First Pitch: Why I Like the Travis Snider Trade

The Pirates acquired outfielder Travis Snider tonight for reliever Brad Lincoln. My immediate reaction was that I loved the move. Snider is a young outfielder who profiles as a left-handed power hitter. He’s been hitting well this year in Triple-A, and has been solid since his call up to the majors a few weeks ago. Lincoln has been dominant as a reliever this year, but the potential long term value of Snider is much higher than the long-term value of a dominant reliever.

I had a ton of discussions on Twitter tonight about the various aspects of this deal. Twitter isn’t the best avenue for that type of analysis, so I thought I would expand on those discussions here. One by one, let’s look at all of the sides of this trade.

How Does it Help the Pirates?

This is the most important part. I feel this trade helps the Pirates both in the short-term, and in the long-term. A lot of the complaints I saw were people who wanted an established bat. Someone like Shin-Soo Choo or Shane Victorino. We heard that the Phillies were asking for Lincoln in return for Victorino. If I had the choice between dealing Lincoln for Victorino or Snider, I’d take Snider every day of the week. I liked the idea of trading for Victorino, but I view him mostly as a change of scenery type. He’s got a .724 OPS this year. He’s not exactly a guarantee.

Choo would be a big addition for the Pirates, but the return would probably be huge. We’re talking Starling Marte and at least one other prospect, if not more. And that’s for one year and two months of Choo. That would help the Pirates in the short term, but could really hurt them beyond 2013.

Snider is a great risk to take. He’s hitting better this year, both in Triple-A, and in his brief time in the majors. The Triple-A time has to be taken with a grain of salt, as it’s in the PCL. But the major league success is encouraging. After tonight he’s hitting for a .250/.300/.556 line with three homers in 40 plate appearances. Most of his damage has come against left-handed pitching, which is the opposite of his career trends so far.

Snider does struggle with plate patience, but the power is real. That’s often a trade off when you’re talking about a power hitter. As a left-handed power hitter, he fits in well to PNC Park. He’s also a potential middle of the order hitter, which will be good to pair with Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez.

Years of Control

Snider is under team control through the 2016 season. He isn’t eligible for arbitration until after the 2013 season. The Pirates are adding a hitter for four years and two months. He will be very cheap for the first year and two months of the deal, allowing the Pirates to go out and get other help for the team.

Lincoln was under control for five years beyond the 2012 season, and would have likely been a Super Two player following the 2013 season. The Pirates essentially dealt a relief pitcher with five years of control (four arbitration years) for a power hitter with four years of control (three arbitration years).

Snider’s Age

It seems like Snider has been around forever. So you might be surprised by these age comparisons:

**Snider is one year younger than Pedro Alvarez, who is finally breaking out this year.

**Snider is eight months older than Starling Marte, who just arrived in the majors.

The purpose of pointing out his age is to keep things in perspective. A lot of guys like Snider get penalized for being a top prospect since coming in to the game. If they struggle, they immediately lose their hype. But in most cases, they’re still young enough to figure it out. Snider is one year younger than Pedro Alvarez, who is only getting things figured out this year. He’s eight months older than Starling Marte, who is just arriving in the majors. He doesn’t have prospect eligibility, but Snider is more or less still a “prospect”.

Roster Moves

There will be a need for two immediate roster moves. First, the Pirates will have to replace Lincoln in the bullpen. And to do that, they’ll need to make a decision on their bench.

The move I would make would be to bring up Bryan Morris to replace Lincoln. Morris is already on the 40-man roster, and can do a good job to replace Lincoln in the bullpen. When I’ve seen Morris this year he’s been throwing 95-96 MPH with his fastball, and has been pairing that with an upper 80s cutter for a strikeout pitch. The cutter is filthy, which is amazing since this is the first year Morris has used the pitch. He also throws a mid-80s curve.

You might point to Lincoln’s excellent numbers in the bullpen and say that’s hard to replace. But consider that even with the best reliever numbers in the game, and five starts to go with that, Lincoln was only a 0.7 WAR player this year. That pace over a full season is a little over a 1.0 WAR. That just shows you the value of relievers.

The Pirates will have to remove one of their bench players to create a spot for Lincoln’s replacement. I’ve seen a lot of people unfairly pointing to Drew Sutton, who would have to be designated for assignment. Sutton has value to the Pirates, but he’s been played out of position. He’s been starting in the corner outfield spots, when he should be no more than a bench option. He’s not the type of player that is irreplaceable, but I think a lot of the opinions on him have to do with how bad he was as a starter, rather than how he looks as a bench player.

The Pirates would be better off demoting Jordy Mercer and keeping him in Triple-A until rosters expand in September. They’d have Josh Harrison if they needed to give Clint Barmes a day off. The defense from Harrison isn’t ideal, but you might not need to give Barmes that much time off.

The big thing I like about this move is that it forces Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee back in to a platoon role. Both players have been getting regular playing time lately, although they profile better as platoon options. Jones has an .823 OPS against right handers, and a .680 OPS against left handers. McGehee has an .807 OPS against left handers, and a .619 OPS against right handers.

I got a lot of responses that Jones has been better, and McGehee has been awful. That tends to be the perception when platoon players play everyday. The left-handed hitter looks better, because he’s seeing right-handers a lot, which is his favorable matchup. The right-handed hitter looks poor, as he’s only going to see his favorable matchup a third of the time.

A few people asked me about the possibility of bringing up Jeff Clement for McGehee. I don’t see that happening, as it wouldn’t make any sense. Clement’s upside is the same as Jones, not McGehee. He wouldn’t be an option to platoon with Jones, since they both would fit the same role in the platoon.

This move will also move Alex Presley to the bench, which is a move I like. I’ve always seen Presley as a strong fourth outfielder, or a good starting outfielder for a weak offense.

The roster shuffling is minor. Whether they call up Morris, or demote Mercer or waive Sutton, the move will have a small impact. The big impact here will be strengthening the lineup with the Jones/McGehee platoon, and strengthening the bench by moving Alex Presley to the fourth outfield role.

What About Marte?

I don’t really see this deal having anything to do with Marte. A few theories were floating around that this move would allow the Pirates to move Marte. I just don’t see that happening. I think this deal makes it more likely that they keep Marte. They added another outfielder, and can go with a Marte/McCutchen/Snider outfield for at least four more years (assuming all parties work out as expected). The Pirates just don’t seem like they’d deal a top prospect like Marte. His future is too valuable to the team.

Conclusion

Overall I love the deal. Lincoln was a great bullpen arm, but if you’ve read anything I’ve written about relievers, you’d know that I feel relievers should be dealt. Relievers can be very inconsistent year to year. They also can’t provide the value that a power hitting outfielder can potentially provide.

Snider is still young enough that he shouldn’t be written off. He’s putting up good numbers this year in a small sample size. He’s got real power, and he’s a left-hander, which should be a great fit for PNC. He’s also cheap, which will make it easier for the Pirates to add more pieces.

Adding Snider to the outfield forces Jones and McGehee back in to a platoon at first base, which fits their games better and makes the lineup stronger. It also moves Alex Presley to the bench, which strengthens that area of the team. The Pirates could call up Bryan Morris and get a reliever who could potentially replace Lincoln’s production out of the bullpen.

There’s always the desire to add that “sure thing” name player. The appeal there is the numbers, but it’s also the comfort level. It’s easier to be comfortable putting Shane Victorino in a lineup, even when he’s having a down year. It’s harder putting Snider in a lineup, as you don’t know what you’ll get. But not knowing what you’ll get doesn’t equal poor production. And getting a name player who makes you comfortable doesn’t guarantee you any more success than you would have had.

The idea is often that adding someone like Victorino comes with pre-printed playoff tickets, and that the only way to contend is to make such a move. But that’s not true. The truth is that it’s just easier to talk about Victorino helping the team than it is Snider. The Pirates have the chance to contend with Snider. At the least, he will upgrade their corner outfield spot from guys like Josh Harrison or Drew Sutton, who shouldn’t have been starting. Best case scenario, Snider continues putting up the numbers we’ve seen this year in a small sample size. And in that case, the Pirates have Snider for four more years, rather than watching a “name” player leave via free agency following the 2012 season.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost 14-4 to the Cubs.

**Pirates Notebook: Bedard Is the Latest Starter to Struggle; Cruz Working His Way Back.

**Prospect Watch: Taillon and Heredia Pitch Well, Osuna and Garcia Homer.

**Defense Backs Up VandenHurk For Indians’ Win.

**Pirates Trade Brad Lincoln to Toronto for Travis Snider.

**Victor Black Dominating With an Upper 90s Fastball and Plus Slider.

**Bullpen Work Paying Off For Zack Dodson.

**Adalberto Santos and Phil Irwin Win Eastern League Player of the Week Awards.

**Pirates Don’t Seem Alive on Victorino.

**Prospect Trends — Short Season Progress Report.

**Minor League Schedule: 7/31/12.

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About Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He is a credentialed media member with every team in the Pirates’ system, including the Pirates themselves. He’s a regular guest on Extra Innings on 104.7, and makes regular appearances on ESPN 970, 93.7 The Fan, and TribLIVE Radio in Pittsburgh, as well as ESPN 1430 in Altoona and ESPN 1450 in State College.
  • http://twitter.com/BenjaminPGlaser Benjamin P. Glaser

    You think Toronto will use Lincoln as a reliever or do you think they’ll try him out as a Starter again?

    • http://www.facebook.com/hunter.justin Justin Hunter

      Simply because he’s not stretched out I’m guessing he’ll be used as a reliever the rest of this year. It’s an interesting question long term though but definitely an option.

  • Lee Young

    Tim…I LOVED Lincoln, but I agree with everything you said. Ask the Giants how getting Beltran last year worked out!

    Bring up Morris, pls. Send Mercer down, pls, for playing time.

    • http://www.facebook.com/hunter.justin Justin Hunter

      Agree on every point. You seem like a pretty smart guy… whoever you are. Hope to see Morris up today and Mercer getting the AB’s.

      • Lee Young

        Start KC….get rid of Bedard. Wandy stinks. Pedro’s a bust. Why are we trading for AJ.

        Other than those opinions, I ARE very smart. Of course, *I* think you are smart, too….lol

        Are you locked out of Plus also?

        • http://www.facebook.com/hunter.justin Justin Hunter

          Indeed I am. Can see everything just can’t do anything. I’m shocked they don’t have search parties out looking for us!

          Honestly though I like this setup. Will have to post here a little more often. I’m getting A LOT more work done too.

          • Lee Young

            Replied in wrong spot below…see…I ARE smart!

            Justin Hunter: I see CFJ asking about me…nobody asked about you, tho….lol

            I’ve been sending emails out with various links, etc to the guys who I converse with ‘offline’. Jersey is NOT one of them, lol

            Send me an email at leefoo@verizon.net if you want. I’ll make sure I put you in my Spam folder….lol

  • duckwoes

    I think they now need to hold on to Correia, despite his trade request. The second half struggles of JMac and last night’s stinker from Bedard are proof of the need for depth in the rotation. They really only have Jeff Locke at Indy, what with the trade of Owens and that crazy wildness of Justin Wilson. I guess there is Vanden Hurk but…….

    • http://www.facebook.com/kirk.vandergrift Kirk Lee

      Correia becomes more of an asset to the team, yes. But they don’t NEED to hold onto him. If they get a good return, then deal him. If not, we have 6 starters available.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kirk.vandergrift Kirk Lee

    I would rather see Harrison demoted than Mercer, but that fails to account for the fact that the Pirates refuse to ever PLAY Mercer, so yeah, if they intend to keep him perpetually on the bench, Mercer’s the odd man out. Snider’s “Major League Success” this year is about as trustworthy as his 35% K rate: both come over 40 PAs. But I too like this move. It should upgrade our team this season, since we weren’t going to try Lincoln as a starter again this year, and it has a good chance of being a long term upgrade too. Only way this comes back to hurt us at all is if Lincoln becomes a good major league starter going forward, or if Snider is an absolute bust. If both happen, then it’s a REALLY unfortunate trade, but I just don’t think that’s likely and it could certainly work out the opposite way, with Snider hitting 35 HRs a year and Lincoln settling in as a good not great reliever.

  • leadoff

    I think a lot of Lincoln, but to get something you have to give up something, Lincoln is much more replaceable in the Pirates system than a left handed power hitter. The Pirates are still a work in progress and by no means a mature team, the goal is to be competitive for years to come, the Pirates are doing it the right way, as they mature they will go deeper into seasons with winning baseball.
    IMO, the Cubs are very hot right now, I thought Bedard threw very well yesterday, good break on his pitches, zip on his fastball, he just could not miss without getting clobbered, hot teams do that to you. It will take a supreme effort by Burnett to stop the Cubs and possibly get us one out of these three.

  • piratemike

    Potential + $7 = 1coffee at Starbucks.
    I hope Snider is great if not we only lost a relief pitcher and we have somebody to cook for Clement at Indy.

  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

    I’d much rather have Shane Victorino than Snider. Chances to win don’t come around every day.

  • scrappy2499

    How’s his defense?

  • Marco Rincones

    I too had become quite pleased with Lincoln out of the pen. The trade is done and it might be a great one if Snider is an everyday producer but I wondered if Hanrahan had been dealt and Lincoln and/or Grilli had been moved to the closer role if we would have been able to get more in return and not had Hammer’s contract on the books if he stays thru 2013….??? Hanrahan has been dancing thru some of his own messes lately in the 9th. Should we be concerned?

    Also, Bedard has got to be shelved if he continues his brutal ways of late. Correira has reason to be upset if Bedard keeps getting the starting call and, yes I realize that Bedard out of the pen is almost impossible given his ailments.

  • http://twitter.com/pirateswfc Brian

    The Pirates are second in the league in home runs but last in OBP. As a team they’re striking out 3.4 times for every walk. I think there was a need for a top of the order hitter who can get on base, not for another poor OBP, poor plate discipline, unproven power bat. This move may help in 2013 and beyond but the concern with a deadline deal should be for this year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hunter.justin Justin Hunter

    In an ideal world the Pirates get a high OBP, great plate discipline type of player with multiple years of control without giving up a cornerstone piece. Well the ideal world usually doesn’t exist so they got a power hitter with multiple years of control without giving up a cornerstone.

    I would have liked to have improved a weakness but at the same time there is nothing wrong with improving a strength. I would have rather they got the best player possibly with the longest period of control over the ideal 2012 fit… he should help both long and short term.

  • john.alcorn

    A guy with a .750 range ops in MLB is an improvement right now over McGehee and Presley. This si a move for now and later, certainly a risky trade, but one with a lot of potential payoff.

  • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

    All of this is true, but they’re winning with those results. So why would they have trouble going forward by adding to that strength? Also, I like Marte in the leadoff spot.

  • ElGaupo77

    Jones for a big-time prospect and bring up Clement? That would be super ballsy but I’d love it.

  • Dave Parker’s Unfiltered Camel

    Probably my biggest issue with this trade is that I keep wanting to call him “Chris”. This trade is a function of the market. Just look at what teams want in return for rentals and you can understand why Huntington made this move. I like the fact that it moves Jones back to first in a platoon role where he’ll get 70% of the AB’s, and mcGehee in a situation where he can excel against left handlers. I also like the kind of player coming to Pittsburgh. He’s a hard worker and plays with intensity. We will enjoy watching him play. The outfield defense is dramatically improved. The only issue that I have with this deal is that it doesn’t help the leadoff situation.

    Couple of thoughts/questions:

    Did you think at the beginning of the year that the Bucs would be a power hitting club?

    What if Tabata had produced and what happens with him now?

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Walker get some AB’s in the #2 spot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hunter.justin Justin Hunter

    I do think one thing missing in this is how much the bench improves. Now you can send McGehee out vs. LHP or as a D replacement and Presley is in a 4th OF role that I think will suit him much better. Sutton/Harrison are fine in utility roles and Mercer probably heads back to Indy to get the AB’s.

  • Lee Young

    Justin….I was wondering if they’re gonna try to get a RH OFer to platoon with Snider (of course, he HAS hit LHs well this year so far unlike previous years).

    Woulda loved Reed Johnson.

    This DOES make the bench stronger, tho. I like Presley off the bench. He can also sub for Marte against some tough RHPs.

    Still hoping Dempster gets traded before tonight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hunter.justin Justin Hunter

    Johnson would have been a perfect fit. Unfortunately Sutton/Harrison are still the only RH corner OF options off the bench. Not a big fan of that but at least they provide some level of versatility. Saw tweet earlier they are still looking for bench help… my guess is that’s exactly what they want.

    Regarding Dempster… hopefully he’s giving hugs in the dugout before throwing a pitch.

  • Lee Young

    I see CFJ asking about me…nobody asked about you, tho….lol

    I’ve been sending emails out with various links, etc to the guys who I converse with ‘offline’. Jersey is NOT one of them, lol

    Send me an email at leefoo@verizon.net if you want. I’ll make sure I put you in my Spam folder….lol

  • TonyPenaforHOF

    This comment might not be popular, but I would have rather traded Hanrahan to the Jays for Travis d’Arnaud and Hechavarria. That takes care of SS and C, giving the Pirates 6 of 8 positions with good players. Make Lincoln the closer and bring up Morris.