Out in Seattle tonight, Travis Snider was pulled off of the field shortly after midnight and I thought to myself, “Now that’s the sort of guy I’d like to see the Pirates rolling the dice on at this trade deadline.” Minutes later, word rolled across Twitter that the Pirates had indeed dealt for Snider; they’ll be sending Brad Lincoln out to Toronto in what appears to be a straight up deal for the two 2006 first round picks (first reported here and quickly confirmed by The Entire Internet).
Snider entered the 2009 season as Baseball America’s sixth best prospect, but he hasn’t quite latched on in Toronto yet. Over his big league career, he’s hit .247/.305/.427 in 241 games while bouncing between Toronto and their Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas. That being said, after his demotion to Vegas earlier this year, he’s been killing the ball. In 56 games, he hit .335/.423/.598 with 13 homers and 16 doubles. Of course, it’s also fair to note that there are concerns. His Triple-A numbers are great, but they came in the PCL. In his stints with the Blue Jays, he’s got 249 strikeouts 68 walks in 914 plate appearances. Those numbers are stretched out over a few years and Snider was very, very young during his first call-up, but he also did more than his share of striking out in the minor leagues (492 Ks in 2156 PAs).
My gut instinct is that I like this trade; Snider’s still young, there’s still plenty of reason to think that he can hit at a big league level, and his left-handed bat should play pretty nicely with PNC Park’s left field porch. He’s underachieved relative to his prospect status in Toronto, but his power potential is very real. For perspective, he’s still younger than Pedro Alvarez. That combination of age, years of control (he’s not arbitration-eligible until 2014, which means he’s under Pirate control until 2016), and potential make him the kind of player that could be both an upgrade right now and a long-term fixture for the Pirates. His presence shoud allow the Pirates to push Garrett Jones to a first base and get Casey McGehee off the field against everyone but the toughest of lefties, which makes the lineup better much immediately, no matter how they decide to divide time between Starling Marte and Alex Presley in left field.
Of course, the Pirates aren’t giving up nothing here. Brad Lincoln’s been an important part of the bullpen this year and if he ever figures his changeout up, he could become a pretty good big league starter. I think this is an acceptable risk to take; the Pirates have had an awful long time to watch Lincoln develop and were very slow to put him into the rotation at any point this year. It’s obvious that he’s a talented young pitcher and that he at the very least has a future as a reliever, but if he’s only a reliever that affects his long-term value quite a bit. Remember: the Pirates have a lot of right-handed relief depth. Bryan Morris has been absolutely filthy in Indianapolis right now (4.62 K/BB and 2.54 ERA in 63 2/3 innings) and it’s possible that he could fill Lincoln’s spot immediately with very little drop in production. Duke Welker has continued to make big strides this year. Victor Black is down in Altoona striking out the entire Eastern League. If you think that Lincoln’s ceiling is as a future shut-down reliever, the Pirates have plenty of potential shut-down right-handed relievers and they’re all pretty close to Pittsburgh. This is dealing from a position of strength.
That’s all to say that this is a risk for the Pirates, but I think that the risk/reward ratio is in their favor. Snider’s young and talented; he’s a good fit for their needs and potentially a good fit for their park and he’s under control for a long time. Lincoln’s a talented young pitcher, but if he’s a reliever than he’s a reliever. The Pirates have a lot of depth in the right-handed reliever department with Bryan Morris and Victor Black in Indy and Altoona, respectively. Huntington’s rolling the dice here, but I’m much happier to see them get someone like Snider in return for Lincoln in place of someone like Shane Victorino, and I’m much happier to see them swap Lincoln for Snider than I would’ve been to see them trade Starling Marte for Shin Soo Choo.
I’m sure I’ll have more to say tomorrow. For now, I need some sleep.