Wait, what? Blue Jays Option Travis Snider to AAA, Outright Woodward

By Thom Tsang

Now for the real story of the day: shortly after the feel-good train got rolling with the Jays taking the series against the Rangers, the team made a several moves, outrighting veteran Chris Woodward (who was recalled to provide infield depth) and…optioning left fielder Travis Snider to AAA Las Vegas.

Even after this move has sunk in over the last few hours, I’m still having trouble believing what I’ve just typed. This was the year that Snider was finally going to stop getting jerked around between AAA and the bigs. He was going to get his 600 ABs and work out what kinks he had which has kept him from being a consistent hitter so far – and how the Jays are going to yank the 23-year old kid away from big league pitching again, in the middle of a 5-game hitting streak, no less? “Mind-bogglingly stupid” doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this move.

I think like many Jays fans, I’ve given Alex Anthopoulous a large amount of credit for the moves he’s made to turn around the farm system of this franchise. None of that however, explains this. Why in the world would you send down arguably your most talented hitting prospect, whose problem in previous years have been the lack of consistent at-bats at the big league level, less than a month after the team stated that they were committing to him? What’s the point? Snider has always crushed AAA ball at Las Vegas, and he’ll inevitably do it again once he gets down there; but who cares? It’s not like the minor league assignment is going to help the 23-year old’s confidence when he gets called up again, who has to consistently have the threat of his job being taken away from him if he struggles for any extended length of time.

On this very day last season, Snider was struggling out of the gate, hitting just .125 with one homer. By May 14th, he’d gone on a mini-tear and turned it around, raising his average to .241 with 5 home runs just prior to getting hurt. Of course, by the time he’d healed, the Jays management against decided to keep him around in AAA, not giving Snider another shot at the bigs until July. It’s something that’s defined the Jays management of the former top prospect so far: he struggles for 80 at bats, the Jays send him down AAA. Enough is enough – let’s see what he can do through the course of a season before wrecking his confidence and putting thoughts in Snider’s head that he can’t deal with MLB pitching. He’s shown that he can recover from slow starts – and he wouldn’t be the first player who starts out like this, and Snider has the tools to get himself righted. This kind of over management isn’t doing the Jays or Snider any good.

Hell, even Juan Rivera took a month to finally show some life this week against the Rangers – and really, is the message sent here that the Jays trust Juan Rivera more to the team’s development over Travis Snider? In the middle of a meaningless season that was supposed to the the team a chance to see what they’ve got in terms of young players, we’ve decided to go with the 31-year old Corey Patterson in left field, who has a .292 career OBP through 9 seasons and over 1110 games?

The kicker in all of this is that to make room for the move, Rajai Davis and David Cooper has been called up to take the place of Woodward and Snider. Davis, I understand – he’s the Jays’ centre fielder this year. Cooper, on the other hand, make this whole Snider thing even more questionable than ever. Where is Cooper going to play, exactly? We don’t need a 1st baseman with Lind there. Cooper doesn’t play outfield, and unless he’s being brought up strictly to DH (while moving Rivera’s 5 million dollars to a bench-relief role), the 24 year old with just 89 AAA at-bats isn’t going to get enough work up here at the MLB level to help his development.

The official line is that Travis Snider has been sent down to work on his swing. Whatever that means in the long term (perhaps there are more moves coming that Anthopoulous has lined up); in the short term, it means that instead of getting a glimpse of what the Jays potential middle-of-the-order bat can do, we’ll instead get to see a 31 year old journeyman who has no part in the Jays “freight train” future take left field. The Jays committed to giving Travis Snider full playing time before the season; and just 25 games into ’11, the team has deviated from the plan and have instead gone with a known, below-mediocre quantity.

Snider has struggled before, and he’s worked himself out of it and the Jays have benefited. This year, more than ever, he deserves the chance to do it over the full season. This move, unless it’s a major part of a trade, reeks of premature expectations from the Jays management. Hopefully Snider will be back with the team soon.

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