Pirates GM Neal Huntington said some strong words about right-hander Ian Snell the other day. Snell, who has struggled the past couple seasons after signing a contract extension, was demoted to AAA. In his first start, he struck out 17 batters and was practically unhittable. Snell requested the demotion because of negativity he perceived in the Pirates clubhouse. The negativity is quite real, considering Huntington called Snell's contract extension a mistake, which is an awfully strong statement to make about a player currently under contract on your own team.
Snell, even after a brilliant start in AAA, does not appear to be a part of Pittsburgh's plans anymore. His ERA is well over 5.00 for the past two seasons, and his walk rate has noticeably increased this year, while his strikeout rate has sunk badly.
At 27 years old, Snell is still young, but not an up-and-coming prospect. He looked like a pitcher on the rise a couple years ago, but after the past couple seasons it is hard to say what the future holds for him. Huntington is on the record saying that he is hoping to salvage what he can from the situation, whatever that may be.
For a mistake of a contract, Snell's is not too bad. He is making $3 million this year, and will make $4.25 million next year, with a couple club options after that. The club options are pricey, but there appears to be no buyout.
In addition to Snell, Pittsburgh has a shortstop they have been trying to trade for a few years now, Jack Wilson. He is not a particularly great hitter, but is a good defender, and even at his offensive worst is significantly better than what the Mariners have fielded at shortstop this year. He is making $7.25 million this season, but to keep his extension from kicking in (which needs to happen), the remainder of the contract needs to be bought out for $600,000. So, in reality, Jack Wilson is making $7.85 million.
What if the Mariners tried to get both Snell and Wilson in a trade? Their combined salaries for this year (including Wilson's buyout) would be $10.85 million. The Mariners could start by offering Miguel Batista, who is making $9 million in the final year of his contract. The difference in money is already under $2 million, and this deal should already look somewhat appealing to the Pirates. They do not seem to care much about Jack Wilson anymore, and they get off the hook for the rest of Ian Snell's deal, which again they have publicly stated is a mistake. Throw in a middle infield replacement (a guy like Josh Wilson) and/or a marginal pitching prospect(s) (Jesus Delgado, Andrew Baldwin, Doug Fister, Gaby Hernandez), and maybe Pittsburgh decides they have salvaged enough in this trade.
Miguel Batista has done a nice job in his role this year, and the Mariners bullpen is integral to their success with all the close games they play. However, looking at Batista's peripheral numbers, and what he has done over the course of his career, I think he is due to trail off. Besides, even if he does not, he is an impending free agent anyway, and at worst Snell can replace him in the bullpen, and Jack Wilson can be our starting shortstop the remainder of the year. Upgrading at shortstop by trading a middle reliever is good value.
This is not a trade the Mariners have to make, and they should not trade any significant part of their future to go after Ian Snell or Jack Wilson. Wilson is simply a rental player, but one that fits this team's needs well right now. Yuniesky Betancourt was starting to turn it around before he got hurt, but I still think Wilson is better than him right now. Batista is the perfect guy to trade for an overpriced rental player. As for Snell, he is still just 27 years old, his contract is not awful, and I have a hard time believing a completely washed up pitcher strikes out 17 in AAA. It looks to me that part of Snell's problem is that he no longer trusts his stuff, which would explain the spike in his walk rate. With comments like his contract is a mistake coming from Pittsburgh's front office, and that they are just trying to salvage something out of the deal, it is easy to see how he may lose confidence in himself. A change of scenery would do Snell good.
Both Ian Snell and Jack Wilson are guys that could help the Mariners. There are reasons both have been shopped without a deal happening, so the price has to be right. However, the pieces might be there for a deal that satisfies both sides.