Blake Snell injury makes Yankees' offseason decision look even savvier

Imagine. Imagine if we'd done it.
Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

Suddenly, the Yankees' plan of waiting for Gerrit Cole's return and filling rotation gaps internally, rather than panic-spending in mid-March on someone who was doomed to be unavailable to start the regular season, doesn't seem so bad. Maybe we owe Reggie Jackson an apology?

We all knew Snell wouldn't be quite ready to contribute from curtain up on Opening Day. We didn't quite know the extent of the damage, though.

Most injuries are unpredictable, and devastating elbow issues could strike at any time, as has been exemplified by (checks notes) every MLB roster in 2024. But it was fairly obvious that Snell might encounter some difficulties in ramping up after he was forced to hold his own private spring training/bullpen sessions without the consultations of active team physicians. After all, he wasn't on an active team, thanks to he and Scott Boras turning down the Yankees' initial overtures, then harboring somewhat unreasonable demands deep into the winter.

"Unreasonable" might not be the correct word. They were, instead, outdated. 25 years ago, some team would've absolutely folded and paid the reigning Cy Young whatever he wanted. These days? Someone with Snell's control issues entering his age-31 season was always going to have to make concessions. Ultimately, he settled on a short-term, high-AAV deal with the San Francisco Giants, a franchise that has struggled to land impact free agents and was likely thrilled to add one at the Yankees' expense.

Three starts later, Snell sports an 11.57 ERA, has subtracted 0.6 bWAR from the Giants, and will now hit the Injured List with an adductor strain.

Yankees target Blake Snell reaches Injured List with San Francisco Giants

If things continue to trend this way, maybe Snell doesn't opt out at the end of 2024 after all?

To be fair to the left-hander, April was far and away his weakest month in 2023 (5.48 ERA/1.87 WHIP), a season that eventually turned into a Cy Young campaign and his career's most powerful statement of dominance. But the Yankees, who needed Snell to pair with Cole (in theory) when they first pursued him, instead pivoted to Marcus Stroman when Snell's camp rebuffed their advances. They chose the right-hander who, other than a slight home run problem so far, has delivered consistency to aid the Yankees' rotation; no starter, in fact, possesses an ERA above Nestor Cortes Jr.'s 3.41 mark. Starting pitching has not been the team's issue, other than the lack of length.

Then, when fans clamored for Snell the loudest, he became necessary as an early-season contributor while Cole rested. After a nonexistent spring training, he was always likely to contribute more during the season's second half, when Cole would theoretically have returned. If the Yankees had paid 110% tax on a $31 million deal to fill April/May gaps, only for Snell to struggle, then succumb to injury, the same fans who begged for it would be filling chicken buckets with agitated tears this week.

The Yankees don't always do it right, but in this instance, with their immediate needs in mind and the trade deadline still ahead of them, they made a financially prudent decision to keep their backs turned to Snell's camp.