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Cy winner Snell, Rays finalize 5-year deal

@juanctoribio
March 21, 2019

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays agreed to a five-year, $50 million deal with reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, the club announced Thursday. The deal extends through the 2023 season and the left-hander could make an additional $2 million in incentives. “Since being drafted in 2011,

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Rays agreed to a five-year, $50 million deal with reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, the club announced Thursday. The deal extends through the 2023 season and the left-hander could make an additional $2 million in incentives.

“Since being drafted in 2011, Blake’s talent and hard work have enabled him to establish himself as one of the most dominant pitchers in the game,” said Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg. “We’re looking forward to seeing him take the mound for the Rays for years to come.”

Snell, 26, would have been eligible for arbitration next offseason if the two sides did not come to an agreement. With the new deal, Tampa Bay now has him under control through all three years of his arbitration and his first year of free agency. Snell’s new deal is the largest contract in Major League history given to a player before reaching arbitration.

“I’m happy to be here. I don’t want to go anywhere,” Snell said. “I think with the deal I made with them, it’s going to keep me here longer than I would’ve [been] if I didn’t. And that makes me really happy, because I’m comfortable here. I like the team we’re building. This is a great team.”

Snell said he was surprised when the Rays approached him over the past couple of days with negotiations. Both sides have remained in constant communication over the past couple of years, but Snell was pretty clear about what he wanted out of the deal. Snell said he was “dead red” in going through the arbitration process until Tampa Bay met all of his requirements.

“They were listening, and they actually met me where I wanted to be,” Snell said. “I said, 'This is the only thing that’s comfortable for me to do.' And I told them I love being here, this is where I want to be. I get one year into my free agency, which I’m happy about, and I’ll be out after my 30-year-old season, I’m happy about that.”

The negotiation between Snell and the Rays was a unique one because it’s unusual for a player to win the Cy Young Award this early in his career. The deal, however, makes sense for both sides as Tampa Bay gains an extra year of control while Snell gains relief and secures guaranteed money over the next five seasons.

“He was a driver of us winning 90 games in 2018, and he’s one of the leading reasons for the optimism that surrounds our club,” said Rays general manager Erik Neander. “To say it’s well deserved would be an understatement.”

Snell was the second player the Rays signed to a contract extension in as many days. Infielder/outfielder Brandon Lowe completed a six-year, $24 million deal Wednesday. Signing Snell and Lowe are the first steps into keeping the current young core with Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future.

“They want to win,” Snell said. “They understand our youth is really good, and they want to lock it down, and they’re showing they care. They want to win, and they want to win now. I know it means a lot to me. It means a lot to this team, and we’re going to keep getting better, and I’m excited about it.”

En route to winning his first Cy Young Award, Snell finished with a league-leading 21 wins and 1.89 ERA. Since the advent of the designated hitter in 1973, Snell was only the third AL pitcher to record at least 20 wins and have a sub-2.00 ERA, joining Ron Guidry in '78 and Roger Clemens in ‘90.

“Just like what it said about us signing Brandon Lowe earlier, it shows that the organization is committed to this core,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “From Blake’s contributions last year, we know that he is a huge piece that now we have with us for quite some time.”

Now that contract negotiations are behind him, Snell says his focus is on continuing to improve as a teammate and as a player. He’s scheduled to make his first Opening Day start on March 28 against the Astros and will yet be a big part of whether the Rays are successful in 2019.

“They understand what I can bring to this team, and I think that was cool,” Snell said. “It’s something that’s amazing that I get to be on this team, with these guys that are so talented, and we’re going to have a lot of chances to really push for the playoffs and World Series for years to come, so I’m happy. I’m in the best division in baseball. I get to compete against the best, and I get to challenge myself. It’s amazing.”

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.