San Diego Padres rumors: Blake Snell to command over $200 million in free agency?

Blake Snell is headed for a massive payday and the San Diego Padres might not be able to afford him.

Sep 8, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) delivers a pitch
Sep 8, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) delivers a pitch / Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

When the San Diego Padres report to spring training in February 2024, they might be doing so without their 2023 ace.

That's because the team is not expected to bring NL Cy Young contender Blake Snell back for next season, according to USA Today MLB insider Bob Nightengale. This is despite the lefty's wishes to remain a Padre.

San Diego Padres rumors: Blake Snell not expected to return in 2024

Nightengale believes Snell could command upwards of $200 million in free agency this winter, which given his outstanding season, would be of little surprise to anyone.

The veteran southpaw is having his best season since 2018 when he won the Cy Young award with the Tampa Bay Rays. If he wins the prestigious award again this year, he'll join a short list of pitchers who've captured the Cy Young in both the American and National League. And after dominating the defending champion Houston Astros in his most recent outing, Snell's case looks quite compelling.

As for the San Diego Padres, they've got a crucial offseason ahead. With Snell hitting the open market, along with closer Josh Hader, it appears unlikely the team will retain both pitchers. And if Nightengale is at all correct in his assessment, it looks like the decision has already been made with respect to which player might stay.

But don't get it twisted: Hader isn't a lock to re-sign by any means, either. That means the Padres are staring down the unenviable possibility of having to replace both their 2023 ace and their closer.

Fortunately for San Diego, there are options, albeit not many, for replacing Snell should he leave in free agency. Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto is one, along with the Philadelphia Phillies' Aaron Nola. Lucas Giolito of the Cleveland Guardians is another possibility, as are names like Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty. And while those are all fine pivots, none of them (with the exception potentially being Yamamoto) are pitching at a level close to the one Blake Snell is pitching at this season.

For now, though, the San Diego Padres still have Blake Snell around for another month. They should cherish his special season while they can.