There's a staggering drop-off behind National League Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer in this year's crop of free-agent starting pitchers, and that could mean a busier than usual offseason on the trade market.
Another pitcher with a Cy Young on his mantle is reportedly available for the right return.
According to a report by Mark Feinsand of MLB.com on Monday, the Tampa Bay Rays are "open to the idea of trading" Blake Snell this offseason.
"A source noted that Tampa Bay is not actively shopping Snell, who has three years and $39 million remaining on his five-year, $50 million extension," Feinsand wrote, "but given the financial losses the Rays endured during the pandemic-impacted 2020 season, trading the 27-year-old represents the club's best chance to create some much-needed flexibility."
The 27-year-old signed that extension prior to the 2019 season. It may seem like a team-friendly contract, but his $11.1 million salary for 2021 makes him the second-highest-paid player on the Tampa Bay roster behind only Kevin Kiermaier ($11.7 million), according to Spotrac.
Snell has failed to replicate the brilliant numbers that won him the American League Cy Young Award in 2018, but he has still been an elite starter. He has a 3.96 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over the past two seasons, and he's struck out an impressive 12.0 batters per nine innings.
The team's decision to pull him from Game 6 of the World Series after 5.1 innings of two-hit ball backfired, and now it looks like that could be his final appearance in a Rays uniform.
In response to his potential availability, we've highlighted five logical landing spots and built out return packages that could get a blockbuster deal done this offseason.
Why Other Teams Were Not Included
Here's a quick-hit rundown of why the teams not included as potential landing spots were removed from the conversation:
ARI: Rebuilding, non-contender
ATL: Rotation already addressed
BAL: Rebuilding, non-contender
BOS: Unlikely to trade with division rival
CWS: Unlikely to include Andrew Vaughn; thin farm system behind him
CIN: Shopping Sonny Gray
CLE: Cutting costs
COL: Lacking trade assets
DET: Rebuilding, non-contender
HOU: Lacking trade assets
K.C.: Rebuilding, non-contender
LAD: Blockbuster trade would likely be for a third baseman; already have six starters for five spots
MIA: Rebuilding, fringe contender
MIL: Lacking trade assets
MIN: Small-market team, unlikely to move controllable talent
NYY: Unlikely to trade with division rival
OAK: Small-market team, unlikely to move controllable talent
PHI: Lacking trade assets
PIT: Rebuilding, non-contender
SEA: Rebuilding, non-contender
STL: Upgrading offense is priority
TEX: Cutting costs
TOR: Unlikely to trade with division rival
WAS: More pressing needs
The Chicago Cubs have Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish under contract through the 2023 season, but the other three spots in the rotation are up for grabs during an offseason when big changes are expected.
The Return Package
One of the vacant spots in the Chicago rotation is expected to go to Adbert Alzolay, but he is included here as one of the key pieces going to Tampa Bay.
The 25-year-old has long been viewed as a future frontline starter, with Theo Epstein saying as much during the 2017-18 offseason. He made four starts and two relief appearances in 2020, posting a 2.95 ERA (3.05 FIP) and 1.17 WHIP with 29 strikeouts in 21.1 innings.
He's still three years away from being arbitration-eligible, making him an appealing low-cost option for the Rays to plug in to their rotation. If they believe in his upside, he could be their top target in a trade with the Cubs.
Filling out the deal with hard-throwing lefty Brailyn Marquez and catcher Miguel Amaya would send two of Chicago's top four prospects the other way. Marquez has tremendous upside and a high floor as a power reliever, while Amaya would move ahead of Ronaldo Hernandez as the Rays' catcher of the future.
Dillon Maples has 39 strikeouts and 25 walks in 23.1 innings in the majors. In terms of pure stuff, he rivals any reliever in baseball, but he has been unable to rein in his command. Getting him in the hands of the Tampa Bay coaching staff could unlock his full potential.
RHP Adbert Alzolay
LHP Brailyn Marquez (No. 90 in B/R Top 100)
C Miguel Amaya (Next 50)
RHP Dillon Maples
Los Angles Angels
Despite a strong season from trade pickup Dylan Bundy, the Angels still finished 29th in the majors with a 5.52 ERA from the rotation. If they want to make a push toward contention, the starters have to improve.
The Return Package
The appeal of this trade package hinges on how the Rays view Jo Adell.
OF Jo Adell
IF Jeremiah Jackson (Next 50 in B/R Top 100)
RHP/OF William Holmes