I was thinking this morning about how amazing Travis Snider is as a 20 year old. I'll admit that I did not want him up here this season in the majors. But in 38 at bats, he's exceeded my expectations. He's hitting a ridiculous 316/366/533 (140 OPS+). The strikeouts are pretty scary - 10 K's in 38 AB which would give him 144-145 in 550 at bats. So it couldn't hurt to give him just a little more time in AAA in my opinion, despite his early success.
But if and when the Jays do ultimately decide to make him a major leaguer, there's very little doubt at this point that he'll become a star. Whether it's as a RF, a LF, a 1B, or a DH, he's going to be one of, if not the best player on the team. So wouldn't it make sense to give him a long term contract, and make sure he's around for as long as possible?
That's when I started thinking about the deal Longoria got from the Rays. Another 06 draftee, Longoria was given a 6 year deal worth 17.5 million dollars, with team options for 3 years worth 7.5, 11, and 11.5 million. So including those numbers, it's a 9 year deal worth 47.5 million. An average value of 5.3 million per year.
Snider and Longoria had very similar numbers going through the minors - Longoria posted a 920 OPS in his brief stay in the minors, while Snider had an 888 OPS in the minors. Snider was 2 years younger, and only had faced high school competition, whereas Longoria had been through a couple of years of playing in college. So it seems more impressive that Snider hit the ground running, and did almost as well as a guy who faced tougher competition, while being YOUNGER than Longoria.
Now, the one thing in Longoria's favour is that he plays better defense at a more critical position. Not only that, he plays it very well - right now he's 7th for qualifiers in ZR, which is very impressive. Snider might end up only playing LF, 1B or DH, as he's currently blocked by Rios in RF for the forseeable future.
Of course there are risks to doing this deal - what if Snider turns out to be a bust? What if he gets injured? Well, you've only guaranteed him 6 years at 17.5 million, for an annual cost of 2.91 mil per season. There is a 3 million dollar buyout to avoid paying the other options, so at worst you pay 20.5 mil over 6 years to a guy who looked like a stud but couldn't deliver.
On the other hand, what if Snider becomes the superstar we expect him to be? In that case, as I've said earlier, you've locked him up for 9 years, at a ridiculously low rate (47.5 or so million). He wouldn't be a free agent till he's what, 30?
In order to beat teams like the Sox and the Yanks, the Jays are going to need to take risks. Signing Snider now (or whenever he becomes a fulltime player) to a deal like this would be a relatively small risk, with a very large reward. It would allow them to build a team around Snider, while ensuring their best player is under market value through his prime years.
There's no guarantee Snider's going to start in 2009 with the Jays. But if he is going to be a regular, the Jays need to look into trying to sign him to a "Longoria" type deal. There's no guarantee Snider would even accept it, but it's an option the Jays just can't ignore.