29 January 2015

Orioles Acquire Travis Snider, Gain Additional Depth

Travis Snider (photo via Tom Hagerty)
After failing to bring back Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, the Orioles have been in the market for another outfielder for much of the offseason.  While they missed out on the free agents (which left us a little confused), they finally landed their man by acquiring outfielder Travis Snider from the Pirates for minor league pitcher Stephen Tarpley and a "player to be named later."  Let’s take a quick look at Baltimore’s new outfielder and also see what they had to give up to get him.

What the Orioles Received
Travis Snider was the 14th overall pick in the 2006 draft.  As a top prospect, Snider absolutely crushed the ball during his time in the minors, hitting a combined .309/.383/.525  in 2200 plate appearances across all levels.  That success in the minors never really carried over to the majors though, as he basically resembled a typical quad-A player (someone too good for AAA, but not good enough for the majors).  Here’s what Snider has been able to do over the course of his major league career.

2008 20 80 2 5 23 .301 .338 .466 114
2009 21 276 9 29 78 .241 .328 .419 95
2010 22 319 14 21 79 .255 .304 .463 105
2011 23 202 3 11 56 .225 .269 .348 65
2012 24 185 4 17 48 .250 .319 .378 92
2013 25 285 5 24 75 .215 .281 .333 74
2014 26 359 13 34 67 .264 .338 .438 118
7 Yrs 1706 50 141 426 .246 .310 .406 95
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/28/2015.

The overall numbers aren’t too encouraging, but the good news is that 2014 was his best season by far, as he produced career marks in almost every offensive category. So which version of Travis Snider will the Orioles get in 2015?  On one hand, it’s hard to ignore the rather sizable sample of Snider’s struggles prior to last year.  On the other, Snider just had a much better season at the plate than the recently departed Nick Markakis (albeit in less PA’s) and is a former top prospect that will only turn 27 in the next week. After several years of being one of the best outfielders in baseball, it’s easy to forget that Alex Gordon struggled on offense until his age 27 season.  I’m not saying Snider will have an Alex Gordon type breakout, but some guys take a little bit longer to figure it out.

Having said that, Snider may not even be an everyday player.  Back in December, Matt looked at a rumored deal that would have sent Brian Matusz to the Pirates in exchange for Snider and took a quick look at Snider’s possible platoon issues.  While his overall splits don’t scream “platoon player”, there are legitimate reasons to believe Snider is not a good option against left-handers, including a strikeout rate over 33% and the fact that he hasn’t been given much of an opportunity to even face left-handed pitching (277 career PA’s).

Earlier in the offseason, we here at Camden Depot stated that an outfield consisting of Jones/Pearce/De Aza/Lough actually wouldn’t be much worse than 2014’s group.  However, it’s not unreasonable to think that this group (minus Jones) has a higher chance to disappoint (especially offensively) than not, so picking up Snider as another outfield option was a nice move by the front office to hedge their bets.  Additionally, Snider doesn’t cost much (he signed for $2.1 million in 2014) and is under team control next year as well.  It’s a good pickup, especially when considering that both De Aza and Pearce will be free agents after the season.

What the Orioles Gave Up
In order to get Snider, the Orioles gave up left-handed pitcher Stephen Tarpley and a “player to be named later”.  Tarpley was the Orioles 3rd round pick in the 2013 draft out of Scottsdale Community College.  He spent all last season pitching in Aberdeen (Short Season A-Ball), sporting a 3.66 ERA over 66.1 innings, while striking out 60 and walking 24.

This offseason, Tarpley was rated by Baseball Prospectus as the Orioles 9th best prospect (subscription required and recommended).  Essentially, Tarpley shows good stuff on the mound, but he lacks polish on his command and his secondary pitches.  BP’s prospect team sees him as having the ceiling of a number 3 or 4 starter, but a more realistic role of a 6th inning reliever/long man in the bullpen.  So while he does have a higher ceiling than some of the pitchers ahead of him on that list (pitchers not named Bundy or Harvey), he has a way to go to reach that ceiling.

The other player going to the Pirates in this deal is currently unknown, and according to Roch Kubatko of MASN, that player likely won’t be known until spring training.  However, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported that left-hander Steven Brault could be the PTBNL.  Brault was drafted in the 11th round of the 2013 draft and spent the 2014 season between Low-A Delmarva and High-A Frederick.  I couldn’t find much else on him, so I asked Tucker Blair of Baseball Prospectus for some insight:
“Steven Brault is an athletic-framed lefty that was signed out of Regis University, which has never seen a player make the majors. I've seen Brault quite a few times while he was with Aberdeen, Delmarva, and Frederick. He generally sits 90-92 with average present command, but his fastball has some sink and run on it. He also has a SL, CB and CH, with the first two fringy. The CH has some deception and fade to it, and is largely the reason his numbers have been so productive throughout his first two seasons. He hides the pitch well out of his hand. Brault has enjoyed success so far in pro ball due to his loose arm and that deception, but I lean more towards him being a role 4 relief type, as I haven't seen the consistency in his mechanics and the stuff leans mostly towards the average side. There isn't a ton of room for mistakes, which I think will be exploited some at the higher levels. For now, he's an intriguing option as a backend starter type.”

Overall this trade appears to be a good one for both teams to make.  Travis Snider gives the Orioles the outfielder they’ve been searching for all offseason long, at minimal cost in terms of dollars and prospects.  As for Pittsburgh, they end up with one intriguing pitching prospect (possibly two) for a player who would have struggled to find at-bats next season.  Baltimore fans may have preferred the Brian Matusz for Snider swap that was discussed earlier, but it’s unlikely that Baltimore will miss Tarpley (or Brault, if he is the PTBNL). Tarpley may have the ceiling of a number 3 or 4 starter, but he’ll begin the 2015 season as a 22 year old having yet to reach Low-A.  In other words, it’s probably going to take a while for him to get there, if he ever does.

As a team planning on contending in 2015, Travis Snider is worth much more to the Orioles than either of the minor league players they gave up for him. Snider gives the Orioles another solid option in the outfield or off the bench.  And if they’re lucky, there’s even a chance he’s more than just a solid option.  When this deal was announced, our own Matt Kremnitzer asked an interesting question that's important to remember when considering this trade.

If you’re being honest with yourself, I bet you probably agree with him.


Anonymous said...

This is a low risk, high reward move for the O's. As I argued earlier this is a lot better, cheaper move then Colby Rasmus and I glad the O's circled back.

This gives the O's a lot more flexibility and hopefully takes ab's away from Lough.

Pirates made a nice move converting their fourth OFer into some prospects. They should have the best OF in baseball next year and can use other options. Reading Kang has some OF exp and Harrison has played there so this is a great trade for Pittsburgh.

Now lets sign Manny and Matt to extensions and lock up the Orioles defense for the next few years and fingers crossed on Gausman, Bundy and Harvey.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Considering their recent injuries, I'm not sure if I'd be in a hurry to lock up Machado or Wieters. Wieters is almost certain to hit the open market.

Anonymous said...

Well, I would say if you want a real chance to lock up Manny you better be looking at it now or never. Look at some way to protect both sides. Get creative. Unless you want to pay market when he breaks out or just decide it was fun while it lasted.

With Matt, it really comes down to the O's committing $60-75 million to a player. The market is Yadier, McCann and Martin. $15-16 mill a year. Of course, if he can make the throw to second in spring training he's basically back from his injury.

Philip said...

I'm not opposed to this move as a Chris Davis type gamble, and the upside for Snider is pretty big.
However, I'm very interested in how this acquisition compares to some that we missed out on, specifically Michael Saunders. I think they both have the same WAR projections, and Saunders could have been had for Bud Norris(based on what Toronto paid)
Should we be sad we got Snider instead of Saunders or perhaps Blackmon, or relieved?
(BTW, I like Bud Norris a lot and I hope he is t traded. I mention him because he was our player most comparable to Happ.)

Unknown said...

Philip - I think I would personally rather have Saunders, although ultimately it may not matter. Getting Snider allowed the Orioles to keep their MLB starting pitching depth (important for a contending team), whereas the cost to get Saunders probably would have required them to part with someone from the major league roster, possibly Bud Norris, as you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Norris might be a bit more expensive then some teams wanted to go, Chen would probably been the better bet.

Two more assets getting ready to expire by the way.

Anonymous said...

Much rather have signed a proven player. Should have resigned Markakis

Anonymous said...

Trading for Snider was a MUCH better move than re-signing Markakis at 10 times the price:

(1) Snider produced more in 359 plate appearances last season than Markakis has averaged the past four years getting close to 700 plate appearances each season (1.7 WAR v. 1.45 WAR)

(2) Snider made huge strides last year in the areas that previously most held him back: plate discipline and contact rate. He went from being below average on % swings out of the zone and contact rate in the zone to being well above average.

(3) Snider made those improvements despite a home park that's near;y the worst in MLB for left-handed power hitters and now move to one of the best parks for left-handed power.

Weav said...

I hope they sign one big bat before spring games end. Looks like a 80 win season as it stands now.