The Travis Snider trade was a very controversial move. The Pirates took a gamble by dealing Snider, coming off a big season where he finished strong in the second half. They got two left-handed pitchers in A-ball, who have the chance to reach the majors one day. Meanwhile, they switched over to their other outfield options, with the belief that one of them could replicate what Snider could do, all while helping to restock the farm system in the process.

This isn’t a bad gamble to take. It’s a gamble every small market team needs to take. You get a viable replacement in the majors, you trade the more expensive option away to help reload the system, and you don’t see a drop off in production. For the Pirates, all of that has worked, with the exception of the last part.

Andrew Lambo was the first person to take over for Snider, and Lambo struggled to the tune of a 1-for-25 performance. I don’t know how much of that was due to his injury. He did have a good hard hit rate, which rated around league average, so it seems he should have been performing better in his small sample size. But from his very limited results, he hasn’t worked out.

Snider started the season on fire with Baltimore, getting time as a starter, and instantly the move looked like it backfired on the Pirates. Because of that hot start, combined with the Pirates’ struggling offense, the case has been made that the Pirates made a huge mistake by trading Snider. In fact, a few quick Twitter searches show that people make this complaint after every loss, as if Snider was the difference between winning and losing.

What you don’t hear is that Snider is now down to a .700 OPS after his hot start. He went 7-for-18 with a homer to start the season, posting an 1.133 OPS. That was apparently enough to grant him a free pass to be the assumed savior of the Pirates, regardless of what he did after those 18 at-bats. And what has he done since? Just a .561 OPS in 61 at-bats. That includes a .266 OBP.

By comparison, Corey Hart has a .546 OPS on the season, and very few Pirates fans are liking that signing right now. Chris Stewart has a .576 OPS on the season, with his season starting after Snider’s hot streak ended. He has actually been a slightly better hitter than Snider over the last month, and no Pirates fan wants Stewart as a big bat off the bench.

This isn’t new for Snider. He was a streaky hitter for the Pirates, which is part of what made a lot of Pirates fans dislike him up until the moment he was traded. He did have a strong second half last year, and that was part of why I felt the Pirates were taking a risk in trading him. If he finally found a way to be consistent, then the Pirates were dealing a former top prospect who had finally broken out, and who could be a starter for them if one of their starters went down with an injury or struggled.

As it turns out, Snider has instead reverted to that bench outfield role. He’s looking like a decent hitter who can go on a few hot stretches, but won’t be consistent enough to be a starter. Basically, he’s the left-handed version of Jose Tabata, who has a career .715 OPS to Snider’s .716 OPS. And Tabata now finds himself in Snider’s old role.

So here is my request: please stop complaining about the Travis Snider trade. There are many problems with this team, and that trade isn’t one of them, and it couldn’t have prevented any of the current problems. At best, it could have taken horrible results from Lambo and made them decent results for a week in a very limited pinch-hitting role, followed by bad results over the next month.

There are problems with this team. Their star player has a .715 OPS on the season, although that is hopefully turning around for Andrew McCutchen, who had a 1.078 OPS in his last 11 games heading into tonight’s game. Josh Harrison, the big breakout performer from last year, is putting up some of the worst offensive numbers of his career, although he’s another guy who is coming around. Jordy Mercer has struggled, although he might be in the process of losing his job to Jung-ho Kang.

Then there are the frustrating trends, like the fact that some pitchers never get run support, except on nights when they are off their game. We saw that with Francisco Liriano tonight, who gave up seven runs in the first two innings, only to see the Pirates lose 8-5. A similar thing happened two starts ago, when he gave up six runs, five earned, against St. Louis. The Pirates lost that one 7-5. Liriano also had a start this year where he gave up one run in six innings, and the Pirates lost 1-0. He gave up three runs in seven innings in his last start, only to see the Pirates lose 3-2. And it has been like this for a few pitchers, not just Liriano.

Some of these problems are due to poor luck, which is the only way you can describe the Liriano run support issue. Some of the problems are due to bad starts by key members of the offense, although fortunately it looks like those are being resolved. None of the problems are due to the Travis Snider trade. If he was currently on the team, and currently performing the way he has been performing in Baltimore over the last month, then the complaint right now would most likely be that the Pirates didn’t trade him when they could have received something of value for him.

And yes, I now fully expect Travis Snider to hit for the cycle tomorrow.

**Tomorrow on the site we have an article from Sean McCool on Keon Broxton. Nate Barnes takes a look at Jose Tabata. I’ll have a feature on a few players in the lower levels who are blocked by Josh Bell at first base, combined with the loaded Altoona roster. Plus we’ll have any news that comes out throughout the day, as usual.

**Prospect Watch: Meadows and Osuna Homer, Morton Has Solid Rehab Start. I think this might have been the first Prospect Watch where we didn’t have a live report from one of our writers. Although speaking of live reports…

**Injury Updates: Decker, Tarpley, Ramirez, Taillon, Garcia, Luplow, Eppler, Freeman. I spent the entire day at Pirate City, tracking down as many injury updates as I could, while also taking in a few innings of the extended Spring Training game against the Blue Jays. Extended Spring Training wraps up the second week of June, which means that all of the rehabbing guys will be joining their teams by then. Some of them will be back sooner, rather than later.

**Pirates Call Up Jose Tabata, Transfer Justin Sellers to the 60-day DL. Tabata was on fire in the month of May, hitting for a .455/.520/.500 line in 44 at-bats in Triple-A. He came up with a big hit in his only at-bat tonight.

**Another Jim Benedict Project Could Give a Boost to the Pirates Bullpen. Ryan Palencer writes about Blake Wood, who has fixed his control problems in the early part of the season after working with Jim Benedict.

**Pirates Option Wilfredo Boscan to Indianapolis. The corresponding move for Tabata.

**Morning Report: The Early Season All-Stars. John Dreker looks at the top performers in the minors so far this season.

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36 COMMENTS

  1. I called it Bucs fans bromance with Snider—-The kid has no arm, takes terrible angles on the ball, NO SPEED, his only real tool is the bat (which is extremely streaky) He’s a 1 tool player and Huntington traded him while the value was high….GREAT MOVE NEAL

  2. Lambo’s career is looking like Steve Pearce’s in Pittsburgh. Plenty of limited chances and injuries have slowed him down though as a AAAA player, though not as productive as Pearce. Lambo probably un-played himself off of the roster by mid-summer.

  3. Tim,

    Good article but you emphasis OPS like it is the defining stat of a players career. Yes it is a great measure of certain aspects of a player but what is never mentioned about Snider is that he could hit lefties just as well as righties.

    This is what made him VERY valuable to the Pirates. No he is not a franchise player or big time game changer, but he was very important to the overall makeup of this roster. Now we have to see Corey Hart and Sean Rodriguez against Lefty starters. Very big downgrade to the lineup. Rodriguez has played decent but he’s a below average player for his entire career.

    Snider is .270 lifetime against left handed starters. He’s an above average pinch hitter and great utility guy who could spot start against anyone.

    Snider isn’t the reason they are playing bad, but the trade reverts us back to the “we’ll win later” attitude because they gave up a proven player to get prospects.

  4. who cares about Snider at this point. He is gone and yes forgotten. Seems like Russell Martin was a big piece of the winning puzzle and he is not here. Cervelli and Stewart are not making up for his loss. What is up with Polanco? Is he going to have to go back to the minors again? All the hype and no results. Will they stick with him or replace him if Tabby hits? So far its been a very disappointing season.

  5. Hurdle is a cooking cutter manager. What works for 1 hitter should work for every hitter. The approach of shortening your swing & using the whole field, 2 strike approach, analytical this pitch in this location has to be hit to this part of the field worked great for Martin, Cutch & Harrison . It hasn’t worked on Pedro, Marte or Polanco. There thinking to much & not letting there natural see ball hit ball ability that they were blessed with. Hurdle has his guys he sticks with & never says nothing negative about to the press & some he has no problem finding the bus tires. It’s over time that Hurdle finds the hot seat. This team is playing uninspired baseball. Managers are responsible for the attitude of his team. He is failing in this department with flying colors.

  6. Why is RF our gate to purgatory? No matter what is done it ends up on fire. Only way to solve it is do what needed to be done long long ago. Cutch to right, Marte to center and Polanco to left. It looks like Hurdle stirring the pot and can’t think of one negative to it. Sir Mixalot is happy and the fans can sit and chill to watch it play out. Winner winner winner

  7. Considering Brault has a 4.00 ERA in High A and Tarpley hasn’t pitched yet, this assessment may be a bit premature. And, I wasn’t against trading Snider – I just thought we should have received more for him.

    • Because you expected actual Major League teams to believe enough in two good months of baseball after 1500 PA of relative failure to part with a premium prospect?

      Nobody that ever says they should have received more ever offers up an actual suggestion of what they should have received.

    • Brault has shown some good stuff. He’s also a heavy ground ball pitcher with horrible infield defense. The first basemen don’t have good range, and the other three position players have been at their positions for a little over a year. I wouldn’t judge him on stats alone.

  8. Tim, I’m a little confused with this statment. “There are problems with this team. Their star player has a .715 OPS on the season, although that is hopefully turning around for Andrew McCutchen, who had a 1.078 OPS heading into tonight’s game.” As of this morning it is .691. I think you added SLG+OPS to come up with 1.078 OPS. Tell me I’m wrong.

  9. It would have been helpful to name the two lefties they got for Snyder and add a comment or two about their performance – especially in an article evaluating a trade

    • I’ve written a lot about those two, including an article on where Tarpley is at today. But this wasn’t about evaluating what the Pirates received in return for Snider. It was about evaluating whether trading Snider is currently costing this team.

  10. Tim: I think Lombardozzi can be that Snider-type utility OF, but the Pirates did not have many opportunities to put him in the game while he was up. Only 4 AB’s over that period of time – does not have the power bat, but has hit for a decent average when in the majors with the Nats & O’s. The trade for him with the O’s came less than a week after the Snider trade, so I think the Pirates were thinking the same thing.

  11. I loved Travis (and still root for him), but I liked this trade from the beginning.

    As NH said, he wasn’t going to get any ABs here, so they might as well trade him at his highest point…which they did.

  12. I don’t have a problem with the trade but as I have they really need to look at Polanco. He is a poor defender who’s strike out rate is killing this offense. Either put a hitter in his p l ace or someone who can play the position. Maybe he can learn the position in Indy.

    • Bill: I think he should be moved down in the order due to the .129 average the past 10 games, but he has 6W/7K in that same period – making contact. Harrison has started to hit and is at .444 over the past 10 games – is that the move?

      • Making contact, but of what quality? Honestly don’t know what they’ve done with this kid.

        6′-5″ 235 lb monster that’s swinging the bat like Chris Stewart. So much talent being wasted.

        • is it our coaching staff or is it Polanco? How can you tell?

          Either way, he has been a disappointment (on both sides) so far. May be a good thing we DIDN’T sign him long term? At least…yet.

          • It’s never ONLY one or the other, Foo.

            But this is a supremely athletic, unquestionably talented human being currently reduced to slapping at pitches defensively like a backup catcher. You’re nuts if you think this is the most a club can get out of Gregory Polanco.

            • Lots of supremely talented athletes have failed and it isn’t always the fault of the coaching staff. That’s my point.

              You said ” Honestly don’t know what they’ve done with this kid.”

              Sometimes the athlete just ‘doesn’t get it’ or hits his Peter Principle.

              Hopefully GP gets going.

              • This was just about as safe as hitting prospects get, Foo.

                We aren’t talking a guy with swing-and-miss issues like a Brandon Wood, coaching issues like Javy Baez, or marginal bat speed issues like Travis Snider. This was a kid who *at worst* could’ve been expected to struggle on premium velocity inside because of his naturally long arms.

                What we’re watching right now is most certainly *not* a player struggling because of *just* premium velocity inside.
                If you can’t acknowledge the coaching impact, good or bad, on a prospect like this then they may as well not even pay the damn guys in the first place.

                • Agreed. I’ve only been following the Pirates minor league system closely for maybe the last 15 years but I’ve never seen a “safer” hitting prospect.

              • I don’t pretend to know what happened to Domonic Brown or why Jason Heyward hasn’t hit his peak yet but it is scary to think Polanco may fall into this category. I realize Heyward isn’t horrible but I was hoping for better with Polanco. I’d like to use the cliché of he hasn’t played a full season yet and bury my head in the sand if that’s cool with you guys.

      • I think Polanco needs more seasoning. He has the tools but not the head. Maybe I’m wrong but I would bring Gorky up and see what he can add. I don’t like seeing a player strike out with bases loaded.

    • I don’t think anyone here is calling him a poor defender? I think that’s how you can justify keeping him in the lineup-defense. I mean, if you’re going to base it on him getting sniped in extras the other night, look at what Marte did last night. Another thing I disagree with management is sitting him vs starting LHP. He’s too young to be preventing him from seeing big league at bats vs LHP.

  13. The trade was absolutely the right call for Pirates brass to make. It was good for not only the Pirates, but for Snider, too. Hopefully, he gets it going again for the O’s.

    As for Pirates, they’re inability to prevent the big hit and come up with their own timely hit cost them again last night. A very common theme this year. I’m officially concerned about Liriano being out of whack again. Hasn’t pitched well for several starts now.

    • It seemed like they had a rally going in every inning and couldn’t keep it going. I didn’t look at the box but I bet Cutch had a terrible LOB last night.

  14. Well nice guys finish last. If you do a little research you will see why I will forever cheer for Travis. He has a story that makes me want to see him succeed. Too bad it’s not with our Pirates. That kid will persevere.

    • Natalie: Yes he will persevere and I am glad he got the opportunity with B’more that was not going to happen in Pittsburgh. The trade has been a win-win for both orgs.

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