The Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres struck a deal on Sunday night that sent powerful left-handed pitcher Blake Snell out west. In exchange for Snell, the Rays land a prospect-heavy package headlined by right-handed pitcher Luis Patiño. Right-hander Cole Wilcox and catchers Francisco Mejía and Blake Hunt are also heading to Tampa Bay.
The deal, which was first reported by Dennis Lin of The Athletic, is pending a review of medical records.
BREAKING: The Padres have an agreement in place to acquire Blake Snell from the Rays, sources tell @JCTSports, @Ken_Rosenthal and me. Luis Patiño, Francisco Mejía, Blake Hunt and Cole Wilcox would head to Tampa. Deal pending review of medical records.— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) December 28, 2020
Snell, 28, is a former first-round pick of the Rays who has impressed in the majors. His best season came in 2018, when he finished with an MLB-best 21 wins, was named to his first All-Star games, finished ninth in MVP voting, and was named the American League Cy Young award winner.
A career 42-30 pitcher, Snell has a 3.24 ERA in 556 innings since his MLB debut. His K/9 rate of 10.49 is respectable, especially considering that number has been above 11.0 in each of the past three years. He has honed in on improving his BB/9 rate, too, with his 3.24 total in 2020 being the second-best mark of his career. Opponents have a career .293 BABIP against Snell, who forces ground balls at a 42.4 percent clip. Snell’s fWAR checks in at 11.6 while he owns an xFIP of 3.69, which is above the league average.
The 2011 draft selection possesses four pitches, with the fastball being his favorite. Snell employs his heater, which checks in at around 95 mph, on 46 percent of his pitches. He also has a changeup, curveball, and slider in his arsenal.
Snell signed a five-year, $50 million contract back in 2019, leaving him with three more years (and $39 million in money owed) before he becomes a free agent.
While the southpaw packs his bags to head west, four Padres prospects will embark to Tampa Bay.
Patiño is the top Padres name on the move. He is MLB Pipeline’s No. 23 overall prospect, No. 3 Padres prospect, and No. 7 right-handed pitching prospect. He made his big-league debut in 2020, registering 17.1 innings over one start and 10 relief outings. He allowed 18 hits and 10 runs, good for a 5.19 ERA, but provides immense optimism after going 16-13 with a 2.35 ERA in 50 minor league appearances (48 starts). The hard-throwing right-hander favors his fastball, which averages 97 mph, while also employing a slider (85 mph) and changeup (89 mph).
Wilcox, also a right-hander, has yet to make an appearance in affiliated ball after being drafted by the Padres in the third round of the 2020 MLB Draft. He went 6-2 with a 3.38 ERA in two years at the University of Georgia, with his best year undoubtedly being 2020. In said sophomore season, Wilcox went 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA, allowing just five runs over 23 innings. MLB Pipeline lists the 21-year-old as the Padres’ No. 7 prospect while projecting that he will reach the majors in 2023.
Mejía, 25, is a switch-hitting catcher who was dealt from Cleveland to San Diego in a 2018 trade that also featured relievers Adam Cimber and Brad Hand. He has spent parts of four seasons in the majors, though none have turned out to be too incredible. In just 128 games, he has an offensive slash line of .225/.282/.386. Mejía strikes out in 24 percent of plate appearances and walks in 5.5 percent, which are both marks that are worse than the league average.
While he struggles in the batter’s box, Mejía is valuable behind the dish. His pop time of 1.95 seconds when throwing to second base was tied with Kyle Higashioka for ninth-best in 2019 (minimum five attempts). His strike rate of 50.3 percent checked in at 21st-best in 2020 (minimum 250 pitches), though it was a marginal 0.9 percent away from putting him in the top-12.
Mejía isn’t the only catcher heading to Tampa Bay, though. Blake Hunt, a 22-year-old, is also on the move. The right-hander is a former second-round pick who reached Single-A in 2019. MLB Pipeline projects that Hunt, the Padres’ No. 13 prospect, can reach the majors as soon as 2022. In three minor-league seasons, he is slashing .258/.341/.384 with 83 RBI on 169 hits, including 10 home runs and 58 extra-base hits. He has just 165 strikeouts and 70 walks since making his professional debut.
Not only does this trade set of a possible domino reaction in a quiet MLB offseason, but it also moves both the Rays and Padres a clear step closer to their respective goals.
Snell gives the Padres a strong starting pitcher who can go the distance in games and impress in both the regular season and postseason.
Meanwhile, Mejía projects to make the Rays’ Opening Day roster, while Hunt also provides future depth at a Tampa Bay catcher position that has lacked flair for quite some time. The highlight of the deal for the Rays, though, is the pair of right-handed pitchers. Tampa Bay loves hard-throwing righties, and they get just that in Patiño and Wilcox.
The Rays look like instant favorites after landing such a big haul, but Padres fans should be satisfied with the state of their rotation now that Snell is in tow. This trade has the potential to be a balanced swap that pays dividends for both sides.