The Market for First Basemen/Corner Outfielders — Free Agents, Non-Tenders, Trades
This week we’re going to take a look at the market for various positions that the Pirates may be interested in this offseason. Today’s article will look at the market for first basemen and corner outfielders.
As we mentioned in the article previewing the catcher market, it seemed as if Neal Huntington did all of his offseason shopping at the trade deadline this year. By picking up Travis Snider to go with the already in-place Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Jose Tabata, and Alex Presley, the outfield would appear to be full. Coupled with Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez at 1B, you would think that there is no need to go shopping.
The problem is that Snider battled injuries much of his time with the Pirates after the trade and did not display any sort of appreciable extra-base power, as he hit only 1 home run in 128 at-bats with a 0.078 isolated slugging percentage. Neither Tabata nor Presley are prototypical corner outfielders either and Starling Marte is still getting acclimated to the big leagues. In short, the Pirates should be on the prowl for some more power — whether that means making Jones the RF and finding a left-handed 1B to platoon with Sanchez or finding a power hitting RF.
Unlike the catching market, there are plenty of intriguing options at 1B and OF (click the headers to sort by position). I’ll highlight some of the key names, as there are a huge amount of players at the two positions.
Nick Swisher – Swisher is probably everything the Pirates need rolled into one package. The 32-year old switch hitter hits for power, gets on base (career .361 OBP), can play both 1B and RF for the Pirates, and knows how to keep a clubhouse loose. He’ll be seeking a long-term deal for big money.
Adam LaRoche – Old friend Adam LaRoche is technically on the market, as he turned down his part of the mutual option with the Nationals. The Nationals gave him a qualifying offer and he has until Friday to accept the 1 year/$13.3M deal or become a full-fledged free agent. If another team signs him, they will forfeit their top pick (protected in the top 10 picks). LaRoche only plays 1B and his positives and negatives are both well known to fans of the Pirates.
Players like Lance Berkman and Jason Giambi are flirting with retirement. Carlos Lee’s best defensive position is DH and Carlos Pena’s skills seem to be quickly eroding. Kevin Youkilis did re-establish some of his value after his trade to the White Sox, but he still only had a triple slash of .236/.346/.425 (771 OPS) in Chicago. Youkilis, the Greek God of Walks, is also walking at a lower rate than earlier in his career and comes with some back injury history.
Alumni such as Eric Hinske, Lyle Overbay, and Casey McGehee are all on the market as well.
With Andrew McCutchen presumably manning CF for the Pirates in 2013 and not shifting to a corner spot, all types of outfielders would technically be in play for the Pirates to acquire under the idea that a previous CF would have to shift over in deference to McCutchen. As I mentioned in the open, I’m only going to focus on the outfielders with power potential. This eliminates players like Michael Bourn and Angel Pagan. Melky Cabrera will be an interesting case study in market dynamics, but that’s not a player I could see the Pirates targeting.
Josh Hamilton – Hamilton is obviously the top position player on the market. He’ll be seeking a huge long-term deal (reportedly his price right now is 7 year/$175M) so he is out of the Pirates’ price range.
B.J. Upton – Bossman Junior and his 30-30 potential will definitely find a very lucrative home this offseason. He could shift over to RF for the Pirates and spell McCutchen in CF if need be. However, Upton has character issues in the past that not even Joe Maddon could totally cure. Upton is only 28 in 2013 and just entering his prime. It would be interesting to see if the Pirates at least check in on him.
Ryan Ludwick – Deja vu all over again? Ludwick flamed out in 2011 after being traded to the Pirates, but had a fantastic 2012 for the Reds with 26 HR’s. He turned down his portion of the $5M mutual option and is on the market. Ludwick will be 34 for the 2013 season, but I’m not sure if he would be willing to give Pittsburgh a second shot.
Cody Ross – Ross had a nice year with the Red Sox (22 HR’s) and is said to be seeking a Josh Willingham-esque 3 year/$25M deal. The 32-year old would fit in the Pirates’ price zone and provide some power, but would not necessarily improve their on-base percentage problem (.324 lifetime).
Torii Hunter – Hunter will be 37 years old for the 2013 season, but still has enough skills that he could be a fit for the Pirates on a 1 year deal. At this point is his career, Hunter is good for the high teens/low 20’s of home runs with above-average corner outfield defense and a decent on-base percentage.
With the caveat again that the vast majority of non-tender candidates are there for very concrete reasons, the list of potentials is fairly scarce. Players like Daric Barton, Kyle Blanks, Travis Ishikawa, Dan Johnson, Steve Pearce, Ryan Raburn, Adam Rosales, and Nate Schierholtz are going to be signing as many minor league deals as they are major-league deals this offseason.
Mark Reynolds – The Orioles have already declined his $11M option, but still hold the rights to Reynolds for arbitration. He is projected to have an $8.9M salary through arbitration, but is a candidate to be non-tendered instead. Reynolds would be a maddening player to watch with his strikeout propensity, but he would inject more power into the lineup.
Drew Stubbs – Seeing Stubbs name on the MLB Trade Rumors list was a little surprising, but his numbers have declined the past 3 years. Stubbs is only entering his first year of arbitration, so I can’t see the Reds cutting bait on him just yet. If he were non-tendered, the Pirates should take a stab at him or at least inquire on his availability.
Kansas City — Uber-prospect Wil Myers will probably be making his debut in KC sooner rather than later in 2013. With Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur, and Billy Butler all manning the 1B/DH/OF spots, someone will have to move to make room for Myers. The most likely candidate, based on salary and production, would be Billy Butler. His defense is rough at 1B, but the righty will bash HR’s and get on-base (.362 career OBP). The 27-year old is just entering his theoretical prime.
Minnesota — The Twins are an odd team. You would think after two horrible years in a row they would try and strip it all down and get some prospects. But they seem intent on reloading on the fly. Justin Morneau is under contract for just 2013 at $15M. Josh Willingham has 2 years left at $7M/year. If the Twins had an inkling of moving them, both of them could be fits for the Pirates.
New York Mets — Ike Davis has been rumored to be on the market, but I just don’t see it. Lucas Duda is more of a candidate to be moved, but his indifferent approach to outfield defense is scary.
Arizona — Remember the Justin Upton/Pirates rumors? Get ready for an offseason of more Upton rumors, as it just seems as if Arizona is tired of him for some reason.
Cincinnati — With Joey Votto in the fold for….ever….the Pirates should at least check in on Neftali Soto. The 24-year old spent all of 2012 in AAA and had fair numbers (14 HR, 713 OPS) but just the year before he mashed 30 HR’s and put up a 904 OPS in AA.
There are many other possible candidates, including ones not on anyone’s radar right now, that will develop as free agents are signed and other trades are completed.