PORT CHARLOTTE — Seeing all the money being thrown recently seems to have empowered Rays Cy Young award winner Blake Snell to think aloud more.
The Padres signed Manny Machado. The Rockies re-upped with Nolan Arenado. The Phillies, in case you hadn’t heard, gave Bryce Harper baseball’s biggest deal. Now Snell would like to see the Rays spend a little more.
Specifically, to add star closer Craig Kimbrel to a potentially dynamic but relatively unproven bullpen.
“I want Kimbrel,’’ Snell said Saturday. “He’s a veteran. He’s established. He’s the best. Who wouldn’t want the best closer on their team?’’
Well, thus far anyway, the Rays, and 29 other.
Kimbrel, who saved 42 games for the champion Red Sox last season amid some struggles, is among the biggest name free agents left, along with lefty Dallas Keuchel and outfielder Adam Jones, so their market should warm soon.
Rays officials have seemed adamant, at least to this point, they have no plans to pursue Kimbrel, who presumably is coming off his reported initial ask of $90 million over six years (plus costing the signing team a draft pick).
Having mentioned his interest a few times publicly this spring, Snell hinted he tried to convince his bosses, noting their payroll of around $50 million that looks to be lowest in the majors, that Kimbrel would be well worth it.
“I think so; I don’t know what they’re thinking,’’ Snell said. “I’m pushing money. I want us to push as much as we’re able to. As much as we can get rid of, let’s go dump it into his hands.’’
Like many of the young players in the Rays clubhouse, Snell is confident they have the makings of a special team, one capable of reaching the playoffs. That’s with or without Kimbrel, he’d just prefer the with.
While there is some consolation in hearing principal owner Stuart Sternberg say they will have “the opportunity” to add players, perhaps the big bat they also decided to not acquire, if needed during the season, Snell would rather they address potentially their most glaring weakness now. And he’s not the only Ray who feels that way, just the most out front about it.
“Our pitching and defense is what’s going to win a lot of games for us, so why don’t we max it out with Kimbrel?’’ Snell said. “Let’s do it and regret it later if that’s what they want to do. But you’re not going to regret that guy. That guy is legit.’’
Don’t read this as a potential cause of discontent in the clubhouse, or that Snell is going to sulk or point fingers if they don’t sign Kimbrel. Take it more as a sign of how much Snell cares. And that he wants to see his team get a little further in the game.
With the halfway point of the spring approaching, reliever Emilio Pagan looks to be the player who’s done the most thus far to help his chances to win a job. With two spots in the bullpen about the only openings, the top candidates at this point may be righties Pagan and Hunter Wood, and lefties Jalen Beeks and Adam Kolarek. Most of the position players have showed well, including the first base trio of Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz and Brandon Lowe, though Matt Duffy’s ongoing hamstring issues could be an increasing concern.
Is manager Kevin Cash becoming Mr. StatCast? Talking about a well-hit Tuesday ball by prospect Jesus Sanchez, Cash said: “What was the mph on that thing, did we get it? I was guessing 111. It was a rocket.’’ … The Rays were docked a win in Baseball Prospectus’ updated PECOCTA projections, but their 85 is still good enough to be the second wild card. … Former Rays TV reporter Kelly Nash, still hosting at MLB Network, makes her acting debut with a small role in an HBO series (can’t say which yet), airing in June. … The Rays aren’t being very hospitable in throwing Snell, Jose Alvarado and Chaz Roe against the USF Bulls in Tuesday’s exhibition, but hopefully they make it an annual event to face a college team, maybe rotating with Florida, FSU, even UCF? … Jim Bowden, writing for The Athletic, gave the Rays a B- for the totality of their off-season, citing injury concerns with Charlie Morton, not liking the trade of Mallex Smith, saying Yandy Diaz was worth the gamble. …MLBpipeline.com had the Rays second in it farm system ranking (behind San Diego, same as Baseball America) and a top five prospects list of Wander Franco, Brent Honeywell, two-way Brendan McKay, Jesus Sanchez and Matthew Liberatore.
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.