In the past 24 hours the Pittsburgh Pirates have added three big league players and a minor league pitcher to their club. On a busy trade deadline day, the Pirates continued with their plan since General Manager Neal Huntington took over 2007 — to improve the Major League team without sacrificing the future.
The Pirates enter game action on Tuesday in second place in the National League Central Division, just three games back of the Cincinnati Reds. They also are tied with Atlanta for the top Wild Card spot. While the Reds added just a bullpen arm by the deadline, the Buccos made several trades improving their pitching, lineup and bench.
Snider, 24, was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for right-hander Brad Lincoln. The former first round pick back in 2006 appeared in 10 games in the Major Leagues this season where he hit .250/.300/.556. Snider hit for a .327 clip with Triple-A this season before getting the promotion to Toronto.
After making his big league debut in 2008, Snider has spent parts of five seasons in the Majors where he’s hit for a .248/.306/.429 line.
“Snider’s [a] guy that’s a year older than Starling Marte,” General Manager Neal Huntington said. “He’s still a young player. Got to the big leagues at a very young age. We feel like a change of scenery will help him in our minds. A good addition offensively to our club will help us score more runs.”
The outfielder will be the Bucs primary right fielder, Huntington said, which will cut into Alex Presley’s playing time.
“Travis is going to get the primary workload,” Huntington said. “Very few players, except maybe Andrew McCutchen, can play everyday. But we brought Travis in. We’re going to give him a good long look in right field. Alex can shift into a role where he’s got value off the bench, value spelling Starling in left, spelling Andrew in center and giving Travis a break here in right field.”
At just 24 years-old and less than 300 games in the Majors under his belt, Snider has flashed some power. He’s hit 31 homers in his professional career with Toronto, including a 14 homer season in 2010. The Pirates will have control over Snider until the 2016 season, and they believe that he is ready to emerge as an everyday big league player. In parts of five seasons with Toronto, Snider never played more than 83 games with the Blue Jays.
“We like Travis as a hitter, and we obviously like the power,” Huntington said. “The athlete, he’s a blue collar player, he shows up everyday to play. We think that we can help him take that next step to transform from a young Triple-A player with a lot of success, to a young big leaguer that’s gone through some struggles. We’ve got some guys that we feel can help him. We feel that he’s ready to take that next step. We’re getting a very mature young man that understands why he’s struggled in the past and how he’s ready to move beyond that.”
Snider joined the club today and made his debut for Pittsburgh in right field, batting second. He went 1-for-4 with a walk.
Sanchez, 29, was acquired from the Miami Marlins for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez as well as a competitive draft pick in the 2013 draft. Sanchez hit just .202 over 12 games with the Marlins before getting demoted to Triple-A, where he’s been able to get back on track. The first baseman has hit .302/.341/.491 line in the Minors this season.
“Gaby played in an All-Star game a year ago,” Huntington said. “He’s had two very solid years. A little bit of a struggle to start this year, we’re looking for a good change of scenery to help him.”
“Our scouts have seen that bat speed and the impact that we saw a year ago. Guys go through tough stretches. He got off to a tough start this year in a new ballpark, new manager. We saw him start to use the middle of the field again with authority in our most recent scout looks. And obviously, if you look at his numbers, and I know Triple-A numbers are Triple-A numbers, but he’s showing that he’s performing well and we see the elements behind it to justify the performance.”
Sanchez will split time at first base with Garrett Jones, as well as serve off the bench as a right-handed bat. Although he’s in a down year, Sanchez hit 19 long balls in each of his two seasons prior.
“Garrett Jones will become our primarily first baseman,'” Huntington said. “He’ll split with Gaby Sanchez. It may not be a true platoon, as both are capable of playing on a regular basis. Whoever is not in the lineup will be a good bat off the bench for us. We feel like we’ve strengthened our lineup, and we feel like we’ve strengthened our bench.”
Sanchez is expected to fly into Chicago tomorrow morning, where he will join the club on the road at Wrigley Field.
Qualls, 32, was acquired from the New York Yankees for infielder Casey McGehee. The first baseman became expendable after the club acquired Sanchez.
Qualls has posted a 4.89 ERA over 38.2 innings with the Yankees this season. The right-hander had a solid first month of the season, but has struggled to get back on track since. Huntington said he believes a recent adjustment will help as well as working with pitching coach Ray Searage.
“Reliever ERA is one of the worst statistics to evaluate any player on,” Huntington said. “We like the ability to get ground balls. We like the stuff. Chad [said] earlier today that he found a mechanical fix, which is going to allow him to get the ball down in the zone on a more consistent basis.”
“Ray Searage is going to jump in full tilt and help him get better. One bad outing, or two bad outings can skew a relievers ERA for the season. We still see quality stuff. We still see quality sink. We still feel like he’s going to help our bullpen.”
Qualls has experience as a closer and in the late innings. He is expected to fill the role of Brad Lincoln in relief, towards the back end of the ‘pen. The right-hander is expected to report to the Pirates either on Wednesday or Friday in Cincinnati. Until then, reliever Daniel McCutchen was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis.
“Our guys still see quality stuff from him. We feel like he’s going to be able to help us down the stretch here,” Huntington said. “Maybe not this year, but he’s had runs that Brad Lincoln was on, as good as Linc was. Between Jared Hughes and Tony Watson, and the other guys in that bullpen in front of Joel [Hanrahan] and Jason [Grilli], we feel like we can get the baseball to them in a positive fashion to continue to hold the lead.”
Burnett Continues Magical Season with Pittsburgh
A.J. Burnett has been a huge asset to the Pirates both on and off the field. But what he did on Tuesday in Chicago was special.
The right-hander took the mound in the eighth inning looking to pitch his second career no-hitter. Burnett had allowed just two base runners over his first eight frames — both on walks — to the Chicago Cubs while racking up six strikeouts.
After retiring his first batter, Burnett lost control of his curve as it roped in and hit Darwin Barney in the helmet. After the Cubs second baseman was replaced by a pinch-runner, Burnett collected himself on the mound. Burnett whiffed his next batter, before the Cubs Manager called upon Adrian Cardenas, who was recalled from Triple-A today.
Burnett got ahead, 0-2 in the count and was painting the corners trying to get the rookie to chase. After Cardenas worked the count full, he laced a single into right field to break up the no-hitter.
The right-hander received a standing ovation from the fans at Wrigley Field and he went on to strikeout David DeJesus swinging to end the eighth. Burnett took the mound at 99 pitches in the ninth and retired his next three straight to notch the one-hit complete game shutout.
The last one hitter tossed by a Bucco was by Todd Ritchie on July 13, 2001 against Kansas City. It marked Burnett’s 10th career complete game and his first since June 26, 2006 against Washington.