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.