The Orioles acquired the left-handed-hitting outfielder they had been seeking all offseason, trading a minor league pitcher and a player to be named later to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night for Travis Snider.
The Orioles have had interest in Snider since baseball's annual winter meetings in December, but the talks were rekindled recently and heated up this week, when the Orioles agreed to deal promising left-hander Stephen Tarpley and another low-level minor leaguer to Pittsburgh.
Snider, who turns 27 next week, hit .264 with a .338 on-base percentage in a career-high 140 games with the Pirates in 2014. A 2006 first-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, he had 13 home runs and drove in a career-high 38 RBIs last year.
"Snider is a solid, dependable power-hitting outfielder and is an excellent fit for Camden Yards," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "[He] should be a good addition to the club at bat and in the field."
The Orioles were able to fill their biggest offseason need without being forced to deal one of their elite prospects or a member of their current 25-man roster. When the sides talked in December, the Pirates were focused on left-handed reliever Brian Matusz.
Considered an above-average defensive outfielder, Snider has played 236 games in right field and 222 in left field in a major league career that spans parts of seven seasons. He is a career .246 hitter in 1,706 big league plate appearances, and his splits against right-handers (.245 average) and lefties (.249 average) are similar. He has never been a full-time major leaguer; his 359 plate appearances last year were the most of his career.
Making his debut at age 20 with the Blue Jays, Snider played with Toronto for parts of five seasons before being dealt to the Pirates in July 2012 for another first-round pick, pitcher Brad Lincoln. In 2009, Snider was widely considered one of the Top 10 prospects in all of baseball — he was ranked the sixth best prospect in the game by Baseball America — but he has never come close to reaching his ceiling.
He agreed to a $2.1 million contract this offseason to avoid arbitration and has one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining before potentially becoming a free agent after the 2016 season. Snider was expected to be pushed into fourth outfielder duty by the Pirates, who seemingly have given their starting right field job to 23-year-old phenom Gregory Polanco.
"We didn't plan to move [Snider]," Pirates senior vice president and general manager Neal Huntington said. "But we feel we have enough depth to sustain the loss. We've gained two quality players, we've created roster flexibility and we've created some payroll flexibility."
Tarpley, the Orioles' third-round pick in 2011, was 3-5 with a 3.68 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) for short-season single-A Aberdeen last year, his first professional season. He was a late addition to the Orioles' minicamp — which focuses on the organization's top young pitchers — this month.
Tarpley was seen as one of the Orioles' more promising arms in the lower levels of the minor league system, but still raw and a few steps away from being considered one of the organization's top prospects. He was slotted to open the season at low-A Delmarva.
Huntington told Pittsburgh reporters that the player to be named later would be similar to Tarpley. One other name that was discussed during the negotiations, according to a source, was 22-year-old lefty Steven Brault, who pitched at Low-A Delmarva and High-A Frederick in 2014.
In order to make room for Snider on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated catcher Michael Ohlman for assignment. Ohlman, 24, hit .236 with two home runs and 33 RBIs in 113 games with Double-A Bowie in 2014.
The Orioles have been searching for another big-league outfielder since Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz left via free agency this winter. They preferred a left-handed hitter with some power potential and defensive ability, but had not yet found a match on the free-agent market.
The Orioles recently offered a one-year deal to Colby Rasmus and also had limited interest in Nori Aoki and Ichiro Suzuki. But once all of those players signed, it appeared that the best route to fill their outfield need was by trade.