he can from Pinstripe Nation. Michael Brantley also has been linked to the Blue Jays and will be a terrific free agent pickup for anyone who gets him.

These are such interesting times in baseball with so many teams cutting back. There is opportunity to advance. If the Yankees could put together a package to land Snell that would be a huge addition to a team that needs to have more than Gerrit Cole in the rotation. Cole won seven games in the 60-game Covid season. Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, Jordan Montgomery and James Paxton combined to win only eight games all season. Young Deivi Garcia shows much promise but ironically the Yankees had no faith in Garcia in the ALDS against the Rays and raced to get J.A. Happ into the game to replace him in their critical Game 2 loss.

Again, a team being too smart for its own good.

The Yankees have a tough time pulling the trigger on trades because they overvalue their young talent. They could have had Cole when the Astros traded for Cole but did not want to give up enough to make such a deal with the Pirates. That’s a big problem.

Perhaps Bloom will engineer a trade for Snell but do the Red Sox have that kind of young talent?

One thing is certain. Teams should not be afraid to trade with the Rays. Sure, the Rays deal with the Pirates where the Pirates sent Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Shane Baz to Tampa Bay for a declining Chris Archer was a steal for the Rays but that Pirates front office is no longer there. The Rays also picked the pocket of the Cardinals when they traded for Randy Arozarena, but let’s not overlook the Evan Longoria and David Price trades.

Longoria was traded to the Giants in 2017 for Matt Krook, Stephen Woods, Christian Arroyo and Denard Span. Price was traded in a three-team deal to the Tigers in 2014 and the Rays wound up with Willy Adames and Drew Smyly. Then there was the time the Rays traded Wil Myers in a three team trade to San Diego and the Nationals wound up with Trea Turner. The Rays wound up with Steven Souza Jr. The point is every Rays trade isn’t gold.

Cold hard cash is the driver if such a deal were made by the Rays. Snell will make $11.1 million in 2021. $13.1 million in 2022 and $16.6 million in 2023. Most teams would be thrilled to have a pitcher of Snell’s ability for that money but most teams aren’t the Rays. Throw Kiermaier in such a trade and you really get plenty of financial freedom. Kiermaier is due $11.1 million in 2021, $12.1 million in 2022 and there is a team option for $13 million in 2023.

Snell is in his prime, he turns 28 in two weeks, and don’t forget when he won the Cy Young in 2018 he put up a 21-5 record with a 1.89 ERA.

And now you are looking at a pitcher who has gained so much experience. You could just see him grow this October the deeper he worked into the postseason. He began to truly understand what worked best for him against elite lineups, especially the Dodgers and how he could attack them in the zone.

That kind of October experience is like gaining another year of experience. Blake Snell would be the catch of the offseason. Pass the stuffing.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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