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Dodgers free agent target: Blake Snell

Blake Snell to the Dodgers is a very intriguing match

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Blake Snell has done enough work dominating the Dodgers in his career, bolstering a 2.54 ERA across 16 starts against Los Angeles, including the postseason. Now it may be time for him to join Chavez Ravine’s home dugout and dominate here on a regular basis.

The Dodgers already showed their interest in the top end of the pitching market, reportedly making a $165 million offer to Aaron Nola, who instead returned to the Phillies for $172 million over seven years.

At first glance, the fit for Snell is rather obvious in Los Angeles, and why wouldn’t it be? With every intention to contend for a World Series title in 2024, the Dodgers lack pitching depth, particularly experienced arms.

If the season started today, the rotation would be comprised of Walker Buehler (returning from his second Tommy John surgery), and four youngsters. One of those young arms has established himself in a very nice tier already, but after Bobby Miller, the Dodgers don’t have a lot of rotation stability, at least not yet.

With Nola off the market, Snell represents by all accounts the only other ace-caliber arm with MLB experience on the market.

it’s not as though the market as a whole is thin, you have Yoshinobu Yamamoto, plenty of great arms potentially on the trading block, and other intriguing free agents, but Snell may very well be the cream of the crop.

Coming off a Cy Young award — the second of his career — Snell timed his very best season with the Friars with his trip to free agency; thus really propelling his earning potential.

When it comes to Snell, there are a few intricacies that work in both ways. Part of what may make him a more attainable and intriguing asset for the Dodgers is also part of why his market may be limited.

Blake Snell career starts vs. Dodgers

Date IP R BB/K
Date IP R BB/K
9/17/19 2.0 0 0/4
4/18/21 5.0 2 2/7
4/24/21 5.3 2 2/7
6/22/21 5.0 0 3/5
8/25/21 7.7 1 0/10
9/12/21 0.7 0 0/0
10/21/21* 4.7 2 4/9
10/27/21* 5.3 1 0/9
7/1/22 5.0 1 4/12
9/10/22 4.0 5 3/5
9/27/22 5.0 0 3/6
10/14/22* 5.3 1 2/6
5/6/23 6.0 2 3/6
5/12/23 6.0 2 4/4
8/5/23 5.0 3 4/8
9/13/23 6.0 0 1/8
*postseason start 2.54 ERA, 78 IP, 106 K, 35 BB; 0-2 runs allowed in 14 of 16 starts

Unlike Nola, Snell doesn’t have a large track record of durability. In fact, the 180 innings he pitched this season were a career-high mark, and his absolute ceiling on a healthy campaign.

Snell has a 29.7-percent strikeout rate and 11.0 walk rate for his career, both marks well above the major league averages. What that means is that even when he’s rolling, Snell is prone to a large number of pitches per inning, which limits how deep he can go into games. He not only led the majors in ERA (2.25) and ERA+ (182) in 2023, but also in walks (99).

Most Cy Young winners who don’t miss a start usually go well past 180 innings.

Between the incredible 2023 season and the injury history, Snell may price himself off the non-elite markets. Teams that can’t afford to spend the majority of their open budget on an arm who missed significant time and couldn’t crack 130 innings in three of his last four 162-game seasons.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, have shown that they’re not shy about taking chances, and this time around they may be somewhat forced to, by a need that’s unlike what this team has experienced in previous seasons.

And here’s the real kicker: the Dodgers do have a big pitching need, that’s without a question, but unlike most teams, they have enough young arms to supplement occasional absences throughout the year.

This is an experience problem, but not a depth one. Between Gavin Stone, Emmett Sheehan, Ryan Pepiot, and company, LA has enough young arms to fill in on need, as we saw in 2023. it’d just be asking too much for each of those guys to take a rotation spot from day one.

150 innings or so from Blake Snell may be all this team requires. it would not be ideal, but as long as he’s available in October, which he has been throughout his career, that should be fine.

As far as rating Snell the pitcher, we all know his dominance, it was no accident he won the Cy Young with a 2.25 ERA. And while you could expect some regression based on the 86.7-percent left-on-base rate, this is the same lefty that had a 2.80 FIP in 2022.

Only five pitchers had an ERA below 3.00 last season. Snell is likely to hover around that mark in the following seasons, and do so with elite stuff. There’s little question about his ability.