Tampa Bay trade leaves the AL East wide open for the Red Sox
The Tampa Bay Rays have traded Blake Snell in a stunning swap with the San Diego Padres for an enormous package last night, per multiple reports by The Athletic. This trade is significant in several ways, first and foremost, because the Rays traded the face of their franchise seemingly out of nowhere. Furthermore, the trade causes a ripple effect leading to a more open race in the American League East. The trade, for better or worse, gives the Boston Red Sox a clear idea of the types of adjustments they can make to rebound from 2020 and gives the front office an idea of the ceiling for a return in any pitching addition the franchise might make via trade.
The loss of Snell, in addition to Charlie Morton, will likely cast a dark shadow on the Rays starting pitching depth in the interim, although they have been known to successfully utilize the opener ideology over the past few seasons. That is not to say that an opener is a solution to losing a franchise ace and they are sure to see that absence reflect on their performance next year.
The lack of an ace like Snell to go along with a solid veteran asset in Morton will set Tampa Bay back significantly in the event that they do not make additional moves to reinforce their starting five. Just one season removed from their second franchise visit to the World Series, this trade is a bit of a head-scratcher, albeit a typical Rays transaction.
With that being said, it is unlikely that Tampa Bay will run away with the division as it had in 2020, leaving the AL East far more open to other competitors within the division.
Boston now has some clarity knowing that the defending AL East division winners have taken a substantial step back in letting go of their star pitcher and can make additions to address their roster accordingly. From Boston’s standpoint, the oft-speculated blueprint likely has not changed much, nor does it need to for the Red Sox to be among the top of the standings next season.
On Tampa Bay’s end, they got some major league ready reinforcements in areas of weakness (i.e. catcher) but mostly high-end prospects for the future. The return is ultimately what sets the boundaries for trade negotiations moving forward now that the largest domino on the trade market has fallen.
Without an anchor like Snell aboard, the AL East no longer has an imminent division winner and Boston can capitalize on this in a variety of ways. If they take the trade route, it clearly will not be for a pitcher of Snell’s pedigree. The package that San Diego sent back to Tampa Bay would do a number on the Red Sox’s growing farm system, setting the team’s future back a great deal. San Diego has a very impressive system and the wiggle room necessary to make a move like this possible —
When taking a closer look at the players going back to Tampa Bay, it is apparent that Boston does not have enough depth necessary to pull the trigger on a trade for a player of Snell’s caliber.
The same can not be said for that of recently mentioned trade target Luis Castillo. Castillo has produced solid numbers steadily since his debut in 2017 but has not flashed the kind of work Snell managed to compile during his Cy Young Award-winning year in 2018 when he posted a 21-5 record, 1.89 ERA, and 221 strikeouts.
That is not the say that Castillo would come cheap in a trade (and he won’t) considering his track record and his being under arbitration until he reaches free agency in 2024. But both the Red Sox and the Reds front offices know what it cost to pry Snell away from Tampa Bay, so each party should act accordingly in being realistic while engaging in any potential discussions for Castillo.
That being said, Cincinnati still has ultimate leverage in determining the asking price for the right-handers’ services. With the Snell trade setting the ultimate ceiling for what it would take to acquire pitching talent of his magnitude, it would indefinitely cost significantly less to reach an agreement with Cincinnati.
Boston might not have a great deal of talent they would be willing to hand over in a trade, but they do have enough depth to get by in losing young talent for a player who, in his own right, is still an up-and-comer with control.
Whether teams with the pieces teams seek out use Snell’s trade as leverage to better their return or understand where the value of their pieces lands in comparison to Snell’s value is the ultimate question. Boston must be realistic, yet fierce in any trade talks in order to take a significant step forward as a driving force in 2021.
The AL East is now more of an open field for teams to snatch the division, and other teams in the East will surely take note of that and attempt to make corresponding adjustments to make their respective clubs better as well. The Red Sox are likely to be one of the most competitive of the bunch after last season’s woes.