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.

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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  • japple2298

    Great to hear, the Pirates need offense help !!

  • stickyweb

    What round pick would be given up for Napoli and Morales? Tampa and Houston (and probably the Pirates too) will not give up a 1st or 2nd round pick for the right to give a very large contract to a free agent. I doubt the Brewers will either, since they seem to have learned from their “give away the farm” days. That leaves Napoli and Morales to re-sign with their former teams or sign a reduced contract (either $s or years) with another team. If they go back to their respective teams, that leaves Loney and Hart for MIL, PIT and TB. Tampa doesn’t scare me as a rival for free agents, though Loney may favor the team he’s familiar with. And if the Bucs don’t sign one of those 2, they are the only team looking to trade for a 1B, with Lind and Ike Davis (and their good splits vs. RHP) available.

    I’m fine with waiting around to see some more chips fall. Remember the early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

  • deacs

    And really if you consider a 3-4-5 of Cutch-Pedro-Martin you would really only need the guy to bat 6th or 5th if Martin’s not cutting it.

    • stickyweb

      I’m not counting on Martin hitting 5th, but maybe 6th. His value is mostly with the glove (and arm).

      • deacs

        Probably no farther down than 6th for Martin. I would imagine the middle IF hitting 7th and 8th. I really don’t see anything more than .230 15 HR’s from Martin. Unless you wanna stick Walker 6th which………….I probably wouldn’t advise unless he has a career year.

  • leadoff

    I find it curious that the Rockies took Morneau instead of Loney, could be Loney is looking at more money than Morneau and if that is the case I find it highly unlikely that the Pirates will end up with Loney.

    • stickyweb

      Morneau has a bigger name and higher upside, so not too surprising. Also, if Loney gave them the ridiculous numbers mentioned elsewhere (4/$40 mil or even 3/$30 mil) they probably laughed in his face. It’s tough to come to agreement after one side does that.

    • Andrew

      @ leadoff, I think that is correct, I saw Loney wants three years, $27-30 million. That is not a platoon partner, however Tampa Bay has seem to done something with is hitting, high LD%, FB% down and was above average against lefthanders. I like Loney but if the Pirates go much above $8 million/year, what do you with Sanchez?

      • leadoff

        I would assume the Pirates at somewhere around 2-15 for Loney, I would not expect them to go much higher. I don’t believe the Pirates like long contracts unless it is one of their own.

  • Jared

    As I posted over in the Loney article…

    From Jeff Pasan:
    “Source: James Loney started offseason seeking a four-year, $40M deal. Belief is he’s now seeking something in the three-year, $27-30M range.”
    https://twitter.com/JeffPassan/status/408323157485813760

    • Jared

      Cue the trades because that type of money is too much for Loney!

      • stickyweb

        I asked for 3 years and $30 million at my last year end review, but strangely didn’t get it. So Loney can ask all he wants…

  • piraterican21

    I must sound like a broken record since Ive been posting the same over and over, but I’m not sold on any of the free agent 1b. I strongly favor a trade, like I wrote on yesterday’s article, prefer someone like Adam Lind who’s goinna be block by Encarnation, we all know Moreland is block by Fielder, Butler will not have a home if the Royals sign Beltran, who btw wouldn’t mind seeing him try at 1b (Beltran that is) and LoGo has been a player that Miami would love to get rid of, especially after having a poor season last year. I will throw another name out there, Juan Uribe, I prefer him over Sanchez to back up 1&3b

    • deacs

      They do have the prospects to give. Wouldn’t give anyone in the top 8 or 9 for a Lind or Moreland though.

  • csnumber23

    I just read that Loney is looking for 3 years 27-30 million. He was looking for 4-40 mil. If this is the case, I think a trade may be better. I like Loney for the Bucs but I don’t think he is worth 3-27-30 mil. Trade targets for me are Hosmer (although doubt KC moves him) Lind, I. Davis, Moreland.

    • Gallatin

      Nobody is going to pay James Loney 3/27 in this market, his agent is just doing his job trying to get the best deal he can, but it won’t be that high.

      2/14 plus an option with a 1mil buyout should do it. Too expensive for Tampa, and I have read elsewhere the Brewers don’t like him. Doubt Houston ponies up that much with internal options, and Seattle & Boston are likely to resign their guys.

      Looks like a done deal to me if the Bucks value him that high.

  • Ron Zorn

    Why are we always infatuated with other players that we haven’t had before? Two years ago, the Dodgers would have given James Loney away. Same goes for Adam Lind in Toronto. Mike Napoli isn’t worth 17-20M per year. And Morales isn’t worth whatever he will get, plus a draft pick. If Garrett Jones were coming from another team, he would be one of our great “buy low” options.

    If GI Jones had been on another team, we would be advocating signing him as a bounce back option, since it was only a year ago he had 27 and 86, with a decent average, and maybe not important, but a really good guy!

    I love taking a chance on Corey Hart, but that would mean getting rid of Gaby as well, and I am fine with that, but the Pirates seem committed to him for another year.

    Based on the limited market that you laid out Tim, why not just offer GI 2 and $8 take our chances. He is an option in right as well, so good backup for outfield power in case of injuries. None of the aforementioned players has that ability.

    The grass isn’t always greener.

    • Gallatin

      Jones is at that age when mediocre players start declining rapidly – as we saw him do last season. Unless that can get him for 1@1mil, I don’t think it’s a smart risk.

  • Jared

    Rumor is that Milwaukee Brewers are chasing hard after Logan Morrison…

    If that is true, then I would definitely rather sign Corey Hart. I would like to think that Corey Hart can rebound and put up numbers similar to what he put up before…when he hit LH and RH almost equally OPS. Corey Hart is the bigger bat between him and Loney…I would prefer Hart and possibly for cheaper on a bounce-back contract.

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

    I wouldn’t even consider Seattle in the market for a 1B – Smoak played 120+ games at first, Morales only 30 or so. So you can reasonably count Morales as part of the supply but not necessarily Seattle as part of the demand.

    Any way you slice it, there are multiple options at every price tier, which is good news for the Bucs.

  • CalipariFan506

    I’m sure the Brewers don’t like him because he is a line drives hitter. He wouldn’t even have the fake power to really play well at Miller Park that guys like Carlos Gomez have.