Blake Snell has thrown another curve.
The Rays ace lefty switched agents, hiring baseball’s biggest and most hardline, in Scott Boras.
What makes the move somewhat odd is that Snell is signed through 2023, having agreed last spring to a five-year, $50 million deal with the Rays and talking effusively at the time about the organization. Typically, a player changes agents in advance of seeking a new deal.
Snell, 27, had been a client of Apex Baseball (formerly SCK Sports Agency). Managing director Adam Karon on Tuesday declined comment on the change. Snell did not return a text message from the Tampa Bay Times seeking comment. The Rays heard of the switch on Monday.
Boras, always outspoken, told The Athletic, which first reported the news, he was excited to sign Snell and "with our resources and information and his skill that he has an opportunity to be a very elite pitcher for a very long time.”
Snell made national headlines two weeks ago when he said the risk of returning to play during the coronavirus pandemic was “just not worth it” for significantly less than his original $7 million salary.
The players union already had agreed to a deal for prorated pay based on the number of games played this season, which under the current proposal would cut Snell’s salary in half. Owners are seeking a further reduction since games would be played, at least initially, without fans.
“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,'' Snell said during a May 13 session on the Twitch video game streaming channel. "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.''
Also, Snell said, "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,” saying 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!”
Snell got a $3 million signing bonus and a $1 million salary last year after agreeing to the long-term deal. He was to receive a $7 million salary this year, then $10.5 million in 2021, $12.5 million in 2022 and $16 million in 2023, which would have been his first year of free agency.
Want more than just the box score?
Subscribe to our free Rays Report newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Snell said at the time he took the deal, the largest in major-league history for a pitcher not yet eligible for arbitration, because the Rays met his terms with the total amount, no team options and covering only one year of free agency, allowing him to hit the open market at 31.
“I’m happy,” Snell said then. “I’m happy to be here. I want 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. I want to be here. This is a great team.”
After winning the Cy Young Award in 2018 for a spectacular 21-5, 1.89 season, Snell had a rough 2019. He missed time with injuries, sustaining a fractured toe in what he said was a freak accident in April, then was sidelined for two months in July after surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. He returned in mid-September to make three starts, going 6-8, 4.29 overall, and made three appearances (one start) in the playoffs.
Snell was sidelined this spring with soreness in the same elbow that he said was alleviated with a cortisone shot, but returned to action before games were suspended March 12.
Pitching coach Kyle Snyder said last week Snell, who recently returned home to Seattle after spending most of the shutdown in St. Petersburg, had been playing catch regularly but had not thrown off a mound during the hiatus. Snyder said he expected Snell to have “zero limitations” when play resumes.
He also won the players MLB The Show online video game tournament, and launched the snellzilla.com web site offering themed merchandise and links to his social media accounts.