Rays Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell said the risk of returning to play this season is “just not worth it” — at least not for significantly less than his original $7 million salary.
With league and union officials discussing a plan to start a pandemic-delayed and abbreviated season in July with players getting reduced pay, Snell responded Wednesday to a question on his Twitch video game streaming channel with a two-minute answer about how it was not worth risking his life for a lesser reward.
“Y’all gotta understand, man, for me to go, for me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof. It’s a shorter season, less pay. I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, okay? And that’s just the way it is for me.
"Like, I’m sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I’m making is way lower. Why would I think about doing that? Like, you know, I’m just, I’m sorry.”
In later text messages with the Tampa Bay Times, Snell said he knows people will view his comments as greedy but “that’s not the case at all,” and his concerns are rooted more in health and safety issues.
“I mean, honestly, it’s just scary to risk my life to get COVID-19 (the disease caused by the coronavirus) as well as not knowing and spreading it to others,” he said via text. “I just want everyone to be healthy and get back to our normal lives, ’cause I know I miss mine!”
Also, the owners’ attempts to further reduce player salaries “is super frustrating because we have way more risk.”
Snell, 27, signed a five-year, $50 million contract last spring. He said he is concerned about the long-term risks of being infected by the coronavirus and at this point is preparing for the possibility of playing next in 2021.
Players agreed in March to get paid this year on a prorated basis. If the plan for an 82-game season is approved — and that season is played, assuming all health and safety issues are resolved — Snell would get roughly half his salary. Owners are seeking a further reduction in salaries because games will likely be played without fans, a request reportedly based on splitting all revenues with the players.
While adamant that the current options are not viable, Snell seemed to have some of the details wrong.
Among other points, no set figure has been disclosed regarding how much further salaries would be reduced. It is unclear how much Snell would make under the plan, though it would be more than if the season is not played. In that case, he’d get only about $300,000 total.
Plus, the league is proposing teams play in their home ballparks where possible, so players wouldn’t necessarily be isolated.
Snell also told the Times that he would consider sitting out the season even if the union accepted a deal to start play.
“I honestly think I would see what my peers did and talk to my loved ones before I made a decision, because I really do wanna play baseball and be around the family we have built here in Tampa. It’s just a hard time with a lot going on to make it even harder.”
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Snell said he left St. Petersburg for his Seattle-area home so he would have more equipment available and options to work out because “if a season happens, I want to be ready.”
Asked if he’d be OK playing for his full salary, Snell said, “That’s because I feel like when I signed my deal, I owed them for that $7 million, (and) I personally feel like I have to come through on that.”
Rays officials were aware of Snell’s comments Wednesday night and planned to talk with him Thursday, but on Thursday they said the matter was being handled internally and they had no comment. Snell’s agents said they had no plans for additional comment.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said on a previously scheduled media call Thursday morning he didn’t want to get into the specifics of Snell’s comments but acknowledged other players may have similar concerns.
"To answer your question, (are) there players that feel that way? I would imagine that there are players that ... have concerns about their specific health and the health of their families and teammates,'' Cash said. "And I think that’s fair. We all should to a degree.''
He also addressed the overall risk issue Snell raised:
"Health and safety is the No. 1 priority right now for myself, our organization, MLB, of our players, our staff, our fans and our specific communities. I guess we all have a right to say what we want to say and believe and feel what we want to believe. But I can assure you that that stance of prioritization of health and safety among everybody affiliated with baseball, and certainly our fans and our communities and all of the first responders that have been out there working currently through this rough time, we support and will continue to support.''
Here is a full transcription of Snell’s comments on Twitch, which were heard, recorded and posted to Twitter by John Flanigan, a contributor to metsmerizedonline.com:
"I’m not splitting no revenue, I want all mine.
"Bro, y’all gotta understand too, cause y’all gonna be like, ‘Bro, Blake, play for the love of the game, man! What’s wrong with you, bro? Money should not be a thing.’
"Bro, I’m risking my life, what do you mean it should not be a thing, it should a hundred percent be a thing. If I’m gonna play I should be getting the money I signed to be getting paid. I should not be getting half of what I’m getting paid because the season’s cut in half, on top of a 33% cut of the half that’s already there — so I’m really getting, like, 25% — on top of of that, it’s getting taxed.
"So, imagine how much I’m actually making to play, you know what I’m saying?
"Like, I ain’t making s---. and on top of that — so, all that money’s gone, and now I play risking my life. And if I get the ‘rona — on top of that, if I get the ‘rona — guess what happens with that? Oh yeah, that stays, that’s in my body forever. That damage is not gonna be like — the damage that was done to my body? That’s gonna be there forever.
"So, now I gotta play with that, on top of that. Y’all gotta understand man, for me to go, for me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof, it’s a shorter season, less pay.
"No, I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, okay? And that’s just the way it is for me. Like, I’m sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I’m making is way lower, why would I think about doing that? Like you know, I’m just, I’m sorry.
"So, in my head, I’m preparing for next season. Well, I’m actually preparing for right now, but as if I’m preparing for next season. Like, it’s super weird, man. ...
"But guys, I’m just saying, it doesn’t make sense for me to lose all of that money and then go play. And then be on lockdown, not around my family, not around the people I love, and getting paid way the hell less. And then the risk of injury runs every time I step on the field.
“So it’s just not worth it. It’s not. I love baseball to death, it’s just not worth it. If it’s a pay cut. If it’s no pay cut, I get mine, we could talk. I want to play.”
Snell also said “the owners are loaded, I don’t know why they want a pay cut,” and that they generally “are greedy and they’re trying to play the athletes because they’re like, ‘We’re smarter than them.’”
He did praise Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, saying Sternberg is the best and he is “lucky” to get to play for him. “I love our owner,” Snell said. “He’s always there, always showing love. I’ve got nothing but love for him. He’s so dope.”
Just before spring training camps were shut down in mid March, Snell said he felt too much was being made of the coronavirus.
“I think the media kind of hypes up the coronavirus,” Snell said in Port Charlotte. "If they want to look out for our health, that’s cool. But I’m not too worried about it. If I get it, I get it. If I don’t, I don’t. Either way, it was meant to be.”
Snell is a big-time video game player, recently winning the players online tournament and launching his snellzilla.com website with his Classic Gaming line of merchandise.
He has made headlines with his comments on Twitch before, when his reaction to the December trade of Tommy Pham included calling the minor-leaguer coming to the Rays in the deal, Xavier Edwards, a slap---- prospect."