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.

FREE AGENTS

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.

 

NON-TENDER CANDIDATES

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.

 

TRADE CANDIDATES

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.

Author: Kevin Creagh

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  • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

    There is no reason to add a corner OF/1B bat unless you trade some of. Tabata/Snider/Marte/Gaby/Jones. The organizational commitment to Tabata/Marte/Snider requires that you play them as much as possible to see what you have. The time is now for all 3. With Jones as RF insurance and Gaby representing a MLB average 1B you just don’t need more than 5 guys for 3 positions.

    I’m all for a AAA flier on a Kyle Blanks type, but there are more pressing needs in the rotation.

    • wkkortas

      I’d disagree–Sanchez is not an average first baseman–he doesn’t have corner-player power, and can’t hit righties at all; he’s a platoon piece at best. I’m not sure what constitutes the “organizational commitment” to Snider and Tabata; neither of them makes the kind of money where you’re writing off a huge dollar figure, and neither of them have shown enough at the big league level where they should be considered to have spots locked up.

      • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

        That’s fine if you disagree but you’re likely wrong. In 2012 an average 1B has an ops of right about .800, The days of the mashing, steroid era 1B are over. Gaby Sanchez is a .780 guy with the bat and he has a solid to plus glove.

        In his two full seasons in Miami he posted 2.3 and 3.0 WAR, an average MLB 1B is worth 2.0 WAR. Gaby’s bat rebounded immediately upon arrival in Pittsburgh. There is little reason to think that a platoon of Gaby and Jones won’t be at least league average.

      • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

        RE: Snider/Tabata – I mean to say that we have invested significant resources in these two players in trade. They are both too developed to spend more time at AAA, its now or never to see what you have. They have to play and the time is now. You don’t trade for a prospect then let them rot on the bench,.

  • leadoff

    Swisher is probably the only guy on the list I would pay big bucks for, the rest of them are expensive with too many short comings. The Pirates do have a lot of young talent that somewhere along the way the Pirates have to either wait for them to mature or make trades and go for it now. IMO, the Pirates are at a crossroads in their rebuilding, they wanted to build from within, the talent is ready to play in the bigs, but not mature enough for the bigs yet, I am talking about guys like Presley, Tabata, McHenry, Alvarez. I still believe this team can win with a couple of good additions, a little better managing and coaching. I firmly believe this team would have won 10 more games with better coaching alone.

  • https://profiles.google.com/116366873579930999690 Thom Kay

    None of those big name free agents make sense for the Bucs. A trade that upgrades would be really nice, and Hanrahan could make those possible.

    I don’t see why the Royals would be more likely to give up Butler than Francouer. Butler is their best DH option by far. Myers could play CF or take Francouer’s spot.

    I’d love to upgrade with Josh Willingham, who provides huge value for the price. I imagine he’d be hard to pry away though.

    • http://daleberrasstash.blogspot.com/ Kevin Creagh

      They definitely would part with Francoeur first. But as I said in the post, the combination of salary AND performance. Jeff Francoeur is not great and is making $6.5M in 2013.

      • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

        “Jeff Francoeur is not great” – understatement of the year.

        Its a matter of limited resources. You don’t spend to slightly improve these spots when you have gaping issues in the rotation.

  • kimbercarry

    It appears you can add Jason Bay to the list of free agents available. The Mets and Jason have agreed to part ways, thus making him a free agent.

  • leadoff

    Bay reminds me of Ludwick, he will go to some hitters park and start hitting for power again.

    • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

      I really doubt it, his bat speed looks awful and he always had some K issues even in his prime. He looked cooked to me when I saw him in 2012.

      • leadoff

        I agree that Bay looked cooked, but so did Ludwick and LaRoach when they were with Pitt, but for some reason players go through down years, then there is that one magic year. If Bay is healthy next year, I think it might be his magical year for someone, especially if he is in the right ball park.

  • wkkortas

    I’ve always liked Lucas Duda (even with his subpar abilities as a mover), and I think he would be especially useful in PNC, but either he or Jones would have to play RF, and that’s not an appealing prospect in either case.

    • derekbellstutu

      Lucas Duda broke his wrist recently moving furniture, so he’s out of picture. Billy Butler or Josh Willinghan would be a nice acquistion, but the Royals and Twins are looking for starting pitching, so I don’t know if the Pirates and these teams match up well for a trade.

      • wkkortas

        All the reports are that Duda will be ready for spring training. His biggest problem is that there’s no surgical procedure to make him a good outfielder.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vabarletta Vicente Barletta

    Like I did with the catchers here are my ideas, just to keep the conversation going:}

    1.- Trade for Shin Soo Choo. He has bad splits against LHP, but has a good OBP. Maybe a platoon with Tabata at RF, move Snyder to LF and Marte starts at AAA. I still don´t know what the Indians want in return, it can´t be that much since they are going to lose him anyway next year. Here is an interesting idea: trade for Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera for a package that includes Marte. I know everybody loves Starling, but I really don´t see him turning the corner. He has really bad batting discipline. He is never going to get on base to take advantage of his speed.

    2.- Trade for Alex Gordon and platoon Snyder and Tabata in RF.
    3.- Trade for Denard Spahn

    • derekbellstutu

      I like the idea of acquiring Alex Gordon, but the Royals are looking for starting pitching. I would be comfortable dealing Locke or Karstens, but it would take more than either one of those guys to acquire Gordon.

  • elgaupo

    I trade Marte (plus prospects) for pitching and overpay for a good free agent OF or 1B.

    (Please don’t say I’ll trade Tabata or Presley for pitching since they won’t return anything of value)

    • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

      What did we trade for AJ Burnett? Howabout Wandy? If you are willing to spend moderate money you can acquire talent for next to nothing in return.

  • Blue Bomber

    Torii Hunter would be a nice 1 year add. I’m not sure how interested he would be in playing for the Pirates but I’d like to see the Pirates check with him.

    If the Royals want to get rid of Billy Butler, the Pirates should be first in line. He’s a monster. Make an offer.

    • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

      No on Hunter, his 2012 resurgence was all babip driven and he will certainly regress.

      No on Butler, last I checked there is no DH in the NL. Did we not watch Butler attempt to play 1B last summer at PNC, it ain’t happening.

    • leadoff

      I would hate to see the Pirates get Hunter, I would rather have Presley, Snider, Marte, Jones as my outfield, there is still a lot of upside to Presley, Snider and Marte that has not come out yet.

      • leadoff

        I am including McCutchen automatically!