Pirates trade Snider to Orioles for minor league pitcher
Confident with their outfield depth — and perhaps eyeing a significant roster addition in the near future — the Pirates on Tuesday dealt Travis Snider to the Baltimore Orioles for minor league pitcher Stephen Tarpley and a prospect to be named.
“We didn't plan or intend to move (Snider),” general manager Neal Huntington said. “But we feel we have enough depth the sustain the loss. We've gained two quality players, we've created roster flexibility, and we've created some payroll flexibility.”
Snider, 26, batted .264 with a .776 OPS last season. He was the Opening Day right fielder but lost the job in June when Gregory Polanco made his big league debut.
Polanco faltered after a fast start and was sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis. Snider then returned to his starting role and batted .288 after the All-Star break.
Huntington indicated Polanco is penciled in as the starting right fielder this season. With Andrew Lambo, Corey Hart, Josh Harrison, Jose Tabata and others providing outfield depth, Snider became expendable.
“It's definitely bittersweet,” Snider said by phone from his home in Seattle. “It's an opportunity for the Pirates to move forward with their future and an opportunity for me as well. It came as a bit of a shock ... but I'm a guy who pays attention to the league. I saw and read some things the past few days, and you just wait for the phone call.”
Tarpley, who turns 22 on Feb. 17, was a third-round pick in 2013. Last season, the left-hander pitched in 13 games (12 starts) with short-season Class A Aberdeen and went 3-5 with a 3.68 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP.
With a mid-90s mph fastball, Tarpley averaged 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He also throws a curveball, slider and changeup.
“There are some things to like here,” Huntington said. “We like the upside.”
Snider this month agreed to a $2.1 million contract to avoid salary arbitration. He can become a free agent after the 2016 season.
The Pirates' payroll will crack the $90 million mark this season for the first time. Although he's already rated the group who'll gather next month for spring training as the deepest and most talented of his tenure, Huntington might not be done tweaking the roster.
“Payroll flexibility is always a good thing, whether you use it during spring training, early in the season or at the (trade) deadline,” Huntington said. “We've got the ability to make moves.”
In the meantime, spring training will sort out two backups for outfield starters Polanco, Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte.
“We believe (Polanco) has overcome last year's struggles,” Huntington said. “But we're not putting all our eggs in Gregory's basket.”
Hart, who signed a $2.5 million free-agent deal one month ago, is likely to make the team as a backup first baseman/outfielder. It's not clear, however, how much playing time Hart can handle in the outfield after a pair of recent knee surgeries.
Lambo, 26, played in 26 games with the Pirates last year and batted .256. The Pirates believe he has good power potential and like his versatility at first base.
Tabata, 26, spent most of last season with Indianapolis. He has two years left on his contract and management still hopes to squeeze some sort of production out of him.