Following yesterday afternoon’s 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, the Toronto Blue Jays announced that Travis Snider would be rejoining the team after completing a three month odyssey at Triple A Las Vegas. In order to make room for the left fielder on the active roster, the Blue Jays designated Juan Rivera for assignment.
It always seemed like a contradiction to me that Snider was sent down to the minors after less than 100 plate appearances with the justification that something was wrong with his swing and the Majors were no place to work on it, while the Blue Jays organization continued to extend Job like patience to Kyle Drabek at the big league level despite his seeming inability to hit the strike zone with anything resembling consistency. That comparison makes me assume that there was more to the story of Snider getting sent down than what has been revealed.
Nonetheless, he’s back after almost 50 games in the Minor Leagues, and I look forward to the inevitable comparison in his swing mechanics between the last time he played in a Blue Jays uniform and this time. While in Las Vegas, Snider compiled a .399 wOBA and an .891 OPS, which tells us absolutely nothing, given that a) it’s Triple A, b) it’s the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, and c) the numbers he put up in his first month of the season aren’t that dissimilar from the numbers he put up in the first month of last season, which were followed by an outstanding May (before he got injured).
With Jose Bautista on an odyssey of his own at third base, it’s expected that Snider will get as much playing time in the outfield as he wants. One brief note: if Snider has continued to throw as well at Las Vegas as he was in Toronto during the first month of the year, there is no question in my mind that he should be playing in right field, with Eric Thames in left. Thames most glaring weakness, other than an inability to take a pitch (no one’s complaining now, but wait), is his arm, which could be hidden in left field more than in right. I also wouldn’t be against Snider continuing his experiments in center field from time to time, which he started while in Triple A.
As for the Death From Above for Juan Rivera, meh. Rivera’s contributions to the team have been infrequent at best, and his awful play in left field over the weekend combined with a complete inability to hit right handed pitching likely sealed the deal for him.
When he was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the Vernon Wells trade, it was assumed to be a case of, “If you want us to take Wells off your hands, then you’ve gotta take Rivera off ours.” And his play since coming over indicates that the assumption was correct. The Blue Jays will pay Rivera the remainder of the $5.25 million he’s owed for this year, minus the league minimum if he’s picked up by another team from waivers, and assuming he’s not traded while designated for assignment (a very safe bet).
While Snider’s demotion may have been unexpected, I think that most Blue Jays fans believed that as the season progressed the team would begin to look more and more like the squad that the organization hopes will compete in the American League East. The recent roster moves involving Rivera and Jayson Nix are mere examples of the paring down that’s bound to happen in the next few months.