Who are the Remaining First Base Options?

James Loney is off the market, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are still looking for a first baseman. Fortunately for the Pirates, the Milwaukee Brewers are the only real competition. There are several first base options on the trade market who could fill a need. Here is a quick rundown of the remaining players.

Ike Davis – He’s estimated to make $3.5 M in 2014 through arbitration. The Mets have been talking with the Brewers and asking for Tyler Thornburg. I’m not sure what the equivalent would be for the Pirates, but they want a young, controllable starting pitcher it seems. Davis makes sense in a platoon, with an .827 career OPS against right-handers. His numbers were down last year, with a .727 OPS against right-handers. He had great defense his first year, but he hasn’t been able to repeat that the last two years.

Mitch Moreland – I haven’t really seen what the Rangers are asking for with Moreland. In his career he has a .788 OPS against right-handers. He has spent his entire career in Texas, so there would be concern that his performance would drop after he leaves. That said, he doesn’t have drastic home/road splits. He does have good defense at first. It’s not James Loney good. I’ve never really been a fan of Moreland.

Justin Smoak – He has a career .720 OPS against right-handers, although that improved to an .839 OPS in 2013. Seattle just added Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, although they have said they will use both in the outfield and keep Smoak. That could be a negotiation ploy. Smoak’s defense isn’t bad, but also isn’t exactly good. It ranks between Davis and Moreland.

Adam Lind – The last thing we heard on Lind was that the Blue Jays asked for Neil Walker in return. If that’s still the price, then he’s not worth it. He had a good year in 2013, but the previous years have been poor, he’s making a lot of money, and he’s worth less than Walker.

Mike Carp – I’ve seen mixed things on whether he’s available, and I haven’t seen the Pirates connected to him. He has a career .779 OPS against right-handers, and has been better against left-handers. However, in 2013 he had a .904 OPS against right-handers in a limited sample of 190 at-bats.

The only other free agent would be Kendrys Morales, who is more of a designated hitter, would cost a ton, and cost a draft pick.

All five of the above players would be under control for three more years. Lind is under contract with two option years beyond 2014. The other three are first-year arbitration eligible. My preference, if you have to pick one from the group, would be Smoak.

The Pirates have also been connected to Eric Chavez. He has played first base, and has the platoon split numbers. My concern there would be that he was never healthy when he was a starter. Now he’s older, and health would be a bigger risk. He could put up the same numbers as the above guys for less money and no prospects, but the health is a red flag.

With only the Pirates and Brewers looking, and so many guys available, that could keep trade prices modest. Of course, the teams could opt to keep those players. The Mets have been trying hard to move Davis, but I could see the other four staying with their original team.

Andrew Lambo wouldn't be a bad alternative to the trade options. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Andrew Lambo wouldn’t be a bad alternative to the trade options. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The worst case scenario would be for the Pirates to turn to Andrew Lambo as their first baseman against right-handers. Lambo is coming off a season where he hit 32 home runs in the minors between Double-A and Triple-A. If you think about it, the background with Loney and the above players is similar. All were once top prospects. All have seen their stock fall. The key difference is that Lambo doesn’t have any major league track record, while the above players have bits and pieces of success to point to, which suggests they might be safer.

One thing the above trade options have in common is that none of their teams were comfortable with them. The Red Sox brought back Mike Napoli. The Rangers traded for Prince Fielder. The Mariners added Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. The Mets are turning to Lucas Duda. The Blue Jays would only really need a different first baseman if they traded Lind. So none of the above guys are must-have. I don’t think any of them are considerably better than going to Lambo. The one benefit you have with the above options is that if they don’t work, you can turn to Lambo. If you go with Lambo from day one and he doesn’t make the jump to the majors, you don’t have a backup. Of course, if the Pirates signed Eric Chavez as a bench bat, he could also serve as the Plan B if Lambo struggles.

The best option on the trade market looks like Smoak. But I don’t think Lambo would be that bad of an alternative. He would just come with less comfort. And if Eric Chavez was signed, that would add some security and depth, while also adding a good bench bat in the event that first base works out with another option.

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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  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.sweetnich Joe Sweetnich

    Agree on Smoak, Tim.

    What do you think it would take?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      It’s hard to say. I don’t know if they would be looking for a return similar to the LoMo deal. It might take a guy like Justin Wilson to get one of the above trade options, although the Pirates might be able to ask for more in return with some of the free agent deals for relievers getting crazy.

      • Jared

        I don’t give Justin Wilson for any of these guys…that’s just me, though.

        • Cato the Elder

          Middle reliever!?! Just kidding, I wouldn’t want to move Wilson for any of those guys.

      • emjayinTN

        The overpayment to get LoMo is classic for the Seattle GM. Trading a future Closer with upper 90′s velocity? Wilson NO, Gomez, OK.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD

        The Pirates are insane if they even remotely consider trading Justin Wilson for one of the various significantly flawed first base options you listed above. I’d rather platoon Lambo and Sanchez, and keep Wilson. Wilson is a potential stud closer or above average starter – the above are journeymen at best.

      • http://www.facebook.com/matt.beam.16 Matt Beam

        Before laughing me off the site, what about Ryan Howard? He’s owed $80MM for the next 3 years if you count the Phils $10MM cost of declining his 2017 option. The Phils are maxed out on $ right now and looking to move Papelbon to free up more to fix their other problems. Howard has 3 problems, 1) can’t hit LHP 2) staying healthy the last 2 years 3) his contract

        If Philly would do an AJ style deal and eat $40-50MM for basically non prospects in return, I think he would be a perfect platoon player at this point, which would solve problem 1) and help with problem 2).

        Thoughts?

    • RickS

      Here is another crazy idea for a back up plan. Walker to first, Mercer to second Barnes at short. Please tell me why I am crazy .

      • jamminjoe66

        For 2 yrs we needed upgrade at short, by the the upgrade was needed because Barmes sucks. Better of letting Gaby play everyday. He sucks vs righties but still better then barmes.

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

    Whatever the solution, you want it to be more than just a stopgap. Other than possibly Lambo, the Bucs really don’t have a viable prospect at the position who could reasonably inherit the job before 2016. I’m all for Chavez as a depth option, but I wouldn’t let that stop me from going after Smoak, Moreland or Carp.

    Seattle’s bullpens as a mess, and they just lost some depth with Carter Capps being traded for LoMo. Plus Ollie Perez is a free agent. You’d think they might be in the market for a bullpen arm, and Neal’s got more than he can employ.

  • jschwartz

    I wouldn’t mind having Chavez in the mix. Other then that all of the other options really don’t seem that appealing. Maybe we can talk Sean Casey out of retirement ;)

  • piraddict

    Tim,

    When does Lambo become eligible to be a minor league free agent? Are the Pirates “on the clock “so to speak as to whether Lambo will prove to be major league capable before the time he can walk away from the Pirates on his own volition?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      He’s on the 40-man roster, so they have him for three more years before he runs out of options.

      • piraddict

        Of course! I forgot, thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.martin.9003 Bob Martin

    Gm’s around the league know the Pirates are desperate and will take advantage of that and try to pry one of our top prospects away. I don’t trust Neal not to do it. So you got to go after Justin Smoak or Mitch Moreland. Smoak is a power switch hitter, they don’t grow on trees. Seattle just signed Hart, so Smoak needs to be moved. Moreland is a power hitting lefty..Fielder took his position away so he can be had for a bucket of balls I’m guessing.
    Neal those are your two options. As people from WV would say getter done!!!

  • elgaupo

    Murphy’s Law: we trade for Smoak, Lambo mashes and then we have too many OF’s to bring up Polanco in July. We don’t trade for Smoak, then Lambo sucks.

  • Jared

    At this point if teams are asking for too much for these guys…I would try to sign Chavez, great bench option, and go with a Lambo/Chavez/Sanchez rotation at 1B (Chavez as insurance) and spend the money elsewhere (AJ) and save it for maybe a money-based deadline deal if needed (where we take on salary instead of giving up much).

  • https://profiles.google.com/116899082423235635777 Monsoon Harvard

    Mitch Moreland is a much better hitter and slugger than Justin Smoak. Basically, Smoak is Clint Barmes as a first baseman.

    That said, surely the Pirates will piss this one down their leg just like they did all the other possibilities that are going elsewhere.

    Now they about to lose Burnett too. So what else is new? Oh, have they signed another .180 hitting utility infielder? Woo-hoo, that’s my Pirates!

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

    Personally, I am all for Lambo, UNLESS we can get Moreland, Smoak, Davis, et al, cheap, eg, for bullpenner(s).

  • https://profiles.google.com/116899082423235635777 Monsoon Harvard

    At this point I’ll take Lambo over Smoak or Eric Chavez anyday.

    Seriously? Eric Chavez?!…Why, aren’t Lyle Overbay or Eric Hinske available?

    Jeez-o-man, this is really getting uglier each day.

    If they can get Moreland or Lind, there’s a little bit of hope left I guess. I read that the Mets may make Lucas Duda available if they sign Kendrys Morales, who they seem to be interested in suddenly. I would jump on Duda if that were the case.

    • Jared

      Duda? No thank you…Ike Davis’ numbers are much better for the Pirates’ purposes…not that we’re likely to get him either!

  • https://profiles.google.com/105656080623178895120 james vargo

    And we gave up on Dickerson, why?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      Dickerson wouldn’t have been an option this year. He also didn’t profile as a strong bet to be a MLB starter. He’s basically got the same value as Jaff Decker.

      • https://profiles.google.com/105656080623178895120 james vargo

        Pirates have been talking up Decker lately. I really liked Dickerson. He seemed to start slow on every level, then crush it. And didn’t he come in with good defensive skills?

    • jaygray007

      Trading does not equal giving up on

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

    Here is a crazy idea: Trade for Chase Headly. Play him at 1b against RHP and at 3b against LHP with Sanchez going to 1b.
    I know Headly defense is better at 3b but, this a Friday night idea.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      San Diego said they’re not trading Headley.

  • Bucco_Joe

    There are no good options remaining at 1st base. Why trade prospects or roster players for the garbage that probably is available via the current trade market. Should have offered a 3 year deal to Loney at 8 to 8.5 per season, but then again we are the poor Pirates who can’t offer market value to any free agent.

    • https://profiles.google.com/100212786463678215436 Nathan Swartz

      Maybe they did.
      Just like they may have actually discussed things with AJ at the start of the offseason regarding the QO.

      we need to quit looking at things like we know all the angles. Maybe they never got a chance to match Tampa or what if they DID offer what you suggest, but Loney just likes it Tampa playing for Maddon.

      We never know all of it.

    • Jared

      No, the Pirates definitely should not have offered 8 or 8.5M per year.

  • jaygray007

    while he’s not the best option, i think the most FUN option would be Eric Chavez.

    Actually, he might end up being the best option. who knows? but i know he’s the most fun for sure.

  • http://www.acme-tv.com LongJohnSilver

    I think Carp is a good option if he can be gotten for the right price. Or as noted earlier, Smoak.

    Hey, just think, if he hit one into the river, we would have Smoak on the Water!!

    • brentgates

      take me to the river, drop me in the water!

  • piraterican21

    I’m not crushed by any of the players that had sign so far, in all honesty, the choices were not that strong to beging with. Preference is still someone like Lind, I do believe that Butler is available, and he will be someone that I will give a bit to sign. But after all is said and done, Eric Chavez will be our 1b, and I’m ok with that.

    • jaygray007

      these non good options all had better offensive numbers and WAR than Garrett Jones in 2013 except for Davis (who only had a better war {by .1}).

      while none of them are ideal, they do represent an upgrade over 2013.

      If i was Neal, i’d be whispering the name “eric chavez” into Buster Olney’s ear so he can start the Chavez to bucs rumors just to sort of create the illusion of a higher supply so that maybe trade prices decrease. and then just sign chavez anyway. because it would be fun.

      chavez and sanchez. i like it.

      • Jared

        For the Price of Jones, honestly, I would have taken Jones back. He was only 1 year removed from a great 2012, 27 HR campaign…and he’s making, what, less than $8M over 2 years?

        • jaygray007

          Yes. Jones could be a good candidate for a bounceback season.

          or maybe they looked at his age and stats, and the team’s scouts didn’t like his season. I’ll be very interested to see his Miami stats this year.

          • Jared

            If they play him every day against righty and lefty I wouldn’t imagine his stats would be much to look at…although he could see a resurgence in power.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.h.baker Josh Baker

    I’d go towards Lambo at this point. The only 1b I was truly interested in Loney and it seems as if we might have been more of a bargaining ploy than anything. I have faith in Lambo plus he will be able to learn on the job from Gaby.

    That said, I’ve been a Bucs fan my entire life and I don’t ever remember an off season where there has been so much vitriol from the fan base towards the team, including coming off of +100 loss seasons.

    Last season was the most enjoyable baseball season of my life and I can’t wait for this team to start playing games again.

    I get the feeling some people are going to be secretly pleased if they start slow out of the gate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ian.rothermund Ian Rothermund

    Tim,

    Given the depth both in the minors, as well as the major league level, what is the probability and/or timetable for someone like Josh Bell moving to first? Would that be more dependent on the long term outlook, a crowded outfield at any given level of the minors, or once he’s more established in the upper minors?

    Obviously he’s not a risk to make the majors in 2014, and is very unlikely for 2015. However, given the wealth of outfield prospects and the relative scarcity of corner infield prospects, it seems to make sense to move someone like Bell to first base. He doesn’t seem to project to have the same athleticism as a lot of the other guys in his age range, and the majority of his value is destined to come from the bat. Granted, he would be an extremely athletic first baseman, but compared to McCutchen, Marte, Polanco, Meadows, or Harold Ramirez’s, there seems to be a clear difference.

    • Jared

      Interesting because John Decker and I were just talking about this in the most recent Winter League update. Take a look. Bell will likely, ultimately, be moved to 1B and his athleticism and if he can add some more muscle mass since he won’t be having to range around the OF he should further develop his left handed line drive power into more HRs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sstauffer5 Scott Stauffer

    For now this was not well played. If we weren’t going after Loney aggressively, why were we in such a rush to get rid of Jones. The remaining options are no better

  • Jared

    You wonder if the Pirates could have tendered Jones and traded him for Morrison. Lol.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kirk.vandergrift Kirk Lee

    You say the worst case scenario would be just staying in house and using Andrew Lambo at this point. Personally, I don’t see how that isn’t the BEST remaining scenario. Every other option involves giving up something (Justin Wilson, a prospect, etc) in exchange for what would be barely more than a replacement level first baseman. Almost all of these guys average below 1 WAR per year, and either hit around .230 with decent defense, or hit around .260 with awful defense. None of them are worth giving up anything of value for. I want to trust Neal Huntington, and I agree that we are in just as good of position this year as we were going into last season, but the unwillingness to pay anyone better than a 6.00 ERA pitcher what they’re worth has been very frustrating to watch. With all of the supposed increases in revenue coming in, how are we so strapped for cash that we couldn’t shell out $8MM for the only competent free agent option left at our only real position of need? I’m trying hard, but I’m just not quite able to buy that.

  • StargellStar

    Should have signed Justin Moreau – the leadership and the 13M contract would have been palatable.

  • Hank

    Matt Hague would probably do as well as most of the options discussed here.

  • https://www.facebook.com/marty.leap Marty

    Mazzaro, Stolmy, Morris, and Gomez are all out of options. Only room for 3 of the 4 in the bullpen due to Wilson, Watson, Melancon, and Grilli being locks. Try and dangle one of them for Smoak, or even two fo them with guys like Mikolas and Welker as bullpen options too.

    • Jared

      I would love to see Brian Morris traded…I really think people could fall in love with his arm and take him off our hands, because I do not trust him at all.

  • enrique romo

    Are there any 4A leftys out there that never got a proper shot?

    • mblthd

      Gamel would have been the perfect candidate but ATL just signed him.

    • mblthd

      Wilson Betemit doesn’t fit the “never got a shot” description, but he’s career 819 OPS vs RHP, and don’t cost nothin.

  • http://MultiMatchupSports.com Stephen Stasa

    I think I’d just go with Lambo to start the season too. Give him until around the end of May to see what he can do. There are five or so names available and one other team who needs a 1B. All of which require trades anyway (other than Kendrys Morales who I don’t really consider an option) so their costs are unlikely to change between now and then anyway.

    Basically, with no other clearly better options I say give Lambo a chance to see if that power can translate to the majors. It took until the penultimate game of the season to get his first HR, but it was (hopefully) a flash of what he can do (426 ft). He has the pedigree too so there’s reason to believe he can.

  • https://www.facebook.com/scott.skink Scott Skink

    Here’s a surprise option I haven’t heard mentioned: If we’re talking about a strict LH/RH platoon with Gaby and are willing to take on a LHB who’s is off-the-charts bad vs. LHP, Bucs can go to Japan and dig up former 2012 AllStar Bryan LaHair. He hits LHP worse than probably Wandy Rodriguez, but his 2012 splits vs RHP were still pretty good despite his fall from grace after Rizzo was called up. Anyway, his 2012 was better than Jones’ 2013. He had a crappy year in Japan, but his team is using him full time, including vs. LHP, where he K’s 46% of the time.

    Worth a NRI at least.

  • BellSupplyCO

    Stetson Allie? is he a ridiculous option? Dude is huge and hitting.

    • mblthd

      Allie bats right-handed, and they probably feel like Gaby’s got that side of the 1B platoon covered.

      • Jared

        He also has not hit above A-ball yet.

        • BellSupplyCO

          thanks mblthd and Jared. Hopefully NH has something up his sleeve.

  • bucsnort412

    Someone on this site mentioned in a previous story the idea of acquiring Eric Hosmer from the Royals in a deal centered around Justin Wilson. I think that would be a great idea and would like to know who else the Pirates would have to include to make it happen.

  • goober21

    Tim,
    What do you think about the Pirates targeting Joey Terdoslavich in a trade? He’s blocked by Freeman and the recently acquired Gamel at 1B and the Uptons and Heyward in the OF. He’s also a switch hitter, but I’m not sure which side he hits better from.

    A few other guys that seem to be blocked at the majors are Brett Pill, Darin Ruf, and Kyle Blanks but they all bat RH like Gaby so that seems redundant.