Yankees’ ace is reportedly ‘all for’ pursuit of 2023 NL Cy Young winner

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Diego Padres, yankees, blake snell
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

With the Yankees in need of starting pitching, the team’s positioning in the free-agent market has been obscure for many reasons. Their top target was international superstar Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who the Yankees believed they would land, but ultimately the Los Angeles Dodgers proved to be irresistible for the 25-year-old ace. As New York monitors potential pivot options, it’s become clear that they’re not particularly interested in overpaying for a pitcher they’re not fond of.

That being said, reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole is reportedly ‘all for’ a potential pursuit of fellow 2023 Cy Young winner Blake Snell according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Coming off of a season with an MLB-best 2.25 ERA, could the Yankees secure one of the top pitchers in the sport?

Could the Yankees Be All For Blake Snell Too?

mlb: colorado rockies at san diego padres, blake snell, yankees
Sep 19, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throws a pitch against the Colorado Rockies during the first inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Snell comes with plenty of upside but also plenty of risk, as the 31-year-old southpaw has dynamic stuff that allowed him to strike out 234 batters across 180 innings and win his second Cy Young Award. This past season, Snell had the highest walk rate of his career (13.3%) but held batters to a .180 average and 0.75 HR/9 after dialing back the reliance on his four-seam fastball and upping the usage of his secondaries like his curveball and changeup. His four-seamer has excellent Stuff+ numbers (120) but doesn’t generate many whiffs (19.5%) and gets hit pretty hard, but his secondaries are elite.

His curveball generated a 56.3% Whiff Rate and 38.1% Chase Rate, with nearly 13 inches of horizontal sweep and -10.4″ of Induced Vertical Break. The differential in vertical movement from the four-seamer to the curveball is staggering, and it’s a truly dominant breaking ball that he uses as a strikeout pitch against right-handed batters. Snell can also throw a changeup that generates a ton of whiffs (46.8%) and even more chases (41.3%), and batters had a combined .125 average and .186 wOBA against these two pitches combined.

We know that the Yankees have at least ‘done the leg work’ on Blake Snell per Joel Sherman, who reported it around the time that Juan Soto was still on the trade market, but would they have legitimate interest? On a long-term deal, other teams would likely be better suitors for Snell, however, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reported that the two-time Cy Young winner “might command a shorter, more creative deal for a team in win-now mode”, which would fit the Yankees’ wheelhouse perfectly.

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning in game one of the 2020 ALDS at Petco Park
Oct 5, 2020; San Diego, California, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning in game one of the 2020 ALDS at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, there are plenty of win-now teams that could be on that radar for Blake Snell like the Philadelphia Phillies, who made an aggressive bid for Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but perhaps the Yankees would be uber-aggressive as well. The biggest difference between Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery is the upside, as the Yankees are getting an arm who can strike out 10+ batters in a night, although it comes with a bit less stability. It would also mean forfeiting some draft capital due to the qualifying offer, but there might not be a better fit for the Bronx Bombers.

If the Yankees could secure Snell on a three-year deal with an opt-out after the first season at north of $30 million in annual average salary, they could land one of the premier starters on the market without sacrificing long-term flexibility. Blake Snell’s experience in the American League East with the Rays alongside his 3.33 ERA in the postseason would make him a natural fit for the Bronx as well. Going back to last season, Snell has a 2.23 ERA and 32.2% strikeout rate in his last 46 starts, and alongside Gerrit Cole, the Yankees could have one of the best rotations in all of baseball.