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.
A pitcher who hasn't lived up to his #1 status for a hitter who hasn't lived up to his #1 status.
Welll....yeah, you've got a point. Still, as Pat pointed out, we've got a lot of guys with Lincoln's profile in the high minors, and the Pirates are Exhibit A in the argument that you can find bullpen options at pretty much no cost anywhere at anytime. As far as left-handed hitters with good power go, however, you've got Jeff Clement and nothin'. So it's trading something the Pirates have a lot of for something an attribute the Pirates system isn't exactly overflowing with.
@wkkortas Yep. I was more speaking to people who are overvaluing Lincoln. I agree completely with everything else you wrote. I think the trade serves both teams in exactly the same way, and is a win/win on a small scale. Either or both players could blossom or fizzle.
Watching Pence here in Philly this season has taught me this about Pence--he's a kinetic, unorthodox player who doesn't "think" the game, gets extraordinarily lucky at the plate while swinging at nearly anything, and is as shaky on defense (at least with the Phillies) as anybody I've ever seen. I'm not saying he's a bad player, but I really don't think he was worth overpaying for as a rental.
@tonytheshoes i firmly believe that PIT fans opinions of Pence are formed solely by his career performance against the Pirates alone.
Eh, I thought we were past the "NH takes a flier on another team's AAAA prospect" stage of the rebuild. Honestly, I would've rather flipped Lincoln for Pence, all things being equal. According to MLBtraderumors, Lincoln was a highly sought after chip so to cash him in on yet another underachieving ex-prospect instead of a known quantity is slightly disconcerting. What this trade tells me is either Lincoln wasn't as valuable as we thought or the Phillies (who were said to covet Lincoln) really are expecting a ludicrous return on Pence. Look, I hope Snider pans out because we know the Tabata experiment (underachieving ex-prospect #5) has failed but I have to say I'm not really feeling this trade.
Pence is a good ballplayer, but he's paid in the very good/almost elite neigborhood. Lincoln is a good pitcher, but he's an 8th inning guy, and the Pirates are Exhibit A to support the belief that you can find those guys on the cheap. I agree that Snider has been a lot of sizzle and just a little bit of steak, but his upside is much more than Lincoln's.
@wkkortas Well, at the very least, I think he's the best fit for the Pirates out of the players they could've gotten for Lincoln.
@Carnegie Chip Lincoln was highly sought after by the Phillies, because they are insane. Pence is having a down year, is expensive, is under control for less time, and is right-handed. Snider's a better fit, even if he's a bit of a dice roll.
While I like having a left hand hitting prospect such as Snider, I fear that too many of the Pirate pitching arms are tired and beginning to go down the path of '11. Let's hope for the best for all concerned in the Pirate trade.