On June 24, Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington had a decision to make with his reserve outfielders: either demote Jose Tabata or Travis Snider, neither of which had any minor-league options remaining.
In a rare move where the Pirates did not care about the cost, Huntington chose to designate Tabata for assignment, and the rest really has been history.
Tabata signed a contract through the 2016 season and had three club options through the 2019 season. In 2016, Tabata would have earned $4.5 million and the three player options were $6.5 million for 2017, $7.5 million for 2018 and $8.5 million for 2019.
Oftentimes, the Pirates use money as a crutch, stating with actions or words that they had put too much into a player. Tabata was not performing up to expectations but could have stuck with the team; however in this instance Huntington went against the norm, preferring to stay with Snider.
What Snider has done since has been exactly what the Pirates wanted when they acquired him in July of 2012 in the trade that sent Brad Lincoln to the Toronto Blue Jays. There were many fans that were unsure if giving up Lincoln was the way to go, considering he did well as a member of the Pirates bullpen.
The Pirates wanted Lincoln to be able to start, but he could not consistently earn their trust in that capacity and thus became expendable. Snider had a rough 2012 season as he was hampered by injury.
Snider was given the opportunity to start in 2013, but even then was not a consistent option and again dealt with injury which necessitated left-foot surgery following the season.
Since July 12, Snider has been a .310 hitter and his six home runs in the second half of the season have matched his career total with the team. Overall this year, Snider has 10 home runs, a .257 batting average (his highest as a Pirate) and a Wins Above Replacement of 1.0 which is the highest of his career.
In addition, Snider as a pinch hitter has the most at-bats on the team to go with a .283 batting average, two home runs and eight RBI. With Andrew McCutchen injured, Snider has had a chance to further prove himself and now finds himself with the most home runs on the team since the all-star break, which is a testament to his perseverance.
While it may have taken longer than Pirates fans had initially expected, Snider has become an invaluable asset to this team. He can be placed almost anywhere in the lineup and produce. Snider could have been impatient with both manager Clint Hurdle and himself, but has gone about his business.
Josh Harrison is by far the biggest surprise story on the team, but Snider is a close second. Many wanted Gregory Polanco to start the season with the Pirates, but Hurdle stuck with Snider and now is benefiting from the rewards.
It is likely that Snider will go back to a pinch-hitting role once McCutchen returns, but if Polanco or Starling Marte slump, Hurdle will not be afraid to make a change. Snider has earned that.