Major League Baseball
Blake Snell saga ends in San Francisco and is a calculated risk for all involved
Major League Baseball

Blake Snell saga ends in San Francisco and is a calculated risk for all involved

Updated Mar. 19, 2024 2:19 a.m. ET

From the New York Yankees early to the Houston Astros late, Blake Snell finally ended his four-month free agency by signing with the San Francisco Giants. Consider the National League West officially stacked.

Snell reportedly agreed to a two-year deal worth $62 million Monday night, but the catch is he will earn just $15 million in 2024 — another $17 million will come in the form of a signing bonus payable in 2026 — with the ability to opt out after this season. Snell is expected to once again test the market next offseason after what will essentially be a one-year prove-it deal in San Francisco. Snell chose wisely for that plan, as Oracle Park notoriously favors pitchers. Even so, there's greater risk in a short-term pact. Snell, the reigning NL Cy Young award winner, will try to match his exceptional 2023 season in hopes of earning the lucrative deal he was supposed to land this winter.

That Snell's free agency lasted until 10 days before Opening Day was surprising, given he was the top MLB starting pitcher on the market and would have upgraded a handful of contenders around the league. The Yankees reportedly offered Snell a six-year, $150 million contract back in January, which he declined. The Astros were reportedly in "serious pursuit" of Snell as recently as this past weekend, but seemingly unwilling to give him the annual salary he was seeking. Both the Yankees and Astros will see their aces — Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, respectively — start the season on the injured list. Given the obvious need for Snell's Cy Young services on those win-now rosters, it's stunning that neither American League power was desperate enough to fork over the $30 million for just this year.

The longer Snell went unsigned, the more likely it became that the 31-year-old lefty wouldn't get the long-term pact he wanted. It's reasonable to believe the market didn't value Snell, who's backed by the Boras corporation, as an ace. Even though he was coming off his second career Cy Young award, and was the best pitcher in baseball across four-plus months with a historic 1.20 ERA over his final 23 starts, teams clearly remain skeptical of his long-term consistency.


Snell has thrown 180 innings only twice in his career, in 2018 for the Rays and 2023 for the Padres — and yes, those are his two Cy Young seasons. Moreover, he's failed to throw even 130 innings in any of his six other campaigns. Another cause for concern was his most recent walk rate. While Snell has recorded a 30% strikeout rate in six consecutive seasons, his 13.3% walk rate in 2023 was the highest of his career. He boasted the majors' lowest ERA, batting average against and hits per nine innings last year while also surrendering the most walks. His Cy Young seasons are the only two times Snell has shown up on the ballot or posted an ERA below 3.20, further pointing toward the paradoxical nature of his MLB career.

Still, this is a huge deal for the Giants, who will pair Snell with the pitcher who finished second to him in the 2023 NL Cy Young race, Logan Webb.

San Francisco for years now had threatened to make a major splash in free agency, only to miss in puzzling fashion. Just last offseason, the Giants agreed to a long-term contract with Carlos Correa before the deal was dissolved the day he was supposed to be introduced to the fan base. But this winter has been a slow and successful run for the Giants in landing alternative top targets after initially missing on Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

In the span of a month, the club signed premier designated hitter Jorge Soler, third baseman Matt Chapman, and now Snell. Earlier in the offseason, the Giants inked Korean Baseball Organization star Jung Hoo Lee to a $113 million contract. They also have big plans to convert reliever Jordan Hicks to a starter, forking over $44 million for him to do so. And midway through the 2024 season, trade acquisition and former Cy Young winner Robbie Ray is expected to jump into the Giants rotation once he fully recovers from Tommy John surgery.

The trio of Webb, Snell and Ray will make for an intimidating starting staff — even if that group only pitches together after the All-Star break. San Francisco needs everything to go right this year in a formidable NL West division that now includes Ohtani and Yamamoto on the Dodgers, Dylan Cease on the Padres, and multiple mid-level additions to the reigning NL pennant winner Diamondbacks. The deals that San Francisco structured this winter make it clear that the pressure to contend for the playoffs is the highest it's been in years. Chapman is another Boras client and, like Snell, he also has an opt out after the 2024 season.

In other words, the Giants just pushed all their chips forward. Time will tell whether they're serious contenders, but count them among a host of clubs aiming to win it all this fall.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.


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