Snider for Lincoln
I was at the Rogers Centre on September 4, 2008. Jesse Litsch shut out the Twins 9-0, and a 20-year-old outfielder named Travis Snider belted his first career home run in just his fourth career game. I can recall turning to fellow Baseball Guy Rob Metcalfe and remarking "that might the first of 500 or more."
That seems preposterous when talking about a kid who looks indistinguishable from a bat boy, but less so when you look at the number of players who reach the majors at age 20. There simply aren't many, and among the ones there are you find names like Ott, Matthews, Rodriguez (pick one), Cobb and Williams.
After that September cup of coffee in which he hit .301/338/.466, many Jays fans envisioned Snider as a staple in the outfield for the next 10-15 years. It didn't work out, as Snider rode the shuttle between Las Vegas and Toronto showing occasional flashes of brilliance, interspersed with injuries and prolonged slumps.
His walk rate tumbled, from one every 9.5 plate appearances in 2009 to one in 20 in 2011. He continued to thump the ball in Las Vegas, but couldn't seem to consolidate that performance with the big club. Finally, on Monday night, Snider was removed from the game in Seattle, having been traded for RHP Brad Lincoln.
This prompted a collective "Who?" from Blue Jays fans everywhere.
He's a 27-year-old relief pitcher... from Pittsburgh.
That prompted a collective "What?!" from those same fans. Or, as Mike Wilner put it:
Clearly, the masses were underwhelmed, but that's only natural. No other fan base has been as inundated about Snider's unlimited potential as Blue Jays fans over the past 4 years, and thus no fan base will value him as greatly.
Lincoln is just more unrealized potential - a 4th overall pick who is just now establishing himself as a decent reliever. This trade bears some resemblance to the Brandon Morrow -Brandon League swap, in which both parties gave up on talented players who simply hadn't performed to expectations. Like two kids swapping cool toys that they just can't figure out: "Here, see if YOU can make it work."
Lincoln has a history of starting, so it's possible that, as with Morrow, the Jays feel they can "fix" Lincoln and hone his potential as a starting pitcher. Even if they can't, a WHIP of 1.1 and a strikeout per inning will make him a welcome addition to the Jays' pen.
Still, this is the first trade in a while in which the Jays have surrendered more upside. Snider's ceiling is still very high, and if given 550 at-bats next season, it wouldn't be shocking to see him hit 30-35 home runs. The trick will be whether or not he can stay in the majors.
Late Monday, the Jays shipped Eric Thames to Seattle for Steve Delabar. Thames was never a highly touted prospect and moved up the organizational ladder the old-fashioned way - he just kept hitting, including a serviceable .262/.313/.456 as a rookie in 2011. He's a good story, a hard worker and brought tons of enthusiasm, but his upside probably isn't too far above what he did as a rookie, and he did take some Magellanic routes to balls in left field. He's organizational filler who was enjoying another good year at Las Vegas and whose trade value was unlikely to increase much further.
Delabar has a closer's strikeout rate (46 Ks in 36 IP), but has also coughed up 9 home runs, which isn't easy when you pitch half your games in Safeco Field. Given the recent history of the Blue Jays and prospective closers, it's safe to say that the fan base won't be holding its breath.
Are the Jays stockpiling power arms in preparation for a larger deal? With the trade deadline hours away, we won't have to wait long to find out.
Labels: Blue Jays, Brad Lincoln, Eric Thames, Steve Delabar, trade deadline, Travis Snider