In their ongoing, meticulous pursuit of a corner outfielder, the Orioles recently discussed a trade with the Pirates involving outfielder Travis Snider and lefty Brian Matusz. Here's the latest, according to Roch Kubatko:
The teams aren't on the verge of consummating a trade, but the sides talked and could continue discussions at a later date.
The Orioles would like to leave the Winter Meetings with at least one outfielder. However, executive vice president Dan Duquette told reporters a free agent signing is the most likely path.It's unclear if Snider and Matusz were the only players brought up in trade discussions. But if they were, the O's would be wise to part with Matusz.
Snider, 26, is under team control through 2016; he has two arbitration-eligible years remaining. He made $1.2 million last year, and MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn $2 million next season. Meanwhile, Matusz, who also has two arbitration years left -- four total, as a Super Two player -- earned $2.4 million last season and will likely be paid around $3 million in 2015.
We have written about Matusz a fair amount the past calendar year, and O's fans should have a good idea by now about what he is: a decent reliever who is much better against left-handed batters. But he is far from a dominant relief weapon, and the O's should be able to find a suitable replacement if he's traded away.
But what about Snider? As a former first-round draft pick (14th overall) by Toronto in 2006, he never seemed to develop to the Blue Jays' liking.
After debuting on Baseball America's top 100 prospects list at No. 53 in 2007, he moved all the way up to No. 11 in 2008. He rose again in 2009 to sixth overall. He played occasionally in 2009 and 2010 after a promising major league debut in 2008, but he was awful in 2011 and eventually, in 2012, the Blue Jays traded him to the Pirates in exchange for pitcher Brad Lincoln.
For the most part, Snider has managed to stay in the majors with the Pirates since the trade as a corner outfielder and bench bat. In 285 plate appearances in 2013, though, he again struggled mightily (71 wRC+). But he turned things around in 2014 by posting a 121 wRC+ in 359 plate appearances. Snider may not appear to have a drastic platoon split (96 wRC+ vs. right-handed pitching in 1,429 plate appearances; 90 wRC+ vs. left-handers in 277 plate appearances), but it's hard not to notice the much higher number of trips to the plate against right-handed pitching. Managers are clearly reluctant to give him more at-bats against southpaws. Snider's .355 BABIP against lefties (vs. .298 vs. righties) is also propping up those numbers a bit. So far, though, he has not proven to be a disaster against left-handed pitching, but he hasn't been great, career wise, against either.
Here's how the advanced stats rate Snider's defense:
Left field (1,709.2 innings): +16 DRS; 5.8 UZR
Right field (1,615.2 innings): -4 DRS; -5.9 UZR
That's strange. Left field is generally where a team's worst outfielder plays, but normally there's not a huge difference between the difficulty of playing either corner outfield position. Regardless, Snider seems like at least an average defensive outfielder, with decent range and an adequate arm.
Because of his overall lack of production, Snider has never received more than those 359 plate appearances in any season. So he probably should not be viewed as a full-time player, especially right away. Perhaps he could get to the point of a manager trusting him more against lefties. If his production last season was for real, then acquiring him for Matusz and paying him about $2 million could be a tremendous bargain. Maybe last year was the most any team could expect from him, but approaching his age 27 season, it's not unrealistic to expect that he could improve on it.
Picking up Snider would be a cheaper alternative than signing Colby Rasmus, Norichika Aoki, Michael Morse, and certainly Melky Cabrera. And he's somewhat similar to other outfielders the O's have been linked to, like Chris Denorfia, Marlon Byrd, Jonny Gomes, and Delmon Young (who played nearly 160 innings in the outfield for the O's last season). Matt Kemp and Justin Upton would be great options for the O's, but the Dodgers and Braves, respectively, are asking for an enormous amount in return.
Since Duquette and the O's seem focused on finding value in the free agent market, perhaps they would view a Snider trade as superior than simply signing Rasmus or Aoki. But it's clear that the O's do have money to spend after watching Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller ink lucrative contracts with other teams. Picking up Snider would leave even more money for some problem areas, such as designated hitter and the bullpen, but at some point the O's will stop talking about where they could spend that money and actually start using it.
Update: Last night, the Pirates acquired lefty Antonio Bastardo from the Phillies. So their interest in Brian Matusz has likely dissipated. Looks like the O's missed their chance.
Photo via Keith Allison