Entering 2023, many believed the New York Yankees had assembled not just the best rotation in baseball, but potentially the greatest in the franchise's history (they've rarely relied on pitching, it wasn't that crazy). After all, who has Frankie Montas penciled in as their No. 5 starter?!
Answer: Not the 2023 Yankees, who lost Montas until August before spring training even began, then proceeded to watch Carlos Rodón and Luis Severino disappear for not-insignificant lengths of time (Rodón remains on the shelf).
While the Yankees have persevered, their rotation has been held together by gum and sticks. Domingo Germán, an early-season standout, was suspended for 10 games. Neither Jhony Brito nor Clarke Schmidt has found consistent footing. Nestor Cortes Jr.'s third time through any order has not been pretty. Even Gerrit Cole sports a 5.67 ERA in his past five starts. The bullpen has thrived, but that might be unsustainable; their 2.90 ERA leads all of baseball through Tuesday's win, but they've thrown the fourth-most innings of any bullpen. Burnout could be hovering on the horizon.
While Rodón purports to be back sometime in the second half and Montas thinks he'll recover for the stretch run, too, that shouldn't stop the Yankees from acquiring a high-upside arm, especially if it comes at a (relatively) low cost. What about a former AL East foe?
Left-hander Blake Snell of the visiting Padres made a big show out of catching up with Aaron Judge this weekend when San Diego arrived at Yankee Stadium and Judge returned the favor on his Instagram story. With the high-priced Pads in purgatory and in need of some kind of hybrid retool, might they consider selling Snell in the final year of his five-year, $50 million deal to fill a different slot?
Yankees Trade Target: Blake Snell, Padres
The Yankees trading for Snell at a relative discount might be worth it just to prevent him from facing them; the left-hander has a 4.31 ERA in 18 starts against the Bombers, striking out 92 men in 77.1 innings pitched. He also handles business against Boston, with a 3.24 ERA and similar strikeout numbers (70 in 66.2 innings) in 13 starts against the powerful Sox.
Snell, at a cost of under $5 million, would be imported only if Matt Blake had a plan for him. He's remained adept at missing bats this year (54 Ks in 50 innings), but the walks have skyrocketed (31), leaving his WHIP at an unsightly 1.560. He's also allowing his highest hits/9 since his rookie season (8.5), a far cry from his 5.6 mark during his 2018 Cy Young campaign. Statcast isn't terribly kind to him, either, though the spin is still there and his whiff percentage is top-tier.
When Seth Lugo returns from his calf issue, the Padres will have five additional capable starters, alongside Michael Wacha, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Ryan Weathers. Presumably, they'll be in the market for more of it when the trade deadline arrives; this deal would only be consummated if the Yankees could uncover a way to help them out, and if San Diego had grown tired enough of Snell's antics to facilitate a rental.
One thing the Padres desperately need? Catching depth, having just signed Gary Sánchez in a desperate attempt to fill the void. Could this be a Kyle Higashioka/Ben Rortvedt/Josh Breaux trade, plus a top-10 prospect and a top-20 name (Richard Fitts, Tyler Hardman)?
The Padres and Yankees, both considered World Series favorites when the season opened, could be unlikely trade deadline bedfollows. Don't bank on it, but if it happens, just remember Judge and Snell were out here dropping breadcrumbs.