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…?
Unprompted mention of "payroll flexibility" by #Pirates GM makes me think perhaps something more is brewing …
— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) January 28, 2015
– 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 Broxton… Willy 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:
And his catch in New York a few years ago will go down as one of the best:
Three weeks until pitchers & catchers report…