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Brault’s call-up shows how Orioles are still haunted by Travis Snider trade

The Orioles traded two minor league lefties for Travis Snider last year. One of the lefties, Steven Brault, makes his MLB debut Tuesday night.

Steven Brault in action for the Pirates in spring training.
Steven Brault in action for the Pirates in spring training.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles made a bad trade last January that may be haunting them for years to come. Before the 2015 season, with an apparent need for an outfielder, the Orioles acquired Travis Snider from the Pirates in exchange for two minor league lefty pitching prospects: Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault, both picked in the 2013 draft.

When they made that trade, they weren’t wrong about their determination that they were in need of an outfielder. The state of the Orioles corner outfield spots last year tells us about all that we need to know about that. It was indeed a horrible unit, with players being designated for assignment seemingly on a daily basis.

One problem for the Orioles is that Snider was one of the terrible outfielders. Over the 69 games he played while with the team, he batted a dismal .237/.318/.341 while demonstrating what Twitter Orioles fan Luke Jackson proclaimed, “Slider bat speed but can’t recognize secondary stuff.”

The single most representative pitch of Snider’s time with the Orioles:

The Orioles somehow thought they were getting a useful player and they instead got Snider.

This is a painful thing to remember today because one of those pitchers the O’s gave up, Brault, has been called up to make a start for the Pirates in the stead of top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon.

As you’ve probably noticed, the Orioles rotation is in rather dire need of some more options this season. Trades like the Snider trade have deprived them of some of those choices, and now other teams will be picking those fruits instead while the Orioles are left hoping either Mike Wright or Tyler Wilson can represent any kind of answer. We’ve seen how that’s working out for them.

There’s not any guarantee that Brault will be an instant success, of course, nor even that he would have been while pitching for the Orioles regardless of how he performs with the Pirates.

Not every pitching prospect is good right away, or indeed ever, as O’s fans are well accustomed to knowing. And every pitcher looks better in the National League compared to the American League East. This is also worth remembering when wistfully eyeing Zach Davies, given up by the Orioles in the other of last year’s terrible outfielder trades, the one that brought Gerardo Parra to Baltimore.

What they would have in Brault, if they hadn’t made the ill-advised Snider trade, is at least another choice to throw in there right now, someone else to test before going to the trade market to find an upgrade.

Brault’s done well for himself to earn the promotion. After getting a promotion to Double-A around midseason last year, Brault went on to post a 2.00 ERA in 15 starts. That earned him a shot at Triple-A to start this year, where he’s pitched to a 2.57 ERA in eight starts, although that does come with a high-ish WHIP of 1.429.

Now is not the time to talk E-Rod

There is also a chorus of people who still can’t get over the Orioles trading Eduardo Rodriguez for Andrew Miller. That chorus is a good deal quieter this season, with Rodriguez pitching his way out of the Red Sox rotation thanks to an 8.59 ERA in six starts.

With numbers like that, there’s no point lamenting his absence from the 2016 O’s rotation at this point in time. The Orioles have a 5.18 ERA from their starting pitchers so far. They’re covered on problem starters at the moment.

There’s not a whole lot that Orioles fans can do about this stuff now. Whether Brault debuts with a no-hitter or gets blasted and quickly demoted, the O’s can’t take back the trade. They can’t suddenly stock their farm system with intriguing arms, either.

But as the trade deadline approaches, hopefully the Orioles will be a bit more cautious with their assets this time around. Snider may not have been a deadline trade, yet he is still a prime example of a problem the Orioles have had in the past couple of seasons.

They need to do a better job of evaluating what players on other teams may actually help their problem areas and they need to do a better job of getting appropriate value for the potentially useful players they trade. When they do this well, they get...?

Well, the truth is maybe they have never done it particularly well in the Dan Duquette era.

Duquette’s not-so-greatest hits

Duquette has made some good trades, with his best probably being the trade that brought Brad Brach to the Orioles, but that was a different sort of thing. The Orioles weren’t acquiring Brach to try to fill an immediate area of need. They acquired him as a bit of a project on whom they were willing to put in some work.

Other than that, to find decent trades, we’re left with making excuses like, “Well, the guys they gave up didn’t matter anyway” for a modest non-failure of a trade like for Jim Thome back in 2012. Or excuses like, “Hey, at least they got one good season out of him,” for the Bud Norris trade from 2013, a trade which they made thinking they’d get 2.5 decent-to-good seasons out of Norris.

Now Josh Hader is one of the top 100 prospects in the game. If the Orioles thought they were trading lottery tickets in some of these deals, it’s awfully suspicious how they have recently traded a lot of winning lottery tickets.

Maybe we won’t even have to worry about the Orioles making a terrible trade for a starting pitcher this July. After all, the Red Sox rotation is a disaster area too, a unit that’s posted a 4.81 ERA to date. They have two unsettled rotation spots and approximately one kazillion prospects they can dangle to teams. They will be gobbling up the inventory.

Not that it’s much consolation to Orioles fans if the best and worst case scenario happens to be the Orioles continuing to go to war with the rotation choices they have. It’s a bad rotation and there’s no help at all on the horizon. That’s still better than giving up a useful prospect just so they can tell everyone they made a trade, and then they end up getting somebody like Jorge De La Rosa, who ends up being no help at all.

The last thing we need is to have another young player haunting us two years down the road all because the Orioles made yet another desperation trade in July.