By John Perrotto
The Pirates employed a strategy at last week’s non-waiver trade deadline that was quite unique for a contending team.
Instead of acquiring established players with track records, the Pirates went after players who were blocked in other organizations and spent the majority of this season at the Class AAA level. Deciding the asking price in terms of prospects was too high for outfielders such as Cleveland’s Shin-Soo Choo and Philadelphia’s Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, the Pirates instead traded for Toronto outfielder Travis Snider and Florida first baseman Gaby Sanchez.
The Pirates believe Snider and Sanchez have upside and like that both can be under contractual control through at least the 2015 season. But the question remains as to whether Snider and Sanchez can help in the present as the Pirates are in contention for their first post-season berth — and winning season — in 20 years?
The Pirates go into today’s game with the Arizona Diamondbacks at PNC Park just 2 1/2 games behind Cincinnati in the National League Central. The Pirates hold a 3 1/2-game lead over St. Louis for the second NL wild card.
An informal poll of five baseball executives and scouts did not find one person who felt Snider and Sanchez could definitely make a difference in this year’s stretch run.
“They might and they might not,” said an executive from an American League team. “They both have talent but neither one is a sure thing. It’ll be interesting to see how it works out. What the Pirates did says to me that they’re kind of hedging their bets and that management isn’t completely convinced they are good enough to make the playoffs this year.”
Pirates president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington insist otherwise. Huntington believes a change of scenery will help both Snider and Sanchez but neither player has made much of impact so far, though the sample size is obviously small.
Snider, 24, is hitting .360 in his first nine games as a Pirate but eight of his nine hits have been singles and he has just two RBIs. Sanchez, 29, has hit .250 with no extra-base hits and one RBI in seven games.
An NL scout who saw Snider play often in the last few years has his doubts.
“He’s had two seasons’ worth of at-bats in the major leagues and I just haven’t seen him get any better,” the scout said. “He’s been a big disappointment to me because you know there is talent in there. He might wind up becoming a good player but he has a bad approach at the plate. He gets himself out on too many pitchers’ pitches. Unless he changes that, he’s not going to make an impact.”
An AL scout was more optimistic about Sanchez but doesn’t necessarily see him as a difference maker.
“He’ll do some things to help you,” the scout said. “He’ll hit for a decent average, he has decent power and he’s made himself into an above average defensive first baseman. He’s not going to carry you to a pennant but he’s a good player who can help a championship-team in a complementary role, which is what the Pirates are looking for.”