The Tampa Bay Rays have reached an agreement on a five-year, $50-million contract with reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell. There are no options included in the contract, which will buy out all of Snell’s arbitration seasons, as well as his first year of free agency. The deal also does not include a no-trade clause.
The left-hander will be paid a $3-million signing bonus and earn $1-million in 2019. He’ll then be paid $7-million, $10.5-million, $12.5-million and $16-million in the subsequent four seasons. That $16-million salary in 2023 can increase by up to $2-million in incentives.
Snell’s new deal is the largest contract in big league history given to a player before reaching arbitration.
I’m happy to be here. I don’t want to go anywhere. I think with the deal I made with them, it’s going to keep me here longer than I would’ve [been] if I didn’t. And that makes me really happy because I’m comfortable here. I like the team we’re building. This is a great team.— Blake Snell
The new deal comes just weeks after Snell was less than pleased with the teams’ decision to give him a $15,500 raise over the preceding Cy Young Award-winning season (at a time when the league-minimum salary increased by $5,000).
The Rays have the right under the collective bargaining agreement to renew me at or near the league-minimum salary. They also have the ability to more adequately compensate me, as other organizations have done with players who have similar achievements to mine. The Rays chose the former.— Blake Snell, at the time of his $15,500 raise
Snell told the media he was surprised when the Rays approached him over the past couple of days with negotiations, especially since neither side had been able to come to terms on a contract extension the past couple of years. He also said he was more than willing to go through the arbitration process until the Rays met all of his requirements.
They were listening, and they actually met me where I wanted to be. I said, ‘This is the only thing that’s comfortable for me to do.’ And I told them I love being here, this is where I want to be. I get one year into my free agency, which I’m happy about, and I’ll be out after my 30-year-old season, I’m happy about that.— Blake Snell
In a sense, however, Snell is betting against himself because the team had the leverage, which Lauren Theisen (Deadspin) touched on.
Snell is betting against himself here, in a sense, by sacrificing money that he could have won down the road in arbitration for a solid guarantee now. But there’s more to it than that. Given the paltry contract that the Rays initially gave him, which was just about the minimum guaranteed in the league’s collective bargaining agreement, Snell had no leverage. He was still a year from arbitration, and faced with the choice between $50 million guaranteed and about $600,000 guaranteed, which would you take? Crucially, this deal also does not include a no-trade clause. Given the Rays, this means that they don’t really intend to pay out the last year or two of that heavily backloaded contract themselves. When the time is right, Snell will be flipped for the next round of leverage-less prospects, who will have no choice but to accept the next set of minimal raises.— Lauren Theisen
Dan Szymborski (Fangraphs) also noted that Snell is likely shortchanging himself by $23-million in a world in which the extension was not signed.
Still, the deal does make sense for both sides as the Rays an extra year of control while Snell gains guaranteed money over the next five seasons.
It’s the second contract extension this week for Tampa Bay, who locked up Brandon Lowe on a six-year, $24-million deal. Snell joins Lowe and Kevin Kiermaier as the only players on the 40-man roster to have guaranteed contracts past the 2020 season. However, Rays general manager Erik Neander said the possibility of more contract extensions remains.
when there are opportunities that increase the chance they can be here for a long period of time – that’s something that we will continue to explore whenever those opportunities present themselves.
— Erik Neander