Astros: Rays’ Blake Snell makes sense as trade candidate for Houston

The Houston Astros need to address the rotation in 2021 and beyond, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ Blake Snell is someone who makes sense via trade.

The Houston Astros are in desperate need of short and long-term answers in the rotation. Justin Verlander is out for the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and will become a free agent at the end of ’21 along with Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr.

It is likely that general manager James Click will evaluate options on both the trade and free-agent markets this winter, and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported that the Tampa Bay Rays have made Blake Snell available for trade.

Snell, 27, is a player who fits what the Astros are looking for. He has emerged as the Rays’ most dependable starting pitcher since his breakout 2018 season where he won the Cy Young Award and went 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA and 221/64 strikeout-to-walk ratio. While he struggled in 2019, he bounced back in 2020 with a 3.24 ERA and was dominant for the Rays in Game 6 of the World Series before Kevin Cash unwisely pulled him from the game.

But what makes Snell so valuable is his controllability and cost. He is signed for the next three years for $39 million ($10.5 million in ’21; $12.5 million in ’22; $16 million in ’23), according to Spotrac. For an Astros team dealing with financial constraints this year and increased financial flexibility in future seasons, Snell fits the profile of what they would look for.

Of course, the asking price for Snell will not be cheap. Players with the above credentials and cost-effective salaries are highly coveted throughout baseball, so it is smart for the low payroll Rays to evaluate what they can get for their ace. And if the Astros are serious about adding Snell, or any other starting pitcher of his caliber, they will have to pay a premium to facilitate a deal.

But Click is familiar with Snell from his days working in the Rays front office, which lessens the uncertainty from the Astros perspective. There are factors that work against a trade potentially happening – the Astros not having their top picks in 2020 and ’21 is one – but if Click wants to make a big splash via trade, Snell is a player he would be wise to target.