Pirates Currently Unlikely to Offer Justin Morneau a Contract

Major League Baseball players became free agents today, with their former teams having an exclusive five day negotiating window before those free agents can receive offers from other teams. For the Pirates, that means they can make offers to any of their seven free agents to try and bring them back for the following season. One person who won’t be getting an offer during this five day window is Justin Morneau, per Travis Sawchik of the Trib:

Morneau didn’t exactly produce like the Pirates needed him to after the August 31st trade. He put up a .681 OPS in the month of September, after having a monster month of August, fueled by an amazing two week stretch at the start of the month. Morneau had been a streaky hitter all year, and finished the season with a .734 OPS. That wouldn’t be much of an upgrade over the numbers Garrett Jones put up in his worst year, with Jones having a .708 OPS. Morneau has better defense than Jones, but his overall value isn’t enough for the Pirates to avoid looking at other free agents.

Morneau should be a backup plan, or a backup, backup plan. There are better options available on the open market, and they will likely be gone before Morneau signs. If the Pirates miss out on the better options, they could still turn to Morneau as part of a platoon with Gaby Sanchez, and hope that he improves next year. For now, it looks like they’re going for an upgrade.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • emjayinTN

    Tim: And, “the better options available on the open market” are who?

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

    OK, want to get depressed? Here are the top 5 free agent 1B by bWAR – and I’m including Adam Lind, even though Toronto holds a reasonably priced club option:

    Napoli, 4.1
    Loney, 2.7
    Morales, 2.7
    MORNEAU 2.0
    Lind, 1.9

    GFJ checks in at 0.1.

    Much as I fear his old-man skills and that creepy mustache, Morneau NEEDS to be a backup option, because Napoli wants to stay with Boston, Morales will come with draft pick compensation and Loney suddenly looks like the belle of the ball. Wonder what it would take to swing a deal for Lind?

    • emjayinTN

      I think Lind has a $7 mil club option from Toronto with a $2 mil buyout. I would say that Toronto exercises that option because he plays 1B, OF, and DH, and Morales hardly played in the field last year. To me, Morneau missed a season and a half and could be coming back. Before the head injury, he was the MVP in the AL and the All Star 1B for about 5 years. Loney’s 2.7 matches his best year in the majors. Do we try to trade with San Diego for Yonder Alonso? I think they like Medica at 1B. They overplayed the market with Headley and I think they would overplay with Alonso also. Sign Morneau and find a way to get Dan Vogelbach from the Cubs – he is a locked-in 1B and they just signed Rizzo long term. Young, LH, plus bat, plus glove – Curry has not worked out and Dickerson has been converted to an OF – time to plan for the future.

      • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

        Has Dickerson been “converted”? IIRC he played the OF primarily out of necessity due to the logjam at 1B in Altoona (Curry/Howard). If Hague is Rule 5 claimed, he could well be the starting 1B at Indy in ’14.

        Emjay, How concerned are you that Alonso cratered at the plate this year? He’s got the ISO of a middle infielder (< .100) – even on the road he only had an ISO of about .115.

        • emjayinTN

          SB: With the way it has been going with the Pirates, if Dickerson had even the slightest chance to play first base in the majors, he would have been there at Altoona. I think Curry missed quite a bit of time in 2013.

          Alonso was the 7th player drafted in 2008? One of the Top HR hitters in college, right behind Posey. A Hamate bone injury in 2009 slowed his power development. Most scouts felt he had plus power and the ability to hit to all fields. He was doing well in 2013 until he got hit with a pitch on his right hand on May 31. At that time he was hitting .285/.335/.416 in 190 AB’s with 7 Doubles/6 HR’s/29 RBI in barely a third of a season. He missed a month and tried to play through pain when he came back, until they found fluid between the joints of his injured hand and shut him down. The experts say all he needs is rest – no surgery. In his Rookie year in 2012 he posted .273 with an OBP around .350 with 39 doubles and 9 HR’s (before the fences were brought in at Petco). His value is definitely down and he may have a future of 15-20 HR/yr, but with better batting average and OBP because he has an excellent feel for the strike zone.

          I have never used ISO, but I do pay a lot of attention to the number and breakdown of extra base hits. Tommy Medica looked very good for SD when he was called up in Sep and he has a lot better power. If we went after Alonso and they countered with Medica, I would jump at it. I looked through all of the 1B in the minors and Dan Vogelbach of the Cubs stood out. V’bach is still only 20 and hit .284 with 21doubles/17 HR’s/71 RBI, 57W/76K at Lo A. They have to move him because he is blocked by Anthony Rizzo who they just signed long term.

  • jaygray007

    Just throwing this out there since the guys in FA are either going to sign elsewhere (napoli, kendrys) or just arent very good (Morneau, Loney, etc.)… The Nats could trade Laroche if they move Rendon to 3rd, Zimmerman to 1st, and see if Espinosa bounces back.

    I’d be in favor of bringing back Laroche (a guy who I think is among the most underrated Pirates of the past decade) if they got him for dirt cheap talent-wise or if the Nats picked up some salary.

    Vs righties….. 2013 —-> .250/.357/.434/.791 with a .184 ISO, Career .271/.349/.488/.837 with a .217 ISO

    Ideal? no.
    A viable option? yes.

    • jaygray007

      just adding, i didnt make up the “nats could trade laroche” thing myself. i saw it on a few national chats. forget if it was a fangraphs one or a keith law one or both.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

        jaygray…KLaw suggested it.

        • emjayinTN

          Adam LaRoche, Mr. Constipation. I do not care how well he does in Atlanta or Washington, he was supposed to be a leader for the Pirates and he was anything but. In the “olden days” when we were not wondering about Bullington or JVB, we were wondering what day in June LaRoche was going to start to hit. His slow starts were legendary. Then when the Bucs were dead for another year he would start to hit.

    • jaygray007

      Ike Davis too. While the FAs aren’t fantastic, there are at least some interesting names in the trade market.

  • piraterican21

    I wrote this on another post, but if we go outside the box and offer Carlos Beltran 2-$22m to play 1b, might be a right sell, but at this time in his career he is not much of a fielder.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

    IF we are to sign Byrd, I wouldn’t mind Lambo as a first base option platooning with Gaby.

    • https://www.facebook.com/mike.rosati.75 Mike Rosati

      I just think signing Byrd offers us so much flexibilty, I really hope we get him back next season. If you resign Byrd then you give a Lambo/Sanchez platoon a shot, if it doesn’t work then swing a trade. Besides bringing back AJ, I think the next most important thing to take care of is lockup up a starting RF or a left handed 1B to platoon with Gaby. Doing either one of those provides a viable option….If you get the 1B then trot Lambo and Tabata out in RF until Polanco is ready….if you get the RF then trot Lambo/Gaby out at 1B…

  • CalipariFan506

    The Nationals LOVE relief pitchers too. Like they really overvalue them even compared to most teams around MLB. Watson could probably fetch LaRoche plus from them.