Neal Huntington Thinks the Pirates Can Get Ike Davis on the Right Track


The Pittsburgh Pirates traded for Ike Davis Friday night, shortly before first pitch of their game. In return, the New York Mets receive Triple-A right-handed pitcher Zack Thornton and a player-to-be-named-later.

Davis, a 27-year-old left-handed first baseman, will take Travis Ishikawa’s spot in the platoon at first base although general manager Neal Huntington is reluctant to use that term as it allows manager Clint Hurdle more flexibility in his lineup choices.

“The word platoon gets thrown around a lot, I think this will be where Clint uses his judgment,” Huntington said. “I truly think this will allow Clint to use his bench as a little more of a bench than necessarily a platoon base as he’s had to do up to this point this year.”

To this point, Ishikawa and Gaby Sanchez teamed up to post an above-average .775 OPS and four home runs in 76 plate appearances. However, that number is inflated because of Sanchez’s three home runs in his 29 plate appearances, good for a .667 slugging percentage that has his OPS at .997 early this season.

Ishikawa, who has started most of the team’s game at first this year, is batting .212 with a .664 OPS this season. When Davis arrives, Ishikawa will likely be designated for assignment as the corresponding 25-man roster move, as he is currently out of options.

“That’s always the downside of the game is someone has to go out when someone comes in,” Huntington said.

But as Ishikawa goes, Davis enters with 56 home runs and a .828 OPS against right-handed pitching in 1,296 career plate appearances. Those numbers are what made him attractive to the Pirates despite having so rough of a 2013 season that he spent time in the minor leagues.

“He’s had two big seasons and two injury-plagued seasons and we’re betting that our guys can get him back on the right track,”  Huntington said. “We’re betting that he’s a better fit in this ballpark than he was in what used to be spacious Citi Field. Very nice complement for Gaby and a guy that we think his good days are ahead of him.”

Even with the trip to the minors, Huntington cited Davis’ numbers in July and August last season that give him confidence in the addition: “a .420 on-base, .860 OPS, playing good defense and again he didn’t get to finish his season, but a walk rate almost 20 percent, the strikeouts were down, the hard contact was up.”

But according to park data from baseball-reference.com, there is no real significant advantage shown in data for left-handed hitters at either Citi Field or PNC Park. At Citi Field, lefties posted a BABIP of .266 in 2013 compared to a .273 clip at PNC Park.

Furthermore, left-handed hitters posted a .645 OPS in Pittsburgh last year which is marginally better than the .640 OPS at Citi Field.

Rumors swirled about a possible deal for Davis during the offseason, but Huntington said this deal was “about finding that common ground and after a number of conversations we found it.”

Thornton goes to the Mets after a solid season among three levels in 2013. He has shown excellent command and a sinking fastball that sits in the low-90s.

Thornton profiles as a middle reliever at the major-league level. With a glut of young relief pitchers that forced Vin Mazzaro off the Pirates roster, Thornton is an expendable piece.

Huntington said he hasn’t spoken with Davis yet, and did not know when exactly the Pirates’ new first baseman would arrive now that the teams found a deal that they both “liked.” The general manager would not offer comment on what changed between the winter and today in terms of asking price to make the deal more palatable to either side.

“I don’t really want to, or feel the need, to get into the details of it but they found a deal they liked, we found a deal we liked, and it was consummated today.”

Nate Barnes

Author: Nate Barnes

Nate covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects, and is an English Writing major at the University of Pittsburgh. Nate has covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report, and covered Pitt Men's Basketball, Duquesne Men's Basketball, and Pitt Baseball beats prior to this summer. You can find Nate on Twitter @NateBarnes_ where he'll keep you updated on each and every time Clint Barmes breaks up a no-hit bid with one-out in the third inning of ballgames.

Share This Post On
  • WTM

    Why are these guys so terrified to use the word “platoon?”

    • impliedi

      Perhaps that “p” word bruises the player’s ego since it is an acknowledgement of a hole in their game (a.k.a. they are an incomplete player.) It might be time to come up with another word for this like how the word “utility player” has taken the place of “bench guy” and “long reliever” has taken the place of “mop-up guy”!!

      • bucsws2014

        I just think Neal really does believe Gaby can play more against RHP than he has thus far with the Bucs. And based on early 2014 results, he might be right.

        • WTM

          Gaby’s spent over 1400 plate appearances proving he can’t hit RHPs. His “success” this year consists of one game when he hit two HRs against RHPs on a day when everything was flying out of the ballpark.

          • impliedi

            I wonder if the day will ever come when they expand the rosters to 27 or 28 players, so that teams can platoon in all 8 positions! Looking at the Pirates and their career splits, the only player that seems to do really well against same-side pitching is McCutchen (and even he still has a 170-OPS differential between righties and lefties – but when those career OPS’s are .830 and 1.000, you can live with both!!)

  • wvpirate

    I think the PTBN will be Jeff Locke. I think right now he is behind Brandon Cumpton and Casey Sadler in AAA as far as call ups go. Two players who have been recent disappointments to each team getting traded for each other.

    • http://twitter.com/LukeYurchak LukeYurchak

      I wouldn’t hate it if it was Locke but ID has been far more disappointing then Locke falling apart after his AS first half.

  • Andrew

    Sorry, Neal Citi Field is more favorable place for LHH, especially power hitters.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/guts.aspx?type=pfh&season=2013&teamid=0&sort=8,d

    • impliedi

      C’mon, do you know what Ike Davis’ career OPS is at PNC Park?!? Oh, it’s .499.

      • bucsws2014

        Heck, it’s a whopping .153 from 2011-present. But I credit Bucs pitching for that. We had pitching in 2011, right?

        • impliedi

          Of course, that was the year of All-Star Kevin Correia.

  • sweetleb

    maybe lunch box, have to bring up palanco soon

  • impliedi

    I don’t know why, but the headline made me laugh when I read it, followed by me saying “I certainly hope he thinks that, otherwise why would he make the trade?” Alternative: “Neal Huntington Figures Ike Davis is Not Fixable, Acquires Him Anyway”

  • R Edwards

    I hope you are right Neal, especially if the PTBNL is of any value.

    • impliedi

      Neal Says Ike Davis Is Fixable, Unlike Garrett Jones. That’s the only thing that strikes me as odd. It seems like Davis’ upside is the “good” Garrett Jones (the 2009 & 2012 one), but apparently the Pirates can get him on the right track, but couldn’t with Jones. (I’m certainly not suggesting that they should have kept Jones, especially with his age, cost, and poor defense, but I find it interesting.)

  • R Edwards

    I don’t understand how anyone can say that Davis has had “two big seasons”? In 2010, he hit 19 HRs with a .264 avg, with 138 ks. In 2012, he hit 32 HRs with 90 RBIs, but with a .227 average and 141 Ks. By who’s definition do they qualify as “two big seasons”?

    • impliedi

      Well, those 2 seasons his OPS was .791 and .771. Considering what the Pirates have received from the left side of the 1B platoon recently, I think an OPS over .770 is considered “big”.

      • R Edwards

        Sorry, that is not convincing, They are still two decent seasons, but certainly not “big”. Unless he suddenly becomes Chris Davis, I don’t see where this helps us much. If the PTBNL is a non prospect (not in Pirates top 25-30), its a low risk move – if it does include a top 25-30 prospect, its a horrible trade.

        • impliedi

          I think you’re putting too much emphasis into this trade. To me, this is merely meant to get improved production over what is currently available from the left side at 1B. This isn’t some great lineup saver. Is he likely to be better than what is/was expected from Jones/Ishikawa/Lambo is the important question? The Pirates feel that the answer is “yes”.

          • impliedi

            Or to put it another way: I don’t think anyone (including the Pirates) is seeing this as the 2014 version of the Adam LaRoche trade. You know, the “lefty thumper to solve the lineup woes and be the answer at first base for years to come, who will put hundreds of baseballs into the river” trade. This is merely: let’s get something (hopefully) better than we currently have at first base.

        • IC Bob

          Your suggesting that short of getting the best 1B in baseball a trade does not help the Pirates? I have to disagree. Davis brings a big time threat and a middle of the order bat. I love Martin but he is a 2 hitter or a 7 hitter. He is not the guy I want protecting Alvarez.

          • R Edwards

            Now based on what aspect of Davis’ past history would suggest that he will be a legitimate threat in the Pirates lineup? Yes, he hit 32 HRs once – two years ago – when he also hit .227 and struck out 140 times. That has been his high water mark. Plus, he is mediocre at best in the field. How is this a huge improvement over what we had? I would have waited and given Lambo an extended opportunity to prove himself at the MLB level, before making this panic move trade.

    • Doc

      ” who’s definition do they qualify as “two big seasons”"

      Pedro’s

  • impliedi

    Just looking deeper at Davis’ stats…. he’s an Ian Kennedy killer!! 4 HRs and 2 BBs in 11 career plate appearances. Bring on the Padres!!

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

      Trae Arbet or Borden. I don’t see NH giving up a future IF like Frazier, Weiss, or Jones Since he already sent them Herrera. I doubt he’d give up a decent SP like Dickson or Taylor could be.
      Any relief prospect is doable.

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

        Really hope it’s Barrett Barnes.

      • Doc

        Jones or Taylor.

  • IC Bob

    Love the move and for those complaining about his average they need to remember he walks at a 20% rate as well. It will be nice to have a 1B who actually takes a pitch now and then. Well done Neal. I also get a kick out of Huntingtons comment about not wanting to get into the details of what changed from the offseason to now. I think its easy to see what changed. The Mets settled for Zach Thornton and the Bucs took on some salary. I love the move.

    • reddfoxx39

      He also watched 60 plus AB’s of Ishikawa. We had to make to make a move for a 1B……

      • IC Bob

        Great Point!

  • piratemike

    I feel more confident about the Pirates “fixing” a pitcher than a hitter……. I mean what hitter have they ever “fixed?”
    I fear that Alderson will get the better of Neal again.

  • http://twitter.com/LukeYurchak LukeYurchak

    Super interested in the discourse between Huntington and Hurdle in the media. Love the fact that they seem to jointly agree on decisions while trusting the other with certain things. Like Hurdle with the loose platoons and Huntington favoring shifts. Obviously they play nice in the media and we dont know everything but it truly feels like a strong working relationship.

  • Doc

    Looking at Career splits, Davis is Garret Jones with a little better fielding.