Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lincoln Gone, Snider In And The Domino Effect

Well, it cost the Bucs one of their breakout pitchers, but they did get an outfield bat. The Pirates sent Brad Lincoln, 27, to the Toronto Blue Jays for outfielder Travis Snider, 24, in an exchange of 2006 first round picks. It actually helps both guys in the long run. The Jays will likely use Lincoln as a starter next season, and Snider will get a chance in Pittsburgh to play every day. That's the bet the teams are making regarding relative values; the Jays plan on Lincoln being a rotation guy, and the Pirates get to pencil in Snider as their regular right fielder.

Snider has been up and down in the show since 2009, but never won a starting position. He's a lefty power guy who misses a lot of pitches; he's K'ed 250 times in 917 MLB PA (27%), and gone yard 31 times with 112 RBI, hitting .247 with .734 OPS. In many ways, he's a mini-Pedro, a work in progress with the occasional teaser flash.

He'll go the opposite way at the plate and has trouble with southpaws. "Lunchbox" (he earned the nickname because, well, he likes to eat and is an excellent cook) is just a decent outfielder with good speed and an average arm. It also describes his playing style; he's a hard-nosed, hustle guy.

Snider  isn’t eligible for arbitration until after the 2013 season, so is under team control through 2016. That gives the Pirates a starting outfield of Snider, 24, Cutch, 25, and Starling Marte, 23, with fourth man Alex Presley the old man at 27. We'll see how the corners react to the growing pains, but that's one high ceiling if it works out right. Neal Huntington stayed true to his word; no rental overpays. Snider has the opportunity to become a long term piece of the puzzle.

The immediate dominoes? Well, someone has to replace Brad Lincoln, and that would be either Evan Meek or Bryan Morris, both who have been on the big team this year and are on the 40-man roster already. In the long run, the move tells us the Pirates saw Lincoln as a bullpen piece, and with plenty of those guys piled up in the minors, the FO was dealing from a position with depth. And the Bucs do have a good eye for picking up guys on the market if push comes to shove.

Next, someone has to get the heave-ho on the bench; we're thinking Jordy Mercer, who can be optioned and recalled in September, leaving Drew Sutton as a stick for Clint Hurdle.

There's a back splash for guys that remain, too. Alex Presley becomes the fourth outfielder, which is probably the role he's best suited to play. And with Snider in right, Pittsburgh is back to Plan A, platooning Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee at first, which should make that spot more productive. It looks like Kevin Correia may have to get used to his new home in the pen, too, as he now becomes the default multi-inning guy.

And it sure can't be doing much to make Jose Tabata's day at Indy, either.

It's certainly not without risk; Snider is far from a proven commodity and still feeling his way around the league. For all his pedigree, he's never reached the 300 AB mark. Snider's better known for his AAA mashing (in the hitter heaven of the PCL) and siren-song upside rather than actual MLB production.

So basically, the trade says that Toronto has given up on tapping that potential and cutting their losses. The Bucs are betting that a full-time gig will help him figure it out. Well, we'll find out soon enough; he's supposed to report to the team in time for tonight's game.

For this year, he may not be that much help, and that's the major bone of contention of tapping Snider instead of a Victorino, especially among the mainstream media folk. The Pirates will have a lot of guys trying to learn their jobs on the fly. But for the franchise as it heads down the road, it's a roll of the dice worth taking.

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