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Blue Jays upgrade 'pen by ending left-field shuffle

Blue Jays upgrade 'pen by ending left-field shuffle

SEATTLE -- The battle for left field officially came to an end on Monday night when the Blue Jays traded away Travis Snider and Eric Thames in separate deals for a pair of relievers.

Snider and Thames began the year as two up-and-coming outfielders with plenty of offensive upside, but not much of a track record at the big league level. They battled it out in what became the most talked-about storyline of Spring Training.

Thames initially won the job before the two switched roles midway through the year, but now they are headed in opposite directions. Snider was sent to Pittsburgh for right-hander Brad Lincoln, while Thames was dealt to Seattle for right-hander Steve Delabar.

"Trade Deadline, you expect moves to be made, you never know if it's going to be you," said Snider, who was pulled from Monday night's 4-1 loss to Seattle in the seventh inning.

"Thank you to everybody in Toronto, the organization, the fans. And [I] can't say thank you enough for sticking with me through this journey, and [I'm] looking forward to a new opportunity."

Now that the non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings, and if he is claimed by one of the teams, he cannot be traded. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player.

Snider was selected by the Blue Jays with the 14th overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. He rocketed through Toronto's Minor League system and made it to the big leagues two years later, when he was still just 20 years old.

Once there, however, he began to struggle for the first time in his baseball career. Snider found himself battling injuries and was consistently bounced back and forth between the Majors and Minors.

Snider has 31 career homers in 835 at-bats -- including three in 10 games this season -- but has a career average of just .248. One of the biggest issues is that he never received more than 300 at-bats in one season to prove his worth over an extended period of time.

There are plenty of critics who have suggested the Blue Jays prematurely rushed him to the big leagues, while others said the constant shuffling between the Majors and Minors is ultimately what led to his downfall in Toronto.

On his final day inside a Blue Jays clubhouse, Snider wasn't about to blame the organization or anybody else for his personal failures on the diamond. Instead, he looked forward to starting fresh with a Pittsburgh organization that is currently battling for a spot in the postseason.

"Experiencing what I have, I've definitely learned a lot from that, and moving forward, the mind-set has to stay the same," Snider said. "What I've worked hard to develop is to take things one day at a time and controlling what I can control. I'm going to work hard for the Pittsburgh Pirates and go out there and play hard every day."

Thames began the year as the Blue Jays' starting left fielder, but he eventually lost the job in May following his prolonged struggles at the plate. He managed to hit just .243 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 46 games before being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The 25-year-old Thames also experienced his fair share of difficulties in the field and didn't appear to have much of a future with the organization after he was cast aside earlier this year. Thames, who was hitting .335 with six homers for Las Vegas, now gets the opportunity to return to the big leagues with Seattle.

In return for Snider and Thames, the Blue Jays received a pair of relievers as they continue to reshape their bullpen following a series of devastating injuries.

It has been no secret that general manager Alex Anthopoulos had been looking to fill the void left behind when Sergio Santos, Luis Perez and Jason Frasor were placed on the DL and Carlos Villanueva had to be promoted to the starting rotation.

Lincoln is a former first-round pick who was taken 10 selections before Snider in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. He went 4-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 59 1/3 innings for the Pirates this season.

The 27-year-old made five starts for Pittsburgh, but the Blue Jays envision using him strictly in relief. Lincoln is under club control through 2018 and appears to have been acquired to become a long-term solution in middle relief.

"He's had an outstanding year with the Pirates, has really emerged as a late-inning reliever for them," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.

"The reports have been strong. His velocity has ticked up a little bit going into shorter stints, he's always had the ability to spin a breaking ball when he was at the University of Houston, and that's been one of his calling cards throughout the Minor Leagues. In this case, where he's moved into those shorter stints, everything has become a little bit more powerful, a little bit more crisp."

Delabar is 2-1 with a 4.17 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings this season. He's surrendered nine home runs and occasionally has trouble commanding his pitches, but he has the ability to throw in the upper-90s.

The 29-year-old was originally drafted by the Padres in 2003, but temporarily dropped out of baseball because of arm issues. He became a high school baseball coach and substitute teacher in Kentucky, but he was signed by the Mariners in 2011 and made his Major League debut later that year.

"The Blue Jays have a pretty good team, they swing it, have a lot of power hitters in their lineup and that's about all I know right now," Delabar said. "I guess I'm supposed to go over there and help them out.

"Last year, moving through all the levels, you've got to meet new guys and form relationships, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be the same situation over there: get in, get to learn everybody and the way they work and feed into the same thing they do."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
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