Rob Biertempfel has an update at the Trib about how the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking for lefty relievers. Biertempfel says that the club is looking at free agent Craig Breslow, and that they’ve reportedly discussed sending Travis Snider to the Baltimore Orioles for Brian Matusz. Yesterday we heard that they were exploring trade options for a lefty reliever.
Breslow is coming off a horrible year with the Red Sox, posting a 5.96 ERA and a 5.14 xFIP. Prior to that, he was always a guy who would out-perform his advanced metrics, posting a career 3.20 ERA and a 4.39 xFIP. He looks like more of a middle relief option, and with the prices paid to free agents right now, he might not be the best option.
Matusz is interesting. He has a 3.51 ERA and a 3.83 xFIP over the last two seasons as a reliever, with a 9.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, and an 0.9 HR/9. He is eligible for arbitration this year, projected to make $2.7 M, and is under control through the 2016 season. By comparison, Snider is under control through the 2016 season, and is projected to make $2 M this year.
Snider represents a very interesting situation. He won’t be a starter for the Pirates, since they will be going with Gregory Polanco as their right fielder. He has struggled in the majors for most of his career, but turned things on last year in early June. Starting from the time Polanco arrived to replace Snider in the lineup, he posted a .289/.353/.510 line in 224 plate appearances, hitting ten homers in that span. His numbers were so insane in the second half that he ranked 3rd on the team in wOBA, and third in wRC+, finishing right ahead of Andrew McCutchen in both categories (while also beating him out in slugging and OPS).
That’s not in any way to say that Snider is a better hitter than McCutchen. You’d need a lot more than just a second half breakout for that to happen. But Snider’s hitting can’t be ignored. The Pirates have sent away former prospects like Jose Bautista and Brandon Moss, only to see them finally break out elsewhere at a late age. If they trade Snider away, and he does the same thing, then they can’t say that it couldn’t be foreseen, since he is already starting to hit.
That doesn’t mean he’s untouchable. He’s currently the fourth outfielder, and a great depth option if one of the outfielders goes down (which seems likely) or if Polanco continues to struggle making the jump to the majors. I would rather have that type of player, possibly on the verge of finally breaking out, than having a second lefty reliever.
UPDATE 1:35 PM: Reports from the Baltimore media say that there’s not much progress on the deal right now.
— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) December 10, 2014
— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) December 10, 2014