BUSINESS AS USUAL

Tampa Bay traded ace pitcher Blake Snell to San Diego. In return, the Padres sent four prospects, headed by highly touted righthanded pitcher Luis Patina, to the Rays. Also going to the American League franchise are Francisco Mejia and Cole Wilcox along with Blake Hunt. That’s the facts now, as they said in The Wizard of Oz, let’s look behind the curtain.

First, this is business as usual for the defending American League champions. The Rays “modus operandi” is sign a player at the beginning of their or late in their days in the Big Leagues. That’s to keep cost low for the team.

For this to work,

a team MUST have, not just a good, but a great scouting department. That’s because there will be a constant turnover of talent. As the suspects become prospects, and then become established major leaguers, the team will trade them away for more undeveloped raw talent or major league “diamond in the rough” players rather than pay them that large lottery style contract that they truly may deserve.

For that to work, the scouting department must not only be able to identify amateur players to sign early but be able to target the players on the other major league teams that they want to bring into the fold. You must be right a majority of the time on who you sign or the team will “crash and burn” from a lack of major league level talent. To the Rays credit, they have hit on more than they have missed but, with Snell, I believe this was a totally different dynamic and here’s why.

Let me take you back

to Game 6 of the World Series between the Rays and the eventual champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Tampa Bay was down 3-2 and facing elimination so manager Kevin Cash, who in my mind had pushed the right buttons to get TB to the Fall Classic, gave the ball to Snell.

All #4 did was have the outing of his career. In 5 1/3 innings, Snell allowed no runs giving up just two hits and striking out nine while throw just 73 pitches. He had struck out the three hitters at the top of the LA lineup all six times they came to plate. In fact, only two balls had left the infield. Snell was as dominant as any pitcher had been for that stretch and was showing no signs of letting up.

But, the Dodgers were coming to the plate for the third time. In the Rays book, that’s time to go to the bullpen and show the Los Angeles hitters someone different on the mound.

So, after Austin Barnes hit a single and LA hitters were coming around for the third time, Cash made the move immediately to pull his ace. As we say in the coaching profession, he was going to “dance with who brung you” and that strategy is what got the Rays to the World Series.

Now, here’s where I disagree with the Tampa Bay skipper.

What I believe he should have done is walked to the mound and asked C Mike Zinino one simple question and that would have been “Does he still have it?” If the answer was no, go to the pen. If the answer was yes, which I think it was going to be, give the ball back to Snell and tell it’s your game. We’re riding you all the way no matter what. That was the moment Cash needed to throw analytics out the window and go with his gut feeling.

But Cash didn’t do that. You could tell by the look on Snell’s face, when he saw the Rays manager heading to the mound, that he was EXTREMELY disturbed by the decision. Frankly, I would have been upset as well if I were in the same situation.

If the results would have been a Rays victory, Cash would not have even been questioned on the move. The fact that it didn’t and it cost Tampa Bay a shot at getting to Game 7, it’s an issue that will be talked about for years.

After all that being said,

I believe #4 forced the trade by the Rays to the Padres. I think, either through his own conversations or through his agent, he informed the team that no matter what happens in the future he will be leaving Tampa Bay when his contract expires. For that reason, the Rays quickly started looking for a trading partner and found San Diego willing to participate.

Do I blame Snell for forcing this trade if that is the case? Not one bit.

On the biggest stage of his career, Snell performed exceptionally and had the chance to move the Rays into a series deciding Game 7 taken away. As a player, that’s something that resonates with you forever and I believe Snell couldn’t move past that and continue to play for an organization that doesn’t have the confidence as well as the trust in a former Cy Young award winning pitcher.

Here’s hoping the Rays made the right choice in moving #4. If they didn’t, it’s going to be a long 2021 season if that even comes to fruition.