Is First Base Now a Buyer’s Market?

There have been a few moves involving first base this off-season which have really shifted the market. The Twins had a need at first base, but filled that when they moved Joe Mauer to the position full time. The Rangers acquired Prince Fielder from the Tigers, and Detroit moved Miguel Cabrera across the diamond to replace Fielder. Those two moves eliminated at least two teams from the free agent market, without removing any free agents.

As far as actual free agent signings, the Rockies recently filled their first base need with the addition of Justin Morneau. That takes another team off the market, without taking one of the top first base options away. Paul Konerko and Jose Abreu signed with the White Sox, so their first base position is covered.

So what is left? By my count, the teams that need a first baseman are as follows:

Milwaukee

Boston

Tampa Bay

Houston

Seattle

Pittsburgh

That’s six teams, and it’s possible that Houston could go with internal options like Brett Wallace and Chris Carter. There are internal options for each team above, but Houston seems most likely to go with their internal options at first than any other team. Overall it could just be five teams looking for a first baseman the rest of the off-season.

The free agent market still has several good options available. Mike Napoli and Kendrys Morales would be the most expensive, and would also cost a draft pick if they sign with a new team. Napoli could return to Boston and Morales could return to Seattle, with neither player costing a pick due to the return to their former teams. There’s also James Loney — who we heard today was the top target for the Pirates — and Corey Hart.

That’s four free agent first base options for five teams. The trade market tips the scales even more. The Mets have been shopping Ike Davis or Lucas Duda, with most reports saying they would prefer to deal Davis. The Rangers now have Mitch Moreland expendable. Adam Lind is available in Toronto. The Angels could deal Mark Trumbo and let Albert Pujols take over at first base. All of those are examples of situations where a team could trade a first baseman, and wouldn’t need to replace him with an external move.

There are six teams above who need a first baseman (or five if you don’t count Houston). There are seven first basemen available, without getting into guys like Garrett Jones or Mark Reynolds. It’s not a total buyer’s market, since some of those options would require a trade, which would cost prospects and money instead of just money.

For the Pirates, the worst case scenario would be the four top free agents going to the other four teams in need of a first baseman. That would leave the Pirates and possibly one other team (depending on if Houston stays with internal options) with their choice between Davis, Moreland, Lind, and Trumbo. With that many trade options, it’s possible that a trade wouldn’t cost as much in prospects, since the trade market would also be a buyer’s market.

Overall it seems very likely that the Pirates will be able to get a good first base option this off-season, especially now that the market for first baseman has shrunk.

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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