Let's not pretend that Travis Snider is guaranteed to be a superstar, or that Alex Anthopoulos just made a colossally franchise-decimating trade, or that Alex Anthopoulos ever really makes bad trades to begin with.
We will, unfortunately, have to pretend that the deal hurts a little less than it actually does.
Look, evaluating the Snider-for-Lincoln swap is next to impossible at this point, and it will be until Travis Snider breaks out as one of the league's best power hitters - in a Pirates' uniform - or Lincoln takes his mid-90s fastball and finds some new way to dominate AL East opponents that the Jays' other mid-90s fastball pitchers haven't been able to do. Or, of course, he could just become the Jays' new closer. Really. Janssen's doing a phenomenal job, but with the volatile injury luck and general "What the [censored]-ness" of the Jays' bullpen for about two calendar years now, I'd say Lincoln's has about a 38% chance of grabbing consistent save opportunities in a Toronto uniform at some point.
One would think those of us in Toronto have been conditioned enough to "trades you can't fairly evaluate yet"-type deals that we'd be OK with an exchange of relatively young commodities, one of whom is (arguably) slightly more proven in his role - I'm talking about Lincoln, yeah, really - and under club control until sometime after 2040. Or 2018. Whatever, Lincoln's going to be a Blue Jay for a good long while.
But, apparently, this isn't the case. Is it just Travis Snider's name and persona that make this a difficult deal for some Jays fans to stand? Is it our affinity for a prospect that had such a flashy power ceiling and originally emerged as a hitter in the organization at a time when the ball club desperately needed any sort of offensive help and hope? Is it because he constantly Tweets about his red meat consumption and we, while knowing at some unconscious level that such behaviour can't possibly be not killing him, find it endearing?
Little of A. Little of B. C's not really a thing. I mean, it is, but it's not like you have to unfollow him on Twitter if you're really digging the BBQ prep he likes to post.
For me, the loss of Travis Snider is more about asset valuation. And granted, AA not only for sure knows more than what I know, but it's the kind of factor he's maintained acute awareness of during his time in Toronto. A fellow blogger or two have, at multiple times, referred to Alex as a "value whore." Obtaining players like Yunel Escobar and Colby Rasmus for what amounted to replaceable or outright spare parts, for example, is recognizing value in a transaction.
Basically, I'm forcing extra value on Travis Snider due to his pedigree, fan favourite-ness, profile within the organization, eventual upside, and status in the Jays' organization as, technically, a (the?) top prospect.
Am I wrong? Almost certainly. But that seems to be the pervading sentiment amongst reactions to the Travis Snider trade, so maybe, it's just OK to be wrong about this one.
No player is untouchable, and I am not inherently opposed to the idea of trading Travis Snider. He is a promising, yet definitively unproven commodity. What he holds in potential, he's lacked in consistency. And I've no reason not to like Brad Lincoln, frankly. Jays Journal thinks we should be happy with his potential, too. He certainly fills the desperate need of...uh..."anyone who can throw a ball from the pile of dirt to home" that the Jays have had since mid-May, and he has the kind of potentially dominant swing-and-miss arsenal that an AL East team simply needs to contend. As a late inning asset, we have every reason to hope he'll be great.
But that's just it.
My personal opposition is not so much regarding the dealing of Snider himself, but rather the tiers and types of commodities exchanged. Travis Snider may or may not be an All Star, but he's a defensive+ positive player with elite power potential. Brad Lincoln...is a relief pitcher. He may be a good relief pitcher, he may even excel in Toronto as a relief pitcher, but he's simply not the kind of asset that a Travis Snider should be able - or used - to fetch you.
One images that if a prospect asset of the Travis Snider is heading out the door, coming back through that door is an asset of significant impact to the team. Which is a scientific-sounding way of saying, "If you're trading Travis Snider, it better be in a package with a bonafide, front-line SP coming back." Now, it's entirely possible the deal wasn't there to be made. It's not as if Alex can just dictate these things to the other General Managers.
The Toronto Maple Leafs made a not-dissimilar decision in June to trade Luke Schenn, who might be considered an eerily (if more proven) comparable to Snider: both young players that at one time defined their organization's respective rebuilds, both fan favourites, both the subject of theories that their development had been severely compromised by their organizations' handling of their playing level or time.
But Luke Schenn fetched James van Riemsdyk: a young, high ceiling player with size and skill who desperately fills one of the team's most pressing positional needs. He's Luke Schenn's equivalent - if not superior - at forward, in terms of both potential and asset value. Brad Lincoln, on the page, does not immediately grab you as 'Travis Snider's equivalent.'
Anyone watching will say the Jays can use pitching of any kind to get them through the 2012 season, and thus, trading Snider for Lincoln was a deal of necessity to feel an area of need. It's a valid opinion, but I simply disagree. I think it reflects a short term mindset moreso than a longterm one, which I know sounds like a contradictory opinion considering Lincoln's years of control. It's not.
The Jays bullpen may certainly need help - and after multiple years of failed experiments, we (and Anthopoulos) may be starting to wonder if the "bullpen can be rebuilt through cheap free agency on one-year deals" theory might actually be total crap. But if the Jays' bullpen needs help, it's starting rotation is a disaster.
Ricky Romero was always a solid #2 on a good staff, despite how much the Rogers-employed Buck Martinez belabouring his identity as the staff "ace" would have you believe. Brandon Morrow was tremendously good this year before getting hurt, and demonstrated real consistent control and efficiency as a pitcher for the first time in his career - will it last? Alvarez is still very young and a bit too hittable to be relied on in an impactful way. Brett Cecil, Aaron Laffey, J.A. Happ (if they ever even let him start, which, according to Farrel, they might) are 5th starters at best on a contending AL East team.
For all the promise the Jays' pitching depth has suggested - and despite what I'm moaning here, it is still pretty phenomenal - their starting corps as it stands is a giant, unreliable question mark. That Anthopoulos seems at least momentarily satisfied with their performance and more concerned with bullpen upgrades is uncharacteristically troubling to hear. It doesn't reflect the sort of longterm vision he's clung consistently to while making impact moves. It is the least "Anthopoulos-y" of the trades he's made. Even FanGraphs isn't sure about this one.
Certain Jays prospects - names like Marcus Stroman, Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez, and Noah Snydergaard come to mind - might make the rotation discussion moot in a few years. But as of right now, starting pitching is this club's greatest Major League-level weakness and on Tuesday night, Toronto traded one of their most marketable assets to upgrade an entirely different area of the club.
Lincoln might well be fine, but if there had to be a Travis Snider deal-and-return, call me disappointed that he's it. It's almost a sort of mercy-kill for the Snider era in Toronto, considering how mismanaged he was as a prospect by the organization. We'll never know what 150+ games wearing a blue cap in the Majors might have been like for him, and that's the real travesty.