The SF Giants remain in the mix for star NPB pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but do they have a contingency plan? The whispers appear to be getting louder and louder that they are on the outside looking in for Yamamoto and could pivot to two-time Cy Younger winner Blake Snell.
Are the SF Giants preparing for a contingency plan if they miss out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto?
First, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle recently wondered if Snell could be the next-best move assuming that they miss out on Yamamoto. Similarly, Jon Heyman of the New York Post echoed similar sentiments, suggesting that the Giants could pivot to Snell if they do not land Yamamoto.
If it was just Heyman alone making this case, I would be skeptical. However, Slusser is plugged into the Giants' way of thinking, so this does not feel out of left field. Perhaps, I am reading too much between the lines, but it sounds like the front office's confidence in signing Yamamoto is waning, so they are preparing for the next move.
Snell would be a nice consolation prize. Given that Yamamoto is just 25 years old, a lot of teams have been involved in his market. The age factor is important because it stands to reason that he has a lot of prime years ahead.
On the other hand, Snell is entering his age-31 season in 2024. While he is a very accomplished pitcher, he likely has fewer peak years ahead. That is just the nature of pitching and athletes.
Despite Snell's accomplishments, it feels like he has a strangely small market. MLB Trade Rumors predicts that he should land a deal of seven years and $200 million. This would tie him up through his age-37 season, which is going to be a non-starter for some teams who do not want to take on the risk of the fact that the last few years of his deal could be brutal.
Plus, it is believed that Snell would prefer to remain on the West Coast. He grew up in the state of Washington, so geography could be in the Giants' favor. Interestingly, the Los Angeles Dodgers are not too keen on the left-handed hurler, whereas the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners are not expected to be big spenders this winter.
The Los Angeles Angels are hard to read. They could be a landing spot for Snell, but they have not been too active yet this offseason. From a geography standpoint, that would leave the Giants as the most logical landing spot among teams on the West Coast.
The Giants have conveyed their intention to add a frontline starter and Snell certainly checks that box, especially after winning his second Cy Young award. On a slightly different note, the Giants have had a lot of success in the past with pitchers who have won multiple Cy Young awards from the state of Washington.
It does not hurt that Snell's former manager Bob Melvin is now the Giants' skipper. Melvin knows how to use Snell. On paper, there are a lot of reasons why he could be a fit for the Giants.
There is a lot of risk in Snell's profile as well. Age is one factor, but below-average command is another issue as well as the fact that he does not usually handle a heavy workload. Even in 2023, Snell tallied 180 innings while averaging 5.2 innings per start. It was just the second time in his eight-year career that he has pitched more than 150 innings in a season.
The Giants have been extremely risk averse in recent seasons. They had opportunities to re-sign Kevin Gausman to a much more tolerable deal but made a massive mistake in letting him sign with the Toronto Blue Jays.
They just might need to take on a little more risk now to offset past mistakes. The Giants can afford to take on more risk. If it falls flat as so many long-term contracts for pitchers who are on the wrong side of 30 do, that is part of the business. At the very least, Snell would be someone that fans would pay to see.
Bolstering the starting rotation is one way in which the Giants can gain a competitive advantage in the National League. All of the eyes in baseball are on the Yamamoto market currently, but it feels like the Giants appear to be quietly shifting their focus to the next-best pitcher.