When Miguel Montero went down with his meniscus injury in early April, just about every Diamondbacks fan accompanied their angst over Montero's six-week absence with a slight sigh of relief that Chris Snyder was still on the roster. It was well-documented that Snyder would have been dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays for first baseman Lyle Overbay were it not for Snyder failing his physical. It's worth noting that Overbay now has a triple-slash line of .184/.287/.345 for a .632 OPS, .279 wOBA, and -0.3 WAR in 25 games due to a huge spike in K-Rate and a slight dip in BB-Rate, albeit with a low BABIP of .241 (by comparison, Adam LaRoche, who was signed after the Overbay acquisition fell through, has already contributed 0.6 WAR in 21 games with only a slightly-inflated .333 BABIP).
And since Montero went down, Snyder, a guy we were once actively trying to pawn off on other teams, has performed more than admirably. With just a little help from BABIP inflation through 18 games, he's on pace to set new career highs in OBP (.357), SLG (.508), wOBA (.373), and WAR (3.3 - projected for 100 games), with those projections coming before blasting another homer and drawing two walks against the Astros Monday (as well as all stats presented later on in this article). It is largely assumed that when Montero returns, the D'backs will be free to deal Snyder to one of the many teams in need of catching help. But if the D'backs are in the thick of a Division or Wild Card hunt, why would you deal a catcher who is on-pace for a WAR total higher than his replacement's career high (Montero's 2009 WAR of 3.0), especially if that replacement is returning from an injury and was already known to be suspect defensively? The pros and cons of possibly moving Chris Snyder follow the jump.
- There's plenty of demand:
A quick glance at last summer's free agent spending spree on mediocre catching is indicative that there is a lack of solid catchers available to teams, and thus there is a premium on good catchers. $6MM to Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Kendall. $4.5MM to Bengie Molina (blocking Buster Posey from seeing everyday time). Heck, the first thing I wrote for the SnakePit was a FanPost detailing which teams could be interested in trading for Snyder last summer, and it was quite a lot of them. It's been well-documented here. So you have to believe that a team like the Red Sox, with a stuffed farm system and tons of assets at its disposal, would be willing to fork over a huge value for Snyder, since their catchers, Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez, are both guys who no longer belong behind the dish. Could we coax the Sox into overpaying? Probably.
- Help fix the bullpen, help replenish the farm system:
As the cries for more effective work from the bullpen continue from nearly every Diamondbacks fan, we all have to face facts at some point. Regardless of hopes that regression will occur to bring down the HR/FB rates of the 'pen, there always remains the chance that it won't regress, or that won't begin to regress quickly enough, which could continue to torpedo the season. And since, as explained above, there's likely to be teams willing to deal a large amount of assets for Snyder, we could definitely get our hands on a premier relief arm in a Snyder package. And since any position player is worth more than a relief arm, we could also replenish our horrible farm system in one fell swoop by raiding a trade partner's farm system.
- Sell high, and while you have the chance:
Snyder currently has a BABIP of .324. While this wouldn't be at all alarming for any other player, we're talking about a big Texas boy here, and he doesn't get to first all that quickly on balls in play. In fact, his career BABIP is .276. Further, his ISO is .246, with his previous career high (minimum 30 games) was .216 back in 2008. Being realistic, it's hard to imagine Snyder maintaining this level of play for a full season, not to mention the rest of his current contract.
In addition, Snyder's injury history is well-documented. But in the midst of his amazing season, I'd be willing to bet that a lot of teams would overlook that right now to help solve their short-term problems at the catcher position. But what happens if Snyder goes down again for an extended period of time? His value to us diminishes, his trade value plummets, and we're stuck with his salary on our books for the next couple years, the reason why we were so desperately trying to get rid of him last summer. Trades intrinsically involve risk, but in this case, choosing not to make a deal carries a greater-than-usual amount of risk as well.
- Will Montero stay behind the dish?
Now, this isn't me advocating for Montero to be moved to a new position anytime soon. If you translate his 2009 UZR as a catcher into RAR (-1.0), then factor in the discrepancy between the position adjustments for catcher and third base (approx 7.5 RAR), Montero would have to be worth around six and a half runs defensively at third base to justify a move (assuming offensive stability). But it doesn't take a scientist to figure out that Miguel Montero's value as a catcher comes from his bat. And, to top it off, Montero is currently out with a knee injury. What if he returns, but can't even muster anything close to a -1.0 RAR defensively? What if a move to third base, or to first base with Mark Reynolds' growing proficiency at third, really becomes the best option for Miguel? We would be desperately in need of a starting-caliber catcher, and having one relatively cost-controlled would prevent us from having to delve into the disgusting free agent catching market.
- What to make of John Hester?
Hester debuted at the end of last year and had a relatively strong showing, with a .729 OPS and .317 wOBA combining with a neutral UZR and positional adjustments to make him worth a run above replacement in just 15 games. In the off-season, the organization's belief in Hester to be a serviceable backup was part of what led the team to shop Snyder so aggressively. But not even the heavy positional adjustments from catching has saved Hester's WAR in his short seven-game stint in the majors this year, as a .666 OPS and -1.0 UZR have left him ever so slightly below replacement level.
Don't mistake the intention of that paragraph, though. It is not to dismiss John Hester. He's made some crappy plays behind the plate to start this season, to be sure, and he also came up short a couple times against the Cubs with the bat, but making a judgment of Hester after 22 major league games in any way would be irrational. What I mean to say is that before this season, there wasn't much not to like about Hester. He was a AAA All-Star, a guy known for his defensive prowess who developed a good bat, and he had a successful cup of coffee in the big leagues. He was a cost-controlled option as a backup catcher that allowed us the chance to deal Snyder and invest that money elsewhere. But the start of this season has reminded us that we still don't know what we have in Hester, and the fantastic hitter's environment of Reno has once again cast doubt upon his AAA accomplishments (something tells me we'll have a good reason to leave Reno in a couple years...). Dealing Snyder would require utmost confidence in Hester's ability to be the full-time backup and injury-replacement starter to Montero, or even to take Montero's job if Montero cannot cut it behind the plate, as mentioned above. And at this point, it's hard to imagine us having that kind of confidence in Hester.
I think that covers most of what I wanted to say, and if there's more I can always go back and edit it a little bit. But it's clearly a situation to keep an eye on - after all, not many teams can say that they have two starting catchers, and it might not be a stretch to say that our Montero/Snyder platoon falls only behind Minnesota's Mauer/Mauer platoon in terms of production from the catcher spot.
What's that you say? You want a conclusion about what I think we should do? Hah! Darned if I know.