Do Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew Make Sense for the Pirates?

Over the weekend, Ken Rosenthal talked about how the Pittsburgh Pirates could sign either Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales after the draft in June. Rosenthal wasn’t saying that Morales and Drew were linked to the Pirates, or that the Pirates had a plan to go after them. He was just connecting the dots and bringing up a possible scenario.

It does make a lot of sense on the surface. One of the big drawbacks for Morales and Drew is that they both would require a first round draft pick, along with their salaries, and all of that would likely be for less than a year of service time. If a team signed both players before the draft, they would lose their first and second round picks. And the draft class this year is much more talented than the draft class last year. The talent where the Pirates are picking in the first round (24th overall) is similar to the talent just outside of the top ten last year, especially on the pitching side.

This is also something that makes sense for the Pirates on the surface, since they have a hole at first base, and Jordy Mercer has been struggling the first two weeks of the season. But that’s a short-term issue. What would have to happen for those two guys to make sense for the Pirates after the draft?

Kendrys Morales

This seems like the easiest place to start, since I think the first base position is in bigger need of an upgrade right now. Travis Ishikawa had a hot start, but has cooled. It’s still a small sample size, but I don’t expect Ishikawa to be better than his career numbers, which aren’t good. Meanwhile, Andrew Lambo is off to a hot start with Indianapolis, and if the trends continue with Lambo and Ishikawa, I could see a switch being made. I definitely think the Pirates would make that switch before considering Morales as a free agent. The only way I see Morales being an option is if Lambo also struggles in the majors.

Stephen Drew

I’m not worried about Jordy Mercer’s poor start just yet. He’s prone to some bad slumps. Last year he had a .407 OPS over 45 at-bats during the first few weeks of July. The only reason his current numbers are noticeable is because they’re happening at the start of the season. If Mercer gets off to a good start, then does this in the middle of May, no one notices, or people just chalk it up to a bad stretch that every player has. The fact that his bad stretch is coming at the start of the season shouldn’t change the significance of those numbers.

But let’s say that Mercer is still struggling by the start of June (the draft is June 5th – June 7th). The Pirates don’t have much depth at shortstop. Clint Barmes is strong defensively, but weak offensively. He’s not a bad overall option to go with, especially with all of the ground balls the Pirates get. But if possible, you’d like to upgrade that spot, and Drew could be an upgrade.

Concerns With Each Player

Morales and Drew don’t come without concerns. There’s a reason they’re still available as free agents, and it’s not just because they’d cost a draft pick. They’ve both dealt with injury problems in the past, and that seems to be a bigger issue with Drew. Buster Olney recently wrote an article, quoting anonymous executives saying what they would offer Drew and Morales, along with the concerns with those two players. That article is now being called a violation of the CBA by Scott Boras, who is fighting for the claim that the comments damaged his players. That seems ridiculous, since it’s not like either player had a market to begin with.

In theory, both players look like they could be potentially great additions to a lineup, giving a big boost at two positions. But if that was true, they wouldn’t be free agents right now, even with the draft pick compensation involved. The fact that they’re un-signed at this point means that you have to consider that they might not be the guaranteed boosts that they seem like when people mention they’re still out there.

The Value of Morales and Drew

I think that both Morales and Drew would make sense for the Pirates, but only as depth options. At this point, if they signed after the draft, they wouldn’t be available until July, at the earliest. At that point, you don’t know how their performance might be after missing so much time, and you don’t know if they’d even care about putting in effort for the team, since they are currently showing that they only care about the money. And that’s just me echoing the opinions of the anonymous executives in Olney’s article.

If Jordy Mercer doesn’t turn things around, and if Andrew Lambo doesn’t eventually take the first base job and run with it, then it would make sense to go after Morales and/or Drew in the second half. I’d expect Mercer to turn things around. As for Lambo, he’s hitting well right now, and I’d expect him to eventually get a shot. I don’t know if that will result in the Pirates solving their first base issues, so that remains something to monitor over the next few months, in regards to Morales.

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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  • jalcorn427

    I think that if teams thought Morales could play 1B everyday he would have been signed long ago. IMO, he has never been a realistic option for a NL team. Drew, on the other hand, would be quite attractive in seven weeks if Jordy is still struggling (I doubt that will be the case).

    • emjayinTN

      j: I agree on both of the players for the reasons given, but I think the Pirates will have to be in full panic mode to try to sign Drew after the draft. He is going to be extremely expensive, has been injury prone the past 5 years, and I do not see enough bat or glove to go all in on him. Trying to patch the ML Club might be necessary, but these are the guys we won with last year, and I do not want to bring people in that just retard the progress of our prospects. I think we will see Alen Hanson soon, and I think we will see Andrew Lambo before too long. Why not some effort to bring in a few prospect first basemen in the lower levels? Greg Bird or Dan Vogelbach? I think we have prospects at Shortstop below Hanson – Max Moroff and JaCoby Jones, but I think Hanson will be the guy in the middle for a long time once he gets there.

      • jalcorn427

        Drew won’t be very costly as he will be looking for a 1 year (partial year) contract, so he can be a free agent again with no comp pick attached after 2014. Even if he’s very lucky it would cost $$6-8 million for three months of MLB time.

      • jalcorn427

        BTW, I think Jordy will be fine, making this unnecessary.

    • Sea-HAWK fan

      He can’t.. Maybe VERY sparingly, like 10-20 MAYBE a year.. Hes a DH.. A DH who rejected 14-16 a year quali, and a 3 year 30 mill from mariners.. Now he wont even get close.. Boras is a moron

  • https://www.facebook.com/clementewall21 N_Cap

    Thanks Timmy for letting us know about the possibility of signing one after the draft then talking about how we woikdnt give up a first rd pick for one. Contradiction

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

      ???

      • https://www.facebook.com/clementewall21 N_Cap

        Just saying tbay

      • https://www.facebook.com/clementewall21 N_Cap

        btw Tim i love the sight really do have good insight about things. I really enjoy hearing your opinion and seeing reactions to it, you and John do a great job

    • stickyweb

      If they’re signed after the draft, the draft pick compensation goes away and the only cost is the dollar figure of the contract.

      • https://www.facebook.com/clementewall21 N_Cap

        Thanks that’s my point. We know this

        • Andrew

          Did you ever consider other readers might not be as informed as you?

          • https://www.facebook.com/clementewall21 N_Cap

            Ugh

      • https://www.facebook.com/clementewall21 N_Cap

        Thanks for the update I haven’t heard that for the last 5 months

        • indybucfan

          Do you think he writes this site just for you? There are people besides you who read the site. Besides he’s basing the article on information thrown out by ESPN. What a schmuck!

          • https://www.facebook.com/clementewall21 N_Cap

            No he writes it for all the sensitive fans too

            • leowalter

              Stick to the PG blog,then you won’t have to worry about anything here. By the way,I don’t remember you ever contributing anything worthwhile ,if at all, to any conversation.

              • https://www.facebook.com/clementewall21 N_Cap

                sorry im a realist about things, try to make valid comments but everyone freaks out when i do

                • leowalter

                  Did you ever think that it is possible your realism isn’t valid to many others ?

  • Monkshot

    Are we not following the big league team this year? I thought we would have a quick write up after every game. I’m worried about Wandy, I think he should be placed on the DL, it seems pretty obvious he’s not 100%. I would rather see him iron things out on a rehab assignment. I would look to Cumpton or Locke to fill in until then.

    • leowalter

      Is it called ” Pirates Prospects ” ,or did I just imagine that ?

      • Monkshot

        Really good point. This story shouldn’t be here then. In past years there was a write up after each game.

        • leowalter

          Thank you ! And I might add,same to you.( ” thank for taking the time…” )

          • Kip Winner

            Leo is Pirates propect’s resident wise azz. He got turned down as a front office executive and now he takes his frustration on posters.

            • leowalter

              Only those who deserve it. And if you don’t have a reading comprehension problem,you just might notice that every once in a while I can add to the baseball conversation. Are you a real Winner by the way ?

              • Kip Winner

                Correct, every once and awhile you don’t take shots at people. Would you like a medal? Don’t drag everybody down to your miserable level.

  • wkkortas

    It’s amusing how Boras fumes at ESPN quoting anonymous sources, when Jon Heyman has been his shadow spokesman for years.

  • Ron Loreski

    If the Pirates aren’t getting enough production in June from 1B or SS, sign both. After the draft, these players won’t cost a draft pick. Imagine adding Morales, Drew, and Polanco midway through the season.

  • https://profiles.google.com/117072260031604417798 PikeBishop65

    One thing I’m noticing about Mercer, and perhaps its only me, but he almost seems tentative on every ball he fields. It’s almost like he’s getting the yips ever since he literally threw away that Pirates win against Cincinnati last September. I detect the faintest hesitation with him. Maybe its just me.

    • johndw28

      Absolutely 100% true. No one is talking about it but him not charging that ball and making Walker take it late in the game cost them 2 runs. He has looked tentative a # of times this year.

      • leowalter

        No one is talking about the fact that Walker non-chalanted that play either.

  • piratemike

    Maybe the Pirates should send Sanchez down and make him a 1b. A catcher with Steve Blass syndrome is useless.

    • tripleplay24

      what if Travis Snider starts hitting, is 1st base an option when Polanco comes up?

      • leowalter

        When he never has played 1st base just throw him in there ????

      • Scott

        Snider moving to 1B would take a full off-season of work to pull off, like they did with Lambo. Absolutely cannot do it mid-season.

  • S Brooks

    I’d like to see NH go after Drew. He has the unspent money from the Burnett/Loney/Johnson courtships, and Drew’s salary will be prorated 50%, so we’re probably talking $5-$7M for the year. Boras is looking for either a 1 year pillow contract or a 3+ year deal because he doesn’t want to go through the QO process again (the CBA expires after ’16, so Drew’s free agency would be governed under the next CBA).

    Drew is 1+ win better on defense than Mercer and hits righties significantly better, and righties are all the Bucs ever seem to face. If a win is worth $5.5 – $6M, it’s hard not to see the Pirates getting their money’s worth (assuming Drew stays on the field – which, yes, is not an airtight assumption).

    Mercer becomes the backup MI, Barmes is the super-utility, and Harrison…it’s hard not to like the guy, but he really is redundant.

  • freddylang

    Even if Mercer starts hitting I like the idea of getting Drew…then you can send Harrison down and cycle Drew, Barmes, Mercer. I think it definitely makes them better.

    • Scott

      Could also play Mercer more at 2B then, especially giving Walker a break vs LHP…will all depend on the price tag.

  • bmcferren

    both can be signed to one year contracts

    Signing Drew may be an upgrade over Mercer but July 1st is the right time to determine this. Mercer has options to be sent down?

    In my mind Morales is a better option on the bench (and to DH) than Harrison. This has nothing to do with Gaby and Lambo platooning at first. We need Morales to pinch hit in the 9th inning

    • meatygettingsaucy

      Drew would probably be signed right after the draft so he could be ready by July 1. If you sign anyone on July 1, its going to take until August to get them on the field.

      As for Morales. The idiocy to your suggestion is so astounding I’m not even going to discuss it.

      • ecbucs

        I don’t like the idea of signing Drew or Morales for this season only. As you point out they wouldn’t be ready until July 1 and who knows if they will be able to come in at top of their games. Much different than getting someone in mid-season trade.

  • michaelbro8

    Drew is an average SS, and Morales is an average DH. I don’t see the need; the Bucs already have average players at SS and 1B.

    • Timothy Wolfe

      no…they don’t. they have replacement level players not league average players, drew is a 2 war ss when healthy at least

      • michaelbro8

        agreed…”when healthy”. If you look at the big picture, health included, he doesn’t bring anything that the Bucs don’t already have in Mercer; except a huge salary. Why bother ?

        • Y2JGQ2

          Well…..He has a track record of success that Mercer has not achieved in even a single year so far. Mercer’s upside potential = what Drew already has offensively, and Drew will likely always be a better infielder, which is important based off how we focus on ground balls and defense uup the middle. Don’t get me wrong, I think Mercer is fine, but there is no guarantee that he even equals last year’s production, he could be warren morris II

  • Monsoon Harvard

    Since every other team is waiting until after the June draft to sign these two, what makes anybody think the Pirates will outbid the rest of the league?
    Seriously, this is never going to happen.

    • skliesen

      Actually there will be very few suitors for either one of these players because most teams already have better players in place and/or their payroll dollars are already accounted for with existing contracts. For once, Pirates may in catbird seat from financial perspective.

  • ElGaupo77

    Mercer isn’t that good on defense so he needs to hit. If he isn’t hitting he’s a backup.

  • skliesen

    Drew should be pursued if Mercer continues to languish. There’s no place on Pirates for a DH trying to play 1B. Morales needs to be in AL as much as David Ortiz and Adam Dunn.

    • leowalter

      +++skliesen. What is it with so many fans here and on other sites not knowing Morales’ physical limitations ?

  • Jake Perry

    If Snider continues to hit I would think he could move to 1B when Polanco is available in June.

  • Jesse Kennedy

    First off the Pirates higher ups don’t like to sign free agents with a high tag. Second they like to build around the farm and that is the way to go. Lambo will be fine when he get’s the call and Mercer will hopefully get going soon. If not there are plenty of options at SS via trade without having to spend big bucks on a rental for a few months. I don’t see Huntington going after either one regardless.

  • marty34156

    Sign Drew!