‘Maxwell’ Snell’s stock suddenly soars, and this time Houston wants it, why?

After being considered the “biggest name” in this year’s free agency market, Blake Snell has yet to find a team, and his stock is suddenly soaring. This time, the Houston Astros have entered the fray.

“Houston, which signed top closer Josh Hader in January, is seriously considering Snell, the best starting pitcher left on the market, according to a source,” The Athletic reported on Saturday.

Snell, who won the Cy Young Award in 2018 with the Tampa Bay Rays and last year with San Diego, becoming the seventh pitcher in history to win the award in both leagues, has been one of the biggest names in free agency. But the market has frozen over, and with only two full seasons of relief under his belt and questionable reliability, he hasn’t found a team even as the season gets underway.

Houston’s interest in Snell comes as a result of an unexpected injury. According to The Athletic, “Houston manager Joe Espada said Jose Ulquidi was scratched after throwing 43 pitches in a minor league game because he felt pain in his right elbow. The situation increases Houston’s need to add another starting pitcher.”

Houston begins the season with ace Justin Verlander on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Add to that pitchers like Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia, who are recovering from elbow surgery and won’t return until long after the All-Star break.

Of course, the rotation is still deep enough with the likes of Christian Javier, Hunter Braun, J.P. France, and Ronel Blanco anchoring the rotation around starter Frazier Valdez, but the weight is definitely off.

The issue comes down to money. Snell’s agent, Scott Boras, reportedly wants a short-term deal on the level of Cody Bellinger’s current deal with the Chicago Cubs (three years, $80 million), with an opt-out clause. That would require Snell to average between $30 million and $32 million per year, which Houston owner Jim Crane is unlikely to be able to afford. “The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels have also been linked to Snell,” The Athletic reported, “but the Yankees would have to pay 110 percent of the competitive balance tax for every dollar they spend (because the competitive balance tax is maxed out),” emphasizing that the Yankees’ financial situation would make it difficult for them to sign Snell. “The state of Texas has no income tax. That could be an advantage for Houston,” he added.

Houston’s five-year, $95 million investment in Heider marks the second time the Astros have crossed the competitive balance tax threshold since Crane owned the 안전놀이터 organization. The fact that Crane, who is known for not spending a lot of money, has crossed the threshold suggests that he’s taking a different approach this season. There are plenty of reasons to spend money on Snell.

Add to that the fact that Houston’s financial flexibility is likely to increase in the future, and you have another reason to consider Snell. For starters, if Verlander does not complete 140 innings this season, his $35 million vesting option for 2025 will not be triggered and he will become a free agent. Alex Bregman will be a free agent after this season, and Valdez and Kyle Tucker will become free agents after the 2025 season. Given that the Astros realistically can’t afford to keep all of them, it makes sense to bet on them now that they have a winning record.

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