Blake Snell won the AL Cy Young Award last year, but he’ll get paid like an aging utility infielder this year.
A showdown between MLB and the MLBPA seems to be looming for the next collective bargaining agreement, with service time and free agency timelines a bone the player’s union is sure to pick. Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell is now sure to be added to the list of test cases.
Snell had a breakout season in 2018, going 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP, an 11.0 K/9 and a 3.2 BB/9 on his way to winning the American League Cy Young Award. There is at least one sign of some good fortune playing a role in that success, with a 2.95 FIP, but Snell looks like a legitimate No. 1 starter for the opener-heavy Rays.
Snell made $558,200 last year, his first full season in the big leagues and third major league season overall. Since he hasn’t hit three years of big league service time Snell is not arbitration-eligible until next offseason. So he’s currently at the mercy of the collective bargaining agreement, and more specifically whatever the Rays deem reasonable to pay him.
According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Snell will get a $15,500 raise this season, to $573,700. The league-wide minimum salary, as Topkin cites, went from $545,000 last year to $555,000 for this year.
The Rays are never going to be a big-spending team, and according to Spotrac their 2019 payroll currently sits at a league-low $51.7 million. But there’s a line between financial responsibility and pushing a player out the door at the first opportunity he gets (if they don’t trade him first).
Topkin also reported Snell’s representation has had long-term contract talks with the Rays, but the team has come in with low offers.
To his credit, Snell has acknowledged the business side of the game and is using the renewal of his contract for 2019 as motivation.
“It’s disappointing,” Snell told reporters. “You want fair. But at the same time they don’t have to do it, so I understand the business side of it.”
Hopefully this pushes me. Arbitration will be the business side, and that’s what I’ll tell them. I think fair is fair. It all comes around in the end anyway. At the end of the day, you get what you put in. I’ll be motivated.
Snell is in line to cash in nicely via arbitration, before hitting free agency after the 2022 season. But that doesn’t change the fact the reigning AL Cy Young winner is being paid like a 38-year-old utility infielder this year.