Snell rumors bouncing off confident Schmidt

February 27th, 2024

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- It’s not uncommon for a player to become unsettled when rumors swirl around a team’s potential acquisition that could (would?) directly impact his job.

In such cases, managers typically reinforce the player’s importance to the team, encouraging him to control what he can control and block out the noise. He is, after all, only human.

Aaron Boone has felt no such urgency to have that conversation with , who would be the leading candidate to lose his rotation spot if the Yankees were to sign Blake Snell, a possibility that will continue to linger until the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner signs elsewhere.

“Clarke’s not human,” Boone said. “Clarke's the most confident person in the world. So much is speculation; he's getting ready to go dominate the league in his mind -- and rightfully so. He’s now established himself in my eyes as a starting pitcher in this league, and I'm ready for him to take another step, hopefully, in his continued development in that regard. I don't think it has any effect on him.”

Schmidt allowed one run on two hits over two innings, striking out a pair of Rays in the Yankees’ 4-2 loss at Charlotte Sports Park. The 28-year-old was pleased with the “encouraging” outing, citing his command, stuff and velocity, things he will need to continue to display as he looks to contribute to a team with championship aspirations.

“Seems like I can't avoid it,” Schmidt said of the Snell talk. “It’s just part of the business, but I'm just going to continue to go about my stuff every day and whatever happens, happens. I'm sure he’ll be signing somewhere soon.”

Although Schmidt knows the topic is bound to persist until that happens, he has had practice blocking out noise. It was less than a year ago that Schmidt had a 6.84 ERA at the end of April, a figure that stood at 6.30 through his May 14 start.

This is New York, so his slow start sparked plenty of conversation about whether the Yankees needed to go out and trade for pitching. Schmidt was unfazed, posting a 2.83 ERA in 11 outings (10 starts) from May 19 through July 15.

“It kind of all plays in hand with being on a big-market team like this; there’s always potential free agents, there's always fans, there's always outside factors that can definitely play a part if you let it,” Schmidt said. “There's just a point where if I was just to sit here and worry about like all these rumors -- are we signing this guy, are we signing that guy -- I would literally be anxiety-ridden every single day.”

Schmidt finished his first full season as a big league starter with a 9-9 record and 4.64 ERA, throwing a career-high 159 innings.

“I know that I'm in a really good spot right now,” Schmidt said. “After having that year under my belt last year, I feel like I'm ready for a whole other level to kind of kick in this year.”

Shortly after Boone’s revelation that Schmidt was not human, the manager called the pitcher “a dog,” noting his complete lack of fear on the mound. That poise has been noticeable since the two first met, back at a time when Schmidt might not have had the right to possess such confidence.

“He's not afraid of anything,” Boone said. “He loves the competition, he loves to be in it, and he keeps getting better and better as a starting pitcher. He’s getting ready to go.”

Schmidt admits that his confidence can be “blind” at times, particularly during stretches like last April.

“It’s kind of like a mask,” Schmidt said. “Sometimes you have to fool yourself. … Our minds are very powerful. You can almost trick yourself to be like, ‘OK, I can do whatever I want to do.’ I try to have that blind confidence where I just don't get affected by much.”

Schmidt understands why Yankees fans are clamoring for the team to sign Snell, citing his own fandom in other sports.

“I understand that when there's a free agent out there and that's obviously rumored, I would want that, too,” Schmidt said. “We could sit up here and talk about what's going to happen this year, but I’m just going to show people this year. The proof is in the pudding; I learned a lot from last year and I know what I'm capable of doing and how high my ceiling can get. I'm very excited to show the fans that, too."