Travis Snider entered the offseason thinking he might be playing for a new team in 2015. He knew the Pittsburgh Pirates had a group of talented young outfielders and were likely to give their starting right field job to phenom Gregory Polanco, leaving Snider as an accessory.
It wasn't that long ago Snider, whom the Orioles acquired from Pittsburgh on Tuesday in exchange for minor-league left-hander Stephen Tarpley and a player to be named later, was one of the top prospects in baseball, making his major league debut at the age of 20 in 2008 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Since then, he spent a lot of the past seven years struggling to make good on spectacular minor league numbers and the expectations that came with them.
Snider, who is coming off the best season of his career, said those growing pains made him a better player who is now ready to use what he's learned in his new opportunity with the Orioles.
"It's definitely an exciting time for my career and, most importantly, getting the chance to play for a manager like Buck Showalter and play for an organization that is defending the AL East title and someplace where winning is expected," Snider told The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday. "That's something that coming from Pittsburgh the last couple years will be nice, kind of picking up where I left off, so to speak, on a team full of competitors."
The Orioles had been looking for a left-handed outfield bat since they lost Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz early in the offseason. Executive vice president Dan Duquette believes Snider, who will turn 27 on Monday, fills that role nicely.
"Snider is a solid, dependable power-hitting outfielder and is an excellent fit for Camden Yards," Duquette said Tuesday. "[He] should be a good addition to the club at bat and in the field."
But Snider is looking forward to earning his keep in Baltimore.
"Having experienced parts of seven years at the major league level and playing in both leagues has taught me a lot about competition for playing time and what goes into all of that," Snider said. "We all strive to be everyday players and get 500-600 at bats and go out there have that opportunity, but I haven't had that opportunity in my career. And I don't expect that opportunity to be handed to me just because the Baltimore Orioles liked what they saw and made a trade for me."
Snider said he's excited about returning to the American League East — he spent parts of five seasons with Toronto — and Snider said he hopes to utilize hitter-friendly Camden Yards' power alleys.
"For me personally, staying in the middle of the field is a strength and when I'm staying in the middle of the field, good things are happening," Snider said. "The dimensions there are a little more favorable for a left-handed hitter to be able to stay in that left-center, center-field section, just trying to stay disciplined and allow those homers and extra-base hits to come."
Snider, a first-round draft pick of the Blue Jays in 2006 who was ranked the sixth-best prospect in the game by Baseball America, has never spent an entire big-league season as an everyday player. But last season with Pittsburgh, he batted .264 with a .338 on-base percentage and .438 slugging percentage. He had 15 doubles, 13 home runs and 38 RBIs in a career-high 359 plate appearances.
"For me, I keep my focus on doing what I have to do to get better every day and continue to improve on some of the adjustments I was able to make over the course of the year mechanically with my swing," Snider said. "It's been something I've struggled with over the years, consistency with my mechanics. When you go up and down between the major leagues and Triple-A as a young player, there are a lot of things that come with that. It's a grind mentally, and it was something that took me a few years to really put into perspective and understand going into last season the adjustments I wanted to make, and I'm going to continue to make over the course of my career to be successful at this level."
Snider said he is disappointed he will not be able to attend this weekend's FanFest event at the Baltimore Convention Center. Snider is a big Seattle Seahawks fan and, before the trade, made plans to go to the Super Bowl in Arizona to support his hometown team.