First Pitch: A History of Buying Low and Selling High With Travis Snider

Earlier today while talking about the Pirates’ interest in Travis Snider, I noted that if Snider was brought back, the Pirates would have Snider, Brad Lincoln, Stephen Tarpley, and Steven Brault in the same organization at the same time. If you don’t know the connection, it’s basically a trade tree full of buy low/sell high moves, where the Pirates sold former top prospects at their highest value in order to get potentially better guys.

It started when the Pirates had Brad Lincoln in their bullpen in 2012. The right-hander had struggled up to that season in his attempts to crack the MLB rotation, combining for a 5.74 ERA in 100.1 innings in his first two seasons in the big leagues. He moved to the bullpen full-time in 2012, and started having a lot of success, with a 2.73 ERA in 59.1 innings, along with a 9.1 K/9 and a 2.1 BB/9.

The Pirates ended up trading him for Snider, in a move that was largely hated. Snider was a former top prospect who had also struggled to make a strong jump to the majors, posting a .248/.306/.429 line in 917 plate appearances with Toronto. Lincoln ended up falling apart with Toronto, was traded to the Phillies in a minor move in 2014, and re-joined the Pirates this year as a minor league free agent.

After the trade, Snider didn’t do so well with the Pirates. He had a .652 OPS the rest of the year in 2012, then struggled with a .614 OPS in 2013, while most Pirates fans wished they had Lincoln back, despite not so great numbers from Lincoln. Then, in 2014, Snider finally had a big season, posting a .776 OPS, fueled by a strong finish to the year where he emerged as a starting option to take over for the struggling Gregory Polanco.

Despite the success, the Pirates decided that they would go with Polanco as their starter in 2015, and felt they could replicate Snider’s production with one of their other candidates. So they traded him after half a season of success and landed two actual left-handed pitching prospects from the Orioles in Steven Brault and Stephen Tarpley. Just like the Lincoln deal, most Pirates fans hated this move.

However, it seems history might have repeated itself. Snider immediately regressed with Baltimore, posting a .659 OPS in the season as a bench player. He was released this weekend, despite Baltimore being in a tight playoff race and needing outfielders. And the two left-handers that were acquired have been tearing up the minors for the Pirates.

In both Snider trades, the Pirates did an excellent job of selling high and buying low. They traded Lincoln after half a season of success in the bullpen, which was a very minor role. They got Snider, with the hope that he could eventually break out into a starter. That didn’t happen, but he did have a good half season in 2014, and they took the gamble that this was an outlier, rather than the breakout they were waiting for. It turned out that they were right, and while Baltimore got nothing for Snider this weekend, the Pirates were able to get two legit prospects for him by trading him at his highest value.

It would only make sense to bring Snider back, just like they brought back Lincoln this year. Snider is now at a low point in value, to the point where no team claimed him off waivers this week, despite only about $650,000 remaining on his deal this year. He would now cost the pro-rated portion of the league minimum, and could still be a decent depth option off the bench. I don’t think his value goes higher than a bench player at this point, but as I noted earlier, the Pirates could use him if they found a way to stash him in Triple-A until September rolls around.

But if the Pirates don’t get him, then at least they sold high on him and got two good prospects, rather than waiting for a point when no team was interested in taking him on, even when the only cost was money.

**Prospect Watch: Tyler Glasnow Shows Electric Stuff in Latest Start. Ryan Palencer had a live report on Glasnow’s stuff in the latest outing.

**Rehab Updates on Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer. Both played back to back games for the first time this weekend, and Ryan Palencer provides an update on their status.

**Pirates Have Expressed Interest in Travis Snider. I went over the rumors, with my thoughts on Snider.

**What Has Led to Stephen Tarpley’s Dominant Season in West Virginia? Speaking of the Snider trade, I saw Tarpley two weeks ago, and broke down why he’s having such a good season this year.

**Are the Pirates Rotation Struggles Due to Injuries to Mercer and Harrison? An interesting look at the starting pitching woes lately, and one possible reason for those issues.

**Brandon Waddell Adds to the Pirates Growing Left-Handed Pitching Depth. My look at the 2015 fifth round pick from Saturday. The Pirates are stocking up on interesting left-handed pitching prospects.

**Despite Many Options, the Pirates Still Lack a Good First Baseman. The first base situation still looks bad, and I broke it all down on Saturday.

**Pirates Sign Pitcher Frank Herrmann, Bristol Player Retires. John Dreker breaks down the latest minor moves, including a new player in Triple-A.

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Brian Bernard

An interesting side topic from this would be who are the candidates to sell high on now?


The article planted the same thought in my head…here’s hoping Pedro’s bat goes on an extended hot streak….


A hot Pedro makes it a much, much more formidable lineup.


Yeah, and then see what we can get to help him fulfill his destiny as a DH. I was really expecting good things for him this year and I don’t think I’m nearly as harsh as some, but I can’t take the defense anymore.


Shhh. Dont let NMR hear…:)


Probably take some heat for this but Jared Hughes.

Luke S

I dont think its likely to actually happen this offseason, but Melancon would be interesting. The return would be likely stupid high.


This would make a lot sense, his salary is going to rise a lot, and the idea of a closer is over-valued. I like his strikeout, ground ball profile, but the Pirates better believe in the ability of his cutter to generate weak contact, his curve hasn’t been getting the swings and misses, and strikes outs didn’t recover with his velocity.


No, im with you. They have decisions to make on the bullpen, because many of them are due for a raise. Its one of the reasons I think Walker and Alvarez are goners, because they will have to allocate some of that money to arms.


I’d be really reticent about moving Melancon if Bucs are a true WS contender in 2016. But I’m less sold on that now than I was a week or two ago. While we’re all eager to see a new wave of rookies come up, that there are going to be four or five rookies in key roles during 2nd half, I’m inclined to think 2016 is sort of a “reload” year… 2nd WC competitive, but not championship caliber.

Given Melancon will likely cost at least $9 mill in his walk year, I can see why NH would be motivated to move him. With Melancon on the roster and with built in raises along with expected arb increases of another $16 mill (Walker, Watson, Melancon, Mercer, Locke, Hughes, Cervelli), it’s easy to see a 25-man roster of $90+ million if Melancon, Morse and Walker are still around (assuming deal of Pedro, loss of ARam, Soria, Bastardo, Happ).

If NH moves Melancon and lets Bastardo, Happ and Soria go, the pen is left with Watson, Hughes and Caminero. Scahill, Holdzkom and LaFromboise get penciled in and NH has Melancon’s $9 savings to go get some other relief parts. I’m inclined to keep Blanton around if he continues performing. It shouldn’t cost a lot to keep him off the market.

I think the most interesting arb case is going to be Cervelli. He’ll have his 3rd and final arb this offseason. He’s making $988K. His past arbs would have him trending to make about $1.3 next year, but IMO it’s going to be way north of that.

If the consensus is that MM would bring in a ton of value, I’d have to think Cervelli could be worth even more, if NH wanted to go that direction and risk a siege of Federal St.


Yea man. Lots of decisions. Watson is going to get a decent bump too.

I wish they had another year to play with on Cervelli. I believe they may try to extend him if they can get him at the right price. I worry about his health.

Luke S

Idk, you still have: Cole-Liriano, Cutch-Walker-Marte-Kang-Harrison-Polanco-Mercer. Cervelli likely still the C, a non rookie still closing.

Not really relying on any rookie to take over a huge role, but mid to back end rotation work and maybe bench/depth work later in the year. Seems like a great spot, plenty of talent to lead with a few roles for rookies to step in and contribute at.


I’m thinking at least two of the 2nd half SPs will be rookies. I’m thinking Hanson will be up early and I just don’t see NH going out and buying a 1b. I’m confident Walker will be taking reps there. Bell and Diaz coming in June/July.

Certainly a run like Cubs are making now is possible with that roster. But it’s not a front-runner roster IMO.

Luke S

But you ignore the roles they are playing. No way Hanson is starting unless they ship out Walker (and even then, they have Kang-Mercer-Harrison) so the IF is crowded enough to let the rookie be a bench role player.

Both SPs, which i actually doubt Taillon is up super quick, are back end arms who need to be just average as rookies to fill out a legit rotation.

So really, the only big time rookie i see that might get thrust into a big role needing more than okay perfromance is Bell. Im okay with that if you have a legit MVP and a ton of talent around it.

michael t

We have two more series with the Reds after September 1st. If we stash Snider in AAA until then and bring him up after the 1st we are are much better prepared for a brawl with the Reds. Snider has shown he can take a punch and we have Morse aka “the Beast” to throw some people around. If they throw at Cutch and Kang maybe AJ and Cole won’t have to be the first guys out of the dugout.


Haha good points, but nobody is beating Cole out of the dugout based on past experience

Brian Bernard


John W

They should definitely get Snider if possible. He wasn’t as good as he was last year nor do I think he’s quite as bad as he is in Baltimore. One more ball on the hand to Marte we could easily be looking at Ishikawa or Sean R in left field and I would rather see Snider there just based on defense alone(not great defensive stats) but he knows PNC and always looked fine out there to me. I could see him providing OPS of 710-730 as 4th outfielder which is considerably more than I’d expect from Ishikawa or Rodriguez. Just not sure how to do it before September 1.


Didn’t Snider have a lot of success pinch hitting for the Pirates?

michael t

absolutely he did.


John, you make some good points there, but I think Ken has given us the probable outcome.


In another week, the backup LF will be Josh Harrison.


And, in the real world, many of the Nealies were on parade this weekend to help sweep the Mets – Happ, Morton, Blanton, Locke, Caminero, and Soria to name a few.

michael t

They all contributed, as did Ramirez. The “dumpster diving” comments have quieted. Getting Snider now for nothing, stashing him at AAA until September 1, would be a smart move the Bucs are apparently working on. He was a better left handed pinch hitter for us than anything we have now, and he could provide insurance against an outfield injury.

Scott K

This is a good illustration of Pirates FO savvy. However, until Tarpley or Brault are productive major leaguers, this is all it is.

For the record, I believe at least one of them will be on Pirates staff one day.


I think they will deal one. Just a hunch.

Scott Kliesen

Very possible depending on how Glasnow, Taillon, and Kingham develop.


Got to figure out who’s Gerrit Cole and who’s Rudy Owens.


Scott: In the world of asset possession, the Pirates do not have to wait until either of these kids get to the majors to realize added benefits. At the present time Tarpley and Brault are both worth much more in relative value to teams as strong LHSP Prospects. Snider has no value whatsoever. And a residual effect of the trade and an even better increase in value is that the Pirates went all-in with Polanco and he has emerged as a very valuable asset to the Pirates. And then there’s the salary Snider got in Arbitration earlier this year.


Correct. Minor league prospects are present-day assets, because they have present-day trade value. In a trade negotiation, it doesn’t matter what their future MLB value will actually end up being, it only matters what the present-day perception is of that future upside.

Scott Kliesen

All good points, Emjay.

Blaine Huff

In a perfect world, both Snider and Lincoln are added to the Pirates roster 9/1 and have monstrous success…

…then, over the winter, they’re packaged together for two LHP prospects and a former top prospect.

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