Trying to make sense of the Travis Snider trade

People were upset when the Pirates sent Brad Lincoln to the Blue Jays for Travis Snider on July 31, 2012. People will be upset now, too, as the Pirates have traded Travis Snider to the Baltimore Orioles for minor league pitcher Stephen Tarpley and a player to be named later. That’s how it goes. This one, at least right now, doesn’t seem to make much sense, but let’s try to figure it out.

Snider, who turns 27 next Monday, finally tapped into some of his potential last year, especially in the second half. He stepped up when Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte got hurt, as well as when Gregory Polanco burned out down the stretch. Lunchbox hit .288/.356/.524 after the All-Star break, complementing a strong lineup and pushing the Pirates towards the postseason.

If anything, he seemed like a solid lock for the 2015 Bucco bench. But here’s what I got in terms of why this might make sense for the Pirates…

A dead-end role: With the 6/22/25 outfield set in stone, there’s nowhere for Snider to go. While his second half may or may not be a sign of things to come, he wasn’t going to start. This speaks to the faith they have in Polanco. Regardless, they might have someone to replace him…

Lambo Time: Perhaps Andrew Lambo will finally get a shot. Jose Tabata‘s lurking around too, but I don’t see the Pirates carrying an all-right-handed bench. Lambo has torn up the International League the past two seasons and is deserving of a look. Consider this:

2015 Steamer Projections
Snider: .253/.322/.412, 108 wRC+
Lambo: .249/.303/.429, 105 wRC+

And there’s an extra dimension to Lambo: first base. The Pedro Alvarez Experiment will be a work in progress, and it’s probably not a terrible idea to have another LHH 1B just in case. The Pirates seem to be maximizing versatility with guys like Josh Harrison, Sean Rodriguez, and Kang. Lambo (assuming he’s the guy) and Corey Hart (depending on his aging knees), while more limited, can play first or an outfield corner off the bench.

Financial aid: A $2 million salary dump sounds pathetic, but I always seem to see a financial side of these moves. Just the Pirates I grew up with. Lambo, of course, would make the league minimum if he breaks camp with the big club. And that extra $2 million can go to the arbitration funds or Tabata’s bank account or maybe something bigger…?

Organizational domino effect: If Lambo is going to get a chance, now is the time. Take a look over at Pirates Prospects’ organizational depth chart. Indianapolis is going to have a ton of outfield depth between Tabata, Jaff Decker, Mel Rojas, Gorkys Hernandez, Keon BroxtonWilly Garcia will be moving up, and Stetson Allie might also make the jump to play first. Elias Diaz will get most of the catching reps, so will Tony Sanchez get 1B time again? Don’t forget Josh Bell could advance to Indy by the end of next season. So there’s a logjam — finally promoting Lambo could alleviate some of that. If you have faith in the Steamer projections, it shouldn’t be much of a difference.

There are still questions, though. They had talks with the O’s about a Snider – Brian Matusz swap back at the Winter Meetings. Matusz could’ve helped in the ‘pen (they acquired Antonio Bastardo instead). Now the price drops to a low-A pitcher and a PTBNL. Did the Pirates really prefer this kind of package? We’ll have to wait and see on the PTBNL — perhaps it’s a ’14 draft pick, who can’t be dealt until June? Apparently it will be a player similar to Tarpley… Kiley McDaniel listed Tarpley as his #9 O’s prospect last week:

“9. Stephen Tarpley, LHP Video: Tarpley was a wildcard in the 2013 draft, with questions surrounding his consistency, maturity and makeup dating back to his transfer from USC after his freshman year that led him to Scottsdale JC, the Fighting Artichokes (!). He lasted until the 3rd round but, like Wright, started to find consistency in the 2nd half of 2014. At his best, Tarpley sits 92-95 and hits 97 mph late in games, with a low-80′s curveball that flashes plus (one scout called it a 70), solid average changeup and average slider. The command shows flashes of average, but all five elements can be average to below on his bad days. There are signs that Tarpley is turning it around mentally and off-the-field with his full-season debut coming in 2015 as the next test.”

Bottom line: this move won’t make the Pirates better in 2015. The O’s needed an outfielder, and Snider gets his chance to play every day. He showed some promise at the end of 2014 and most likely would have been a valuable bench piece this season. But the Pirates might be able to replace that internally while also adding to their minor league system. Best case, Lambo (or whoever gets the 4th OF nod) will match what Snider would have done — either way, probably won’t get a lot of playing time behind 6/22/25. And I don’t think anyone should lose any sleep over this deal.

Good luck to Snider in Baltimore. Two of his better Pirate moments in 2014:

travis-snider-strikes-out-joey-votto

snid0001

And his catch in New York a few years ago will go down as one of the best:

Three weeks until pitchers & catchers report…

Go Bucs

Series Preview: Pirates vs Orioles

Pirates vs Orioles

Pittsburgh Pirates (18-25)

vs.

Baltimore Orioles (22-20)

Tuesday, May 20th – 7:05 pm
Wednesday, May 21st – 7:05 pm

PNC Park – Pittsburgh, PA

BUY TICKETS

Follow us on Twitter @ForbesToFederal.

The Pirates are back in town for a six-game homestand. First up: a two-game set with the 22-20 Baltimore Orioles, who return to Pittsburgh for the first time in three years. These two clubs met at Camden Yards for a two-game series – which turned into a doubleheader – a few weeks back (the O’s took both games). At 18-25, the Bucs don’t have time to keep messing around…

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Probable Pitchers

Tuesday – Francisco Liriano vs. Miguel Gonzalez

Wednesday – Wandy Rodriguez vs. Chris Tillman

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News, Notes, Storylines

– There will be a 1979 World Series celebration (35th anniversary) on the field before Wednesday’s game. Scheduled to appearMatt Alexander, Tony Bartirome (trainer), Mike Easler, Tim Foli, Phil Garner, Grant Jackson, Bruce Kison, Lee Lacy, Bill Madlock, Al Monchak (coach), Omar Moreno, Steve Nicosia, Ed Ott, Dave Parker, Don Robinson, Jim Rooker, Manny Sanguillen, Bob Skinner (coach), Rennie Stennett and Kent Tekulve. 

– Both Jose Tabata and Starling Marte left Sunday’s Game 2 with hamstring problems, but sounds like they should be okay for this series.

Gregory Polanco is still causing noise on the internet:

Only a few more weeks.

– The Orioles recently DFA’d former Bucco reliever Evan Meek.

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Opponent Blogs

Camden Chat | Camden Depot

What they’re saying:

[quote_simple]”It’s been an up-and-down May for Orioles fans, but as much as it’s been frustrating of late, they’re still 10-8 on the month. The last time the O’s played the Pirates, the Birds swept a doubleheader. The pitching matchups, though, make a series split look more likely.” – CC Preview[/quote_simple]

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Player to Watch

Wandy Rodriguez. Everyone was seemingly worried for his first start off the DL last Thursday in Milwaukee – but it turned out okay. He limited the Brewers to two runs over five innings, posted a game score of 54 (tying his season high), and finally had a little bit extra velocity on his fastball. Hopefully it wasn’t just a tease, but I’m not convinced that Wandy will remain both healthy and effective. He gets the ball on Wednesday night.

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Prediction Time

Series split.

Go Bucs

Pirates-Orioles Double Header Recap

The Pirates and Orioles played a double header on Thursday and it was very depressing.

Charlie Morton fell victim to a rain delay in the 4th inning, and wasn’t the same pitcher when he returned to the mound.  The Orioles took game one, 5-1.

The Bucs worked Chris Tillman very hard in the 1st inning, making him throw 40+ pitches.  They managed only two runs, but that was no small feat considering how horrible the offense has been.  They built up a 4-0 lead after Gaby Sanchez tripled home a run and Ike Davis knock one in with a single.

That 4-0 lead was erased in the 6th when the O’s started to knock Brandon Cumpton around.  The Bucs reclaimed the lead the next inning, Nick Markakis tied it back up with a solo home run.  The game remained tied until the bottom of the 10th, when Matt Wieters sent everyone home with a walkoff home run.

Weird week, followed by two very depressing games.  Long homestand coming up to turn it around.

Go Bucs

Series Preview: Pirates @ Orioles

Pirates vs Orioles

Pittsburgh Pirates (10-16)

@

Baltimore Orioles (12-12)

Tuesday, April 29th – 7:05 pm
Wednesday, April 30th – 7:05 pm
Thursday, May 1st – Doubleheader

UPDATE: Tuesday’s game has been postponed due to rain. They’ll make it up Thursday night at 7:05. Pitching matchups pushed back a day.
UPDATE II: Welp, Wednesday’s game has been also been postponed. Doubleheader on Thursday starting at 4:00 pm.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards – Baltimore, MD

BUY TICKETS

Follow us on Twitter @ForbesToFederal.

After a much needed off-day, the Pirates pick up in Baltimore with a two-game interleague tilt with the Orioles. It’s finally their first series outside the NL Central, but the road’s not looking any easier from here on out. Hopefully the Bucs can pick up some confidence before coming home for a nine-game homestand…

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Probable Pitchers

Tuesday – Charlie Morton (0-3, 4.35) vs. Chris Tillman (3-1, 3.38)

Wednesday – Brandon Cumpton (0-1, 2.57) vs. Bud Norris (1-2, 4.44)

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News, Notes, Storylines

– The weather is apparently pretty crappy in Baltimore, so let’s see if/when they can get these games in…

– The Bucs have their sinkerballers on the bump the next two days in Morton and Cumpton. Can Ground Chuck get more grounders and avoid the big inning? Can Cumpton keep up his small sample of big league success?

– American League ballpark = designated hitter, so there’s that. Gaby Sanchez is penciled in to DH Tuesday night (and will probably get the nod Wednesday too).

– The O’s plan on activating Manny Machado from the disabled list before Tuesday’s game. The 21-year-old third baseman hit .283 with a .746 OPS in his first full big league season before a knee injury that required surgery. You’ll remember that the Pirates passed on him to select Jameson Taillon in the 2010 draft.

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Opponent Blogs

Camden Chat | Camden Depot

What they’re saying:

[quote_simple]”A two-game series? Against a National League team? With off-days bracketing it? This is already weird.” – Camden Chat[/quote_simple]

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Player to Watch

Starling Marte. I wrote about his struggles the other day, in particular his strikeout/plate discipline/etc. issue. Marte, who is still leading all MLB batters with 37 strikeouts, hasn’t collected a hit since last Wednesday. You could say that’s a problem. For his efforts (or lack thereof), Starling has been dropped down to the seven spot of the Pirates’ batting order for Tuesday night’s ballgame. Only six times has he started a game outside of the leadoff spot, hitting out of the two-hole on all six occasions. Who knows how much time he’ll spend at the bottom of the lineup, but he might as well make himself at home down there if he doesn’t figure things out quickly.

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Prediction Time

They’ve lost each of their last five series. The hitting’s inconsistent (lowest batting average on balls in play in the NL). The pitching’s inconsistent (lowest pitching staff WAR in MLB). I have a hard time believing they’re this bad. Pirates will win both games! (maybe. hopefully. please.)

Go Bucs

POLL: Which team will sign AJ Burnett?

On Tuesday afternoon, Travis Sawchik reported that veteran RHP A.J. Burnett will pitch in 2014. After mulling retirement for quite some time, Burnett’s ready to pitch in his age-37 season.

The Pirates are “still very much engaged” in talks with him, but will he return to the ‘Burgh? The Orioles and Phillies make sense for Burnett as well.

aj burnett orioles phillies

So where will he end up? Let us know what you think.

Good luck to A.J.

Go Bucs