- ESPN MLB insider
Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”
The San Diego Padres are finalizing a trade to acquire former Cy Young winner Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays for top pitching prospect Luis Patiño, catchers Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt and right-handed pitching prospect Cole Wilcox, sources familiar with the agreement told ESPN.
The trade, which is pending medical reviews, would send the 28-year-old Snell to the Padres and was agreed upon exactly two months to the day of Game 6 of the World Series, in which he threw 5⅓ brilliant innings only to be pulled. Tampa Bay wound up losing the game and series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Padres’ aggressiveness has placed them in the middle of trade talks all winter. While they were discussing potential deals for the Chicago Cubs’ Yu Darvish and Cincinnati Reds’ Sonny Gray, their focus turned to Snell, whose contract will pay him $39 million over the next three years.
Tampa Bay, whose history of trading top pitchers includes dealing James Shields, David Price and Chris Archer, will receive a significant haul in return for Snell. Patiño, 21, is the headliner, a 6-foot right-hander with a fastball that sits at 97 mph and a slider considered among the best in the minor leagues. In 17⅓ innings last season, he posted a 5.19 ERA, struck out 21 and walked 14.
Mejia, 25, is a onetime top prospect who had fallen out of favor in San Diego but is a switch hitter with power. Wilcox received a $3.3 million bonus — a record for a third-round pick — after being taken in this year’s draft out of Georgia. Hunt, 20, is the least known of the four but impressed in instructional league play this year and is a big catcher (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) whose swing, evaluators said, has a chance to have him climb prospect rankings quickly.
The Athletic was first to report the players going to the Rays in the deal.
This marks San Diego’s second big trade for a pitcher in the past six months after it acquired Mike Clevinger from Cleveland in August. He threw just 19 innings for the Padres before needing Tommy John surgery but is expected to return from the elbow injury for the 2022 season.
Even without Clevinger, the Padres boast a strong rotation as they try to catch the Dodgers in the National League West Division. Snell is backed by Dinelson Lamet, Zach Davies, Chris Paddack and a panoply of potential No. 5 starters, including MacKenzie Gore, regarded as the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball.
The Rays’ rotation depth has taken a significant hit with the Snell trade and Atlanta signing free agent Charlie Morton. Tampa Bay still returns strong pitching depth and has the best farm system in baseball, headed by shortstop Wander Franco, the No. 1 overall prospect on Kiley McDaniel’s Top 100.
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