Trade Rumor: deal done , the Phillies have completed a…

While many around the game have long assumed that the free agent market, particularly that for pitching, would pick up following right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto‘s decision to sign with the Dodgers last week, that seemingly has not come to fruition to this point. Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com suggests that may be due to the fact that agent Scott Boras, who represents top remaining free agent starters Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, “may be keen” on taking his time in finding new homes for the two southpaws.
That’s hardly out of character for Boras, who has in previous seasons allowed star clients to linger on the free agent market well into Spring Training, as he did with Bryce Harper during the 2018-19 offseason.
willingness to wait out the market could be, at least in part, due to the number of potential suitors still available for the pair to choose from.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post suggests that the Phillies, Red Sox, Giants, and Angels are all interested in both lefties. The Angels and Giants were linked to Snell last week, though their apparent interest in Montgomery was not mentioned in that reporting.
Heyman also adds that the Yankees have interest in Montgomery, who had previously been floated as a back-up plan for them if they failed to lure Yamamoto to the Bronx, though he notes that it’s unclear if the club is interested in Snell as well.It’s hardly a surprise that the Angels and Giants would expand their purview beyond Snell to include Montgomery, given the duo’s status as the clear top starters on the free agent market and each team’s obvious needs in the rotation. Likewise, the Yankees are known to be in the market for a top-of-the-rotation starter and clearly aren’t afraid to spend big after reportedly making Yamamoto a $300MM offer.
Similarly, the Red Sox have been connected to top-of-the-rotation arms all throughout the offseason, though Cotillo cautions that the club is currently more focused on free agent arms a tier below Snell and Montgomery like Lucas Giolito and Shota Imanaga.
ThePhillies are perhaps the most surprising inclusion on this list. While the club was among the finalists for Yamamoto’s services, the club has reportedly since pivoted to prioritizing a contract extension with Zack Wheeler rather than adding additional impact talent to the 2024 club. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski confirmed as much when discussing the club’s pursuit of Yamamoto with reporters recently, noting that future additions to the club figure to come “more around the edges” of the roster than anywhere else.
That being said, the club evidently had the payroll space available to be a significantly player in the Yamamoto sweepstakes, making it at least feasible that the Phillies could make the top offer to either Montgomery or Snell if they so chose. Reporting early in the offseason described the club as “lukewarm” on Snell, though it’s possible the club’s tune regarding Snell has changed now that he would be pitching alongside Nola in the rotation rather than replacing the club’s homegrown ace.
Two southpaws’ markets being somewhat intertwined is not necessarily a surprise given their stature as the clear best free agent starters remaining on the market. That being said, the pair bring noticeably different skillsets to the table.
Montgomery, who celebrated his 31st birthday yesterday, has been a model of consistency in recent years, with his year-to-year stats never drifting too far from his career norms: a solid 22.5% strikeout rate, a low 6.6% walk rate, and a 3.68 ERA (116 ERA+). With that being said, Montgomery’s 2023 season saw him take a step forward in terms of his run-prevention numbers as the lefty posted a 3.20 ERA and 3.56 FIP across a career-high 188 2/3 innings of work, giving him the look of a potential front-of-the-rotation workhorse with a stable, middle-of-the-rotation floor.Snell, by contrast, has seen significantly higher highs and lower lows throughout his career in the big leagues. Having won the AL Cy Young award in 2018 and the NL Cy Young award this past season, Snell is among the most electric pitchers in baseball when he’s on as demonstrated by his sterling 1.23 ERA and sensational 35% strikeout rate over the final 23 starts of his 2023 campaign. On the other hand, however, Snell is also prone to stretches of significant struggles. From 2019-21, Snell posted just a 4.06 ERA and 3.73 FIP across 61 starts thanks to a severe problem with home runs (16.9% of his fly balls left the yard during that time) and a concerning 10.6% walk rate. During that three-year stretch, Snell had the look of a #4 starter despite never posting a strikeout rate below 30%.
Even in his best years, he struggles to maintain his command as demonstrated by him allowing free passes at a league-leading 13.3% clip even en route to the second Cy Young award of his career this season.Even as the suitors for both players are mostly similar, the differences in how each lefty gets to his results may be creating disparity in their price tags on the open market. Cotillo suggests that while Montgomery is expected to command a “massive” deal this offseason, some in the industry reportedly believe Snell’s market is less robust with Cotillo noting that a “person with knowledge of the pitching market” suggested that teams could end up offering Snell a three-year deal with a high average annual value and multiple opt-outs, similar to the deal shortstop (and fellow Boras client) Carlos Correa signed with the Twins during the 2021-22 offseason.Of course, that report is just one source’s view of Snell’s market. It’s worth noting that MLBTR projected Snell for a far more significant seven-year, $200MM contract in our annual Top 50 MLB free agents list, where he placed fourth behind only Shohei Ohtani, Cody Bellinger, and Yamamoto. While a deal similar to Correa’s first pact in Minnesota could certainly make sense for Snell if his market fails to materialize, the number of clubs reportedly in search of front-of-the-rotation talent and Boras’s previous willingness to wait out the market in search of the best deal make it unlikely a more creative, shorter-term arrangement would come together anytime soon.

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