Despite being linked with bigger names such as Shane Victorino and Justin Upton, Pirates GM Neal Huntington made his move to fortify the team’s outfield last night when he traded for Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider in exchange for reliever Brad Lincoln. Snider made his MLB debut four years ago and has since managed the rather meagre batting line of .247/.305/.429 but there are reasons to be hopeful about this pick up for a Pirates squad making a push for their first playoff appearance since 1992.
Although his MLB performances have been disappointing for such a highly regarded prospect, Snider is still just 24 years old – an age where many prospects are only just experiencing their first full year of big league baseball. Once Snider had torn through the minor leagues as a teenager it was easy to see why Toronto would believe the 20 year old outfield was ready for the big time, a notion Snider’s immediate performance (114 OPS+) did little to dispel. In hindsight it is easy to say he might have been rushed but it appears to be what happened after that brought us to this point.
After his positive first impression, Snider began to struggle and spent the next 3 years yo-yoing between Toronto and Triple-A Las Vegas. A 24 year old hitter who has never come close to 200 consecutive plate appearances in the big leagues before another demotion has missed out on some pretty significant development time. Snider has been seen as a source of frustration for the Blue Jays, and the team may well have concerns we are unaware of, but while he was a prospect the consensus was he had the ability to one day hit in the middle of a big league line-up. Even if that opportunity has now passed, at 24 it is far too early to give up on what could be a nicely above average MLB hitter.
Pirates fans may feel it is a shame to have to lose Brad Lincoln in this deal but it appears to be a price worth paying. Like Snider, Lincoln was selected in the first round of the 2006 draft but he took a little time to turn into a big league contributer. Now he has been moved to the bullpen he has proven himself to be a useful reliever and should help out a Blue Jays roster who are losing pitchers at an alarming rate. Despite Lincoln’s newly found success, the chance to get a hitter of Snider’s pedigree under team control until 2016 was understandably too good an opportunity for the Pirates to pass up. We may look back in a few years and see Snider as another Brandon Wood, but right now it looks to be a well calculated gamble from Neal Huntington.