Blake Snell

How Snell, Giants became right fit leading up to 2024 season

NBC Universal, Inc.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Over the winter, the Giants took down several sections of seats at Scottsdale Stadium and built a new party deck down the right field line. It was meant to become a go-to spot during Cactus League games, but it ended up getting plenty of action in the mornings, too. 

On Wednesday, for the third time since camp opened, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi met with the media to introduce a marquee addition to the roster. After introducing Jorge Soler on that deck, Zaidi said he anticipated the offseason work being done. When Matt Chapman came aboard and held his own press conference, Zaidi hopped on a Zoom call and again said he felt the offseason was over.

Both times, Zaidi genuinely believed that might be the case. There were too many stops and starts in negotiations with the top free agents to be confident, and while the Giants did discuss long-term contracts with both Chapman and Blake Snell, this still is a front office that prefers flexibility over nine-figure deals. 

Ultimately, both Chapman and Snell ended up taking contracts that surprised the industry and will give them the opportunity to potentially opt out in seven months. That was fine with the Giants, who desperately needed a defensive boost and more starting pitching. On Wednesday, it was all smiles as they introduced Snell. 

With Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray rehabbing, and Tristan Beck hurt, it was clear why the Giants chased Snell. On Wednesday morning, the reigning Cy Young Award winner stood on that deck and explained why the Giants were the right fit, too.

"Just comfort," he told NBC Sports Bay Area during an interview for Thursday's Giants Talk podcast. "I knew a lot of the players. Alex Cobb was a veteran player with Tampa when I was there and he helped grow me and build me into the player I am now. That had some impact. Bob (Melvin) obviously had an impact. The staff, I love the staff, and then when you look at the roster of the team and guys that are on the team, they've built a really good team and it made me want to come here. 

"Now I'm excited to see the fan base and how into it they are, because we've got a team that can actually do something special."

Snell will be the final piece, and potentially the most important. He gives the Giants not just a boost for the regular-season rotation, but potentially the league's best one-two punch if the Giants are playing into October. Logan Webb is set to start Opening Day against Snell's former teammates in San Diego, and while Snell will be a bit behind, he doesn't anticipate it being long. 

As he negotiated with the Giants, Snell did some digging on the schedule. He's well aware that the Giants face the Padres twice over the first three series and that they visit Tampa Bay, where he won a Cy Young in 2018, in April. The real standout, though, was a trip to Seattle in August.

Snell is a Seattle native who is ingrained in the community there and coaches youth baseball. He said the last month was filled with baseball workouts in the morning and then "coaching kids and playing vids" at night. That was a daily routine as he waited for the market to solidify.

The Giants always knew Snell was comfortable on the West Coast, but at times they feared that might lead him to sign a long-term deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Snell had other opportunities for more guaranteed money, but is betting on himself after a month of speculation that perhaps wasn't as anxious as outsiders might have thought. 

The 31-year-old said he was peppering agent Scott Boras with questions early on, but eventually settled into a good rhythm, going back and forth between his Seattle home and Boras Corp. headquarters in Orange County to keep in shape. Boras kept the pressure on Zaidi, who already had signed two other clients -- Jung Hoo Lee and Chapman -- and has plenty of experience with the man who also represents Bryce Harper and Carlos Correa, among others. 

"I told Farhan this is kind of like hockey: Unless you have a hat trick, you're really not doing your job," Boras said. "You talk about success points for players and what they do and how they do it, and Bob has actually cost me a lot of money this offseason. I have players that really, really like playing for Bob. They were successful with him, their management style is something that creates comfortability. There's history, there's experience. 

"The other aspect I always look at is that Blake has pitched in San Francisco and the National League West and he's had great success. In these dimensions, where you have market ebbs and flows, players have to make decisions. Blake could have had a contract of longer term and greater guarantee and he chose a contract with optionality and higher (average annual values) because he wanted to be in a place that is more comfortable for him to pitch and will allow him to be successful and work with people that he's very familiar with how the clubhouse has run and what goes on inside."

Zaidi and Boras exchanged zingers during the press conference, but behind closed doors, they found common ground often in recent weeks. Zaidi said he feels the deal -- $62 million with an opt-out after the first year -- is a "win-win scenario." There were times when he thought the offseason spending was done, but he always kept the door open a crack, and ownership was willing to back the late pursuits. 

"Matt and Blake are both great players who I think every team would be really excited to have," Zaidi said. "We just had to stay in conversation to make sure that eventually there was a deal that was workable for the club that gave the players what they were looking for. Even in this case, Blake has got a couple of opportunities to go back into free agency as we've talked about with Matt. 

"We're a team that likes to retain guys and have them here long-term, but he's going to have that flexibility and I think that was an important part of this deal for them."

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