Why The Snell Would The Rockies Want Ian Snell?

MLB Insider John Perrotto reports that the Colorado Rockies are shaping up as the Pirates’ “most likely trade partner for Ian Snell, citing Snell’s deteriorating clubhouse demeanor as a likely expediting factor for such a deal. I fail to see why either team would want to make this trade, though; Snell has been a well below-average starter since the ’08 All-Star Break, and trading him now would surely represent the Pirates dealing him at minimum value (as Perrotto even notes), plus the Rockies (embarrassingly) already have five starting pitchers outperforming Snell this season.

Ian Snell’s ERA+ — a league and park-adjusted statistic — was 76 in 2008 and is at 78 in 2009, far worse than the league base average of 100, while the Rockies’ starting rotation boasts 2009 ERA+s of 120, 116, 111, and 106, with only rookie Jorge de la Rosa’s mark of 89 below league average. De la Rosa also has 72 Ks to 32 BBs in 67.1 IP, while Snell, a strikeout pitcher by reputation, boasts an ugly 49 K / 38 BB in 72 IP. One might envision Snell as a replacement for 30-year-old stopgap Jason Marquis, whose 3.77 ERA is likely to rise and whose 41 K/ 31 BB is hardly impressive, but he’s been a career innings-eater with mostly passable ERAs throughout his career despite low strikeout numbers, and is still less of a risk to completely implode than Ian “First Inning Excitement” Snell.

Basically, even if the Rockies acquire Snell for free, he wouldn’t represent an upgrade over any of their current starting pitchers unless he immediately reverts back to his 2007 form, and expecting that to happen as he travels from PNC Park to Coors Field is a bet I couldn’t see any GMs jumping to make. Unless The Rockies’ GM was double-dared to see if he can get a pitcher’s ERA over five thousand this season.

The only other explanation for such a deal would be the Rockies wishing to acquire Snell as a reliever / spot starter, which makes even less sense, as that would involve the Rockies wishing to trade even less for him, then paying a reliever $5.9 million over the next year and a half. The only way this deal could possibly happen in the immediate future is if the Pirates accept a total salary dump / addition by subtraction deal to rid themselves of Snell’s continued managerial criticism and clubhouse negativity, but I don’t foresee Neal Huntington taking this route with Snell still healthy and under contract, and the Pirates still being old-timey-villain’s-mustache-thin with starting pitching depth.

Unless a team offers anything of remote substance for Snell (obviously nothing in “Top 10 prospect” territory, but just anything redemptive), I’m not sure the Pirates aren’t better off just paying Snell’s semi-unfortunate salary in exchange for his healthy innings, whether they’re as a starter, long-reliever, or middle-late innings guy, in the hope that he’ll turn a corner and if not revert back to his ’07 form, at least begin pitching competently. And if that doesn’t happen, at least trade him to the Mets.

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