Snell sparkles, but what does it mean?


Ian Snell sparkled this afternoon in his first start for Triple-A Indianapolis. The right-hander struck out 17 of the 24 batters he faced in seven innings, allowing one unearned run on two hits. Snell walked the first batter of the game, then reeled off 13-straight strikeouts.

It’s a positive sign for Snell, who was demoted last week. It’s a positive sign for the Pirates, who at this point don’t know what future, if any, he has with the ballclub. But his performance today against Toledo, which averages nine strikeouts per game, does little to clear up Snell’s status.

In 46 starts since signing a three-year, $8.8 million contract during 2008 spring training, Snell is 9-20 with a 5.40 ERA. The combination of all those numbers makes him impossible to trade — no team would take such a risk for that kind of money. The Pirates tried to trade Snell before things got too bad, but other teams were only willing to part with lower-tier players — the kind the Pirates would expect for dealing a middle reliever, not a starter.

Today, GM Neal Huntington spoke of trying to “salvage some value” for Snell. It is unclear how long Snell will stay in the minors, whether he’ll ever net a decent return in a trade, or whether he’d be a starter or reliever if he makes it back to Pittsburgh.