Opening Day is less than four weeks away and the best available free agents are finally starting to come off the board. Last week, the Chicago Cubs brought Cody Bellinger back on a three-year, $80 million contract with two opt outs. Then, on Sunday, the San Francisco Giants announced Matt Chapman on a three-year, $54 million contract. Chapman's deal also includes two opt outs.

Six of our top 50 free agents remain unsigned, including reigning NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell. Snell, like Bellinger and Chapman (and Jordan Montgomery), is a Scott Boras client, and you can't help but wonder whether Snell would be open to a similar short-term contract. If he is, the Philadelphia Phillies would be interested, according to USA Today.

As things stand, the Phillies have five quality starters, and FanGraphs projections say they have the second-best rotation in the game by WAR, narrowly behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. Philadelphia's rotation depth chart lines up like this:

  1. RHP Zack Wheeler
  2. RHP Aaron Nola
  3. LHP Ranger Suárez
  4. RHP Taijuan Walker
  5. LHP Cristopher Sánchez
  6. RHP Spencer Turnbull

Turnbull is penciled in as the long man, and signing Snell would push Sánchez into the bullpen as well, as he cannot be sent to the minors. Sánchez is out of minor league options, meaning he has to pass through waivers to go to Triple-A, and there is zero chance the Phillies put him on waivers. Putting Sánchez in the bullpen isn't the end of the world, though it's not ideal.

The other possibility is trading Walker to not only free up a rotation spot, but also shed payroll. That could prove difficult. Walker has three years and $54 million remaining on his contract. If it was one year of Walker, sure, the Phillies would be able to find a taker. But three years at reasonably big dollars? That's a harder sell, especially with Snell and Montgomery still out there.

For competitive balance tax purposes, Philadelphia's payroll is approximately $260 million, per Cot's Baseball Contracts. A short-term deal for Snell will surely cost $30 million a year, likely more, and that would push the Phillies close to $300 million. Because this will be their third straight season paying CBT, the Phillies get hit with the highest tax rates. They are:

  • 50% on every dollar between $237 million and $257 million
  • 62% on every dollar between $257 million and $277 million
  • 95% on every dollar between $277 million and $297 million
  • 110% on every dollar above $297 million

Giving Snell $30 million would take payroll from $260 million to $290 million and incur an additional $22.89 million in CBT. All-in, you're talking $52.89 million for Snell, assuming no payroll is subtracted elsewhere. Furthermore, going over the $277 million threshold would move Philadelphia's 2025 first-round draft pick back 10 spots. There's a non-monetary penalty too.

Keep in mind that Wheeler, arguably the best pitcher in the National League, will be a free agent after this coming season and an extension is a top priority. Getting Snell on a straight one-year contract is unlikely. It would almost certainly be a two or three-year deal with opt outs, and tying up payroll space in 2025 and beyond could hinder the efforts to extend Wheeler. 

That all said, the Phillies are in it to win it. Their World Series window is as open as it's going to get with Wheeler, Nola, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and J.T. Realmuto still in their primes. If there was ever a time to splurge on a guy like Snell, now is it. Snell may seem like a luxury, but one or two injuries and he suddenly becomes very important.