This off-season the Jays had their work cut out for them in replacing the suddenly expensive Melky Cabrera. With few internal options available, and a long-lust for the former Seattle Mariner, the Jays acquired Michael Saunders in exchange for J.A Happ.
He’s Canadian; he’s-at worst-an average every day left fielder. But mostly, he’s the type of player the Jays already had. His name was Travis Snider.
As many Jays fans remember, Snider was drafted in the first round of the 2006 draft with the fourteenth overall pick. For four seasons, Snider battled to become more than a quadruple-A player but after not making the club in 2012 in favour of Eric Thames, the Jays elected to pass on Snider, trading him to the Pirates for Brad Lincoln.
Let’s be clear here, it’s not as if the Jays were robbed on the trade. Snider didn’t exactly become Mike Trout since landing in Steel City. In his first season, he was brutal to put it eloquently. He played 111 games, producing a .215/.281/.333 slash and was a below replacement player with a -0.6 WAR.
In 2014 however, Pirates fans saw the trailer for what could have been Snider’s career. Snider improved his play, manufacturing a .264/.338/.438 slash, .343 wOBA and a 1.7 WAR. Combine that with an average to above average season as a corner outfielder and you get some Jays fans wondering what Brad Lincoln has done for the Jays since then.
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Maybe 2014 was a fluke for Snider; maybe it wasn’t. But Saunders wasn’t exactly head and shoulders above what Snider did last season either. Last season, Saunders was 1.9 WAR with a .273/.341/.450 slash and a .346 wOBA. Really, these numbers are almost identical. Add in the fact that Saunders benefited from a .327 BABIP (batting average with balls in play) while Snider hovered around the league average with a .298 BABIP, and Snider may have actually been more dangerous offensively given Saunders’ batted ball luck.
Even if you look past their 2014 season’s, the two aren’t strangers in a crowd. Snider has a career WAR of 2.7 with a .246/.310/.406 slash while Saunders has been 5.0 WAR with a .231/.301/.384 slash line. Yes Saunders has been worth 2.3 WAR more than Snider, but he has also benefitted from playing a more rewarding position the majority of his career (center field) whereas Snider has been strictly a corner outfielder.
This isn’t to say Saunders is a bad acquisition for the birds. Steamers suggests he’s more or less going to be the same player in 2015 as he was last year. Depending on how Baltimore uses Snider’s talents, he could be as well.
If anything, the preceding 400 odd words are an attempt at reclaiming the Snider haters to say, “hey, he amounted to something.”
If not, look at the other guy running out to left-field this season; in some ways, he’s the same player anyway.