11 December 2014

Should the O's Swap Brian Matusz for Travis Snider?

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.

2008 20 TOR 24 80 .301 .338 .466 114
2009 21 TOR 77 276 .241 .328 .419 95
2010 22 TOR 82 319 .255 .304 .463 105
2011 23 TOR 49 202 .225 .269 .348 65
2012 24 TOT 60 185 .250 .319 .378 92
2012 24 TOR 10 40 .250 .300 .556 126
2012 24 PIT 50 145 .250 .324 .328 82
2013 25 PIT 111 285 .215 .281 .333 74
2014 26 PIT 140 359 .264 .338 .438 118
7 Yrs 543 1706 .246 .310 .406 95
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/10/2014.

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


Anonymous said...

Would have loved to see this but with the Pirates acquiring Antonio Bastardo probably wont.

Matt Kremnitzer said...