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Ian Snell is, for Pirates fans, an unwelcome reminder of the fact that even the best-intentioned commitment to home-growing can go awry in places. How often does this play out: a young team with some nice building blocks buys out some arbitration years to make sure said blocks stay in place for the next good, cost-controlled team, and we bloggers, we fans, we columnists praise indiscriminately—for this is our guy, watched and waited on since short-season ball, and the GM has cleverly avoided free agency. He will Build From Within. The Rays, with Evan Longoria et al, have done a lot to popularize the technique; the Cardinals' opening day starter is another fine example.
But things are different when you're a Pirates fan. Pittsburgh seemed to do everything right with Snell, who is perhaps the closest thing to a good pitcher the Pirates have developed out of their long string of dinged prospects. He strikes out eight batters per nine innings, his control seems to be improving, and he's pitched two full seasons in a row—so the Pirates make a goodwill signing, extending him three years for $8.6 million, and two market-rate team options after that. Basically the same structure, though somewhat less lucrative, the Cardinals and Wainwright agreed upon. A wonderful small-market move.
So Snell goes out there and inaugurates the deal by walking nearly five batters per nine, two more than he did in 2007.
That said, the strikeouts are real, and Snell still seems fully prepared to make good on the deal. It'll be an interesting matchup.
Happy Rasmus day! Rasmus Rasmus Rasmus—I'm trying not to expect too much, because his minor league career is not without its slow starts (in fact, it's lousy with them), but he's Colby Rasmus, the first Cardinals position playing prospect in a million years. Right there, on my TV!
The Thurston start doesn't make a lot of sense at first blush; he's a useful bench player, and La Russa is no doubt prepared to play him at third at a moment's notice, but Freese is on the team to play one position—why not try it?
For what it's worth, Snell does have a pretty severe platoon split in his career, which may also be the gear that turned in TLR's head in such a way as to bench Ludwick instead of Duncan. (I know, the reverse split—but pitchers' splits are important, too, and anyway I'm still not quite convinced that Rudwick does something almost no other players in baseball do, aside from playing "Brass Monkey" before every at-bat.)