Why 2023 Cy Young Blake Snell can't find a team in MLB free agency

There has never been a reigning Cy Young award winner sitting at home in March, waiting for a team to sign him. Why is Blake Snell?

2024 BBWAA Dinner
2024 BBWAA Dinner / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

For a moment, pretend you are Blake Snell. You just had another great season, winning your second Cy Young award. You led the league in ERA (again), giving up only 115 hits in 180 innings. Yeah, your walks went up, but who cares! You don’t give up the long ball in this era of high strikeout totals and a high amount of home run hitters. As far as left-handed starters, there’s you and everyone else. You’re ready for the big payday. You hired the man, Scott Boras, to get you the money you so richly deserve. What a way to enter free agency.

As the calendar flips to March and spring training games are being played, why are you still sitting at home watching them on TV? Why isn’t the phone ringing off the hook? You've heard several theories, so let’s look at a few and try to figure this out.

Why is NL Cy Young Blake Snell still unsigned?

One theory is that this amazing year occurred in San Diego. Petco Park is known as a pitcher’s park, but that doesn’t always equate to success elsewhere.

Looking at San Diego’s roster the past 10 years, though, it’s littered with pitchers who had success elsewhere. Yu Darvish had BETTER years elsewhere than in San Diego. What about Mike Clevinger? Jhoulys Chacín? Craig Kimbrel? Even Snell had 21 wins on another team in the supposed toughest division in baseball. This theory is hogwash.

Theory No. 2 is related to Scott Boras. C’mon!! I’m sure Scott has gotten under the skin of many a general manager, but it has never before stopped said GMs from signing the big talent on his client list. He’s known for sealing the deal. Now, no one really knows what is being asked, but some of the numbers I have heard from teams' rumored offers sound unreasonable. Did the Yankees think they were going to get a two-time Cy Young award winner for $150 million? I would consider that offer an insult. They signed Gerrit Cole for $324 million just four years ago and he was fairly similar in pedigree. Certainly, he didn’t bring any hardware with him to New York.

Plus, think of it this way: can you name another agent other than Scott? I can’t.

How about the theory that those walks are scaring teams away? Granted, walks were much more prevalent in previous eras of baseball, as no pitcher has had 100+ walks since 2012, but you wouldn’t have been scared of signing Randy Johnson, who led the league in walks three straight seasons, or Nolan Ryan, who walked over 200 batters in a campaign? If the man you are looking at only gives up 5.8 hits per 9 innings and his WHIP is the second-lowest of his career, you’re not caring as much about those walks. The guy gets outs … often from swings and misses.

Finally, I have heard age. He’s 31 and teams are reluctant to sign a 31-year-old pitcher. OK, let’s say he agrees to a seven-year deal. He’ll be 38 when it expires. You know who will also be 38 when his deal expires? Shohei Ohtani. The aforementioned Gerrit Cole will be 38 once they pick up his 2029 option. Think he will be way better than Snell at 38? Maybe, maybe not.

Never in the history of baseball has a reigning Cy Young award winner gone into March without a job. There’s something going on that we don’t know about. Teams would typically be champing at the bit to get a Cy Young award winner. Why not Snell? We at calltothepen.com will be watching and listening closely and, at least for me, will be very happy to see the man get paid like he deserves.