If you've been keeping up with any of my work relating to the St. Louis Cardinals' pursuit of starting pitching this offseason, you could tell I've been pretty much out on Blake Snell. I think highly of him as a pitcher, but there seemed to be way too much risk baked into his profile to be worth the massive number it seemed like he would be getting. Even with the Cardinals reportedly having an interest in Snell, I just did not see them being serious about pursuing him.
Well according to most national reporting, Snell's market this offseason may not be as lucrative as most of us once thought. I thought outside of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Snell would easily be the highest-paid starting pitcher this offseason, and even if that is still the case, his contract will likely be much cheaper and shorter than anticipated. Instead of looking at an annual salary north of $30 million and anywhere from 6-8 years in contract length, he'll likely get a five-year deal with an AAV closer to the $25-$27 million range.
This is a significant development for the Cardinals. I'm not convinced Snell would want to live in St. Louis, and I'm also not ready to plant my flag on him being the number one target this offseason, but the potential red flags seem much more manageable when the contract looks more like five years, $130 million rather than six-years, $180 million.
Snell is about to collect his second Cy Young award on the back of a 14-9 season with a 2.25 ERA and 11.7 K/9 in 32 starts. Snell's biggest flaws stem around not going deep into ball games (he's only pitched 180+ innings in his two Cy Young-winning seasons), and his high walk rate. Snell has been a good pitcher in his non-Cy Young caliber years, but not nearly the same ace-level starter he was in 2023 or 2018. Giving a long-term deal to a guy with that kind of inconsistency is scary, but not when the number is as manageable as what is being predicted.
I would imagine Snell is a few years away from true decline becoming a potential issue. If he's on a five-year deal, you may not love years four or five of that contract, but the first two or three seasons could be a guy he is consistently an All-Star and is a true "ace" in this league. For the Cardinals, the hope would be that by the last two years of the deal (2027 and 2028), they've developed some pitchers like Tekoah Roby or Tink Hence who can stand at the top of their rotation as Snell regresses.
I had honestly kind of written off Snell as a legit possibility until this point, but now I can see reasons why St. Louis would be interested in making him "their guy". By the time the offseason officially begins, I'll have my "ideal offseason" drawn up and shared with everyone to see, and Snell now has to be seriously considered for the Cardinals' plans, if the reported price point is to be believed.