If this is indeed it for Blake Snell and the San Diego Padres, what a run it was. But now, the opportunity for A.J. Preller's staff to move on has never been more apparent.
According to USA Today MLB Insider Bob Nightengale, three upper-echelon starting pitchers are expected to become available on the trade market this winter: the Milwaukee Brewers' Corbin Burnes, the Tampa Bay Rays' Tyler Glasnow and the Cleveland Guardians' Shane Bieber.
San Diego Padres could look to the offseason trade market for a Blake Snell replacement in 2024
There's a legitimate case to be made for any of the three names listed above. Burnes and Bieber have each won a Cy Young award in their respective leagues, while Tyler Glasnow remains an electrifying talent (health-permitting).
However, 2023 also represented a down season for each of these pitchers as well, with Burnes posting his highest ERA since 2019 (3.39), and Bieber (3.80 ERA) since his rookie year in 2018. But with the Brewers and Guardians operating in small markets with tight payrolls, neither team appears likely to retain their respective ace long term.
The same line of thinking goes for the Rays and Tyler Glasnow, who ironically traded Blake Snell to the San Diego Padres when that similar financial question arose.
Of course, Glasnow's issue is health, to which he hadn't made more than 21 starts in a season before this year, finishing with a 3.53 ERA in those contests. But when healthy, there are few pitchers who are more dynamic and who possess better raw stuff than the 30-year-old right-hander.
The one common thread between these three hurlers is their impending free agent status: they all hit the open market after next season. But that should only help the Padres in negotiations, as trading for a rental comes at a much lesser price than trading for, say, Juan Soto a few summers back. Additionally, in the Brewers and Guardians' cases, they would be selling low on Corbin Burnes and Shane Bieber, respectively.
So the question for A.J. Preller and the San Diego Padres is this: If Blake Snell proves too expensive in free agency, would they be willing to roll the dice on a trade for Burnes or Bieber (or Tyler Glasnow's health) with the hope of also being able to offer a long-term extension if things go well? It's at least worth exploring.