Week In Review: Pirates Still Need a First Baseman After the Winter Meetings

The Winter Meetings are over, and the Pittsburgh Pirates made a few additions to the team during the week. None of the additions represented a big splash, and the biggest addition they made this week requires a lot of faith in Ray Searage. The one position they didn’t fill was first base. Several options went off the board, although the Pirates still have plenty of possibilities if they want to find a first baseman to platoon with Gaby Sanchez. Below you will find the recap of the Winter Meetings, with links to our coverage throughout the week.

I also want to mention that the 2014 Prospect Guide was submitted to the publishers this weekend. I anticipate getting the first shipment of books this week, and will be shipping them out by the end of the week. I’m hoping to ship everything out Thursday, which should get them to most places Monday or Tuesday. Everyone who has placed an order as of this writing is guaranteed to have their order going out with the first shipment. The first shipment will cover more than the pre-sale orders, so if you order this week there is a good chance your book will go out when I send out the first shipment. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

Edinson Volquez

The Pirates seemingly have filled their open rotation spot with the signing of Edinson Volquez. The rotation now has Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Volquez, and either Wandy Rodriguez or Jeff Locke. The last spot depends on the health of Rodriguez.

The signing of Volquez brings up two questions. First, how much do you trust Ray Searage? Volquez doesn’t look good, but neither did A.J. Burnett or Francisco Liriano. I’d argue that Volquez looks worse, and doesn’t have the potential to be a top of the rotation starter. I think Searage could improve Volquez to a starter who can throw league average numbers over 180 innings. That doesn’t look good if you’re comparing Volquez to Burnett, but it does look good if you’re just looking at the $5 M salary.

The signing also brings up the question of whether Burnett will return. Earlier in the week we heard that he was still undecided about retirement. Late in the week it was reported that the Orioles were pursuing him, although they have also heard he is unsure about returning. The “Burnett-to-the-Orioles” rumor makes sense, as they need pitching and he lives near Baltimore. The Pirates have said they could bring back Burnett, even with Volquez in the mix. I think a lot of people are severely discounting the possibility that Burnett could retire. It seems like a lot of people are viewing his return to baseball as a given, and the only thing stopping him is the Pirates not offering enough money. Now we have another team looking at him, and hearing the same response. I think if this was just about a team offering more money, Burnett would have been signed by now. It seems like he’s just honestly undecided.

The Pirates were connected to Bronson Arroyo, Jason Hammel, and Johan Santana this week. Of the three, Hammel is the guy I like the best, and a guy I liked more than Volquez. I don’t see any of those guys signing now that Volquez is in the mix.

First Base

A lot of first base options disappeared this week. Seattle added Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. The Rays brought back James Loney on a three year deal. Of all the first basemen, Loney was my top choice. There are still first basemen available, which I detailed here after the Loney signing.

The Pirates have been connected to several of those first basemen throughout the off-season. They could be able to get anyone on the list that they want. There’s not much competition now at first base, with Milwaukee being the only other team actively seeking a first baseman.

My preference at this point would be Justin Smoak of the Mariners. Staying in-house with Andrew Lambo wouldn’t be a bad plan, but leaves no backup plan if Lambo struggles. The Pirates have shown interest in Eric Chavez, which could lead to an outside of the box idea with Chavez as the starter and Lambo as a Plan B. I don’t trust Chavez to hold up as a starter with his injury history and his age, but he has the numbers. If you’ve got Lambo as a backup, that makes his injury history less of a concern. He’s a free agent, so he would also be cheaper than Smoak, who would likely cost a major league pitcher.

Other Positions

**The Pirates signed Clint Barmes this week, filling their need for a backup middle infielder. I don’t think any player brings a bigger split in opinions than Barmes. He’s got a ton of value for his defense at shortstop, especially since the Pirates have a ground ball heavy pitching staff. He also has no bat, which brings on the negative opinions.

**They’re looking to stay in-house when it comes to right field. That’s not a surprise after the tendered contract to Travis Snider and the addition of Jaff Decker. Neal Huntington said that Gregory Polanco wouldn’t be an option at the start of the season, which also isn’t a surprise. I expect Polanco to be up in June or July.


**The biggest transaction of the week was that the Pirates signed Charlie Morton to a three year extension. That’s not a move that will make any impact in 2014, since Morton was already under team control. It will impact the following 2-3 years. Morton would have been a free agent after the 2014 season. He’s now under control for a minimum of two years and $17 M, or a maximum of three years and $26 M beyond the 2014 season. Considering some of the prices paid for free agent starters on this market, the Pirates could be looking at a huge value for Morton during that time.

**Jerry Sands and Ryan Reid were designated for assignment to make room for Volquez and Barmes. Not a big surprise with either player, as I had them both listed as candidates to be removed from the 40-man at the start of the off-season.

**To complete the Chris Stewart trade, the Pirates sent Kyle Haynes to the Yankees.

**Wei-Chung Wang was drafted by the Brewers in the Rule 5 draft. It was a surprising move, and a smart move by the Brewers. Wang was our #30 ranked prospect in the Prospect Guide. He will have to make the jump from rookie ball to the majors, which is hard, but he’s got impressive stuff that gives him a shot to get there. The link talks more about him, along with a review of who the Pirates took in the minor league phase of the draft.

**The Pirates signed Michael Martinez to a minor league deal.


  • Mblthd: I didn’t come up with it. It came up in an interview with Keith Law. I wouldn’t do it, but in reality Belt’s batting average is simialr to Marte, and he is also a very good 1st baseman and has 1 more year of control. If they add a pitching prospect its not a bad deal. It’s interesting though, that on the SF blogs they like Belt as much as we like Marte.
    I would rather add a pitcher to tabata though to try and get Belt.

    • Hello Pie Rat: My bad – I didn’t mean to imply that I thought you came up with it. I understood your post to say Keith Law came up with it, and that’s who I was referring to when I said “where do they come up with this nonsense?” Or if David Todd came up with it, then that’s fine too.

      In any event, I agree re: Belt would be a good haul for Tabata (plus something), but anything involving Marte for Belt would be ludicrous. SF would have to send 1993 Barry Bonds back to make that work.

      • The difference in Marte and Belt’s plate discipline is rather well defined,and is heavily in Belt’s favor. Many people connected to MLB are not quite as in love with Marte’s approach and future as you seem to be mblthd.

        • Plate discipline, and only plate discipline, is slightly in Belt’s favor.

          • Look at the JollyRogerFan post above for stat comparisons between Matte and Belt. I think you will realize that Belt is preferred to Marte. Martel’s numbers for 2013 are probably not sustainable – particularly his obp.

            • Sorry, JollyRoger I didn’t catch that you had addresses Belt earlier. I guess this is a popular topic.
              We’re good mblthd, sorry to you for jumping to conclusions.

            • Stat comparisons aren’t of much value with such a small sample size. In any event, nobody has a crystal ball, but if I had to bet, I’d bet that Belt has topped out, and Marte has only just begun.

  • I just saw something on Brandon Belt. Did Keith Law say there was a rumor of a Marte for Brandon Belt deal.

    • Where do they come up with this nonsense?

      • Because David Todd brought it up as a hypothetical in an interview with Law.

      • Why would you call that hypothetical deal ” nonsense ” ? You don’t think Belt and a mid level pitching prospect wouldn’t be a good return on a hitter like Marte ? If so,you ought to research the numbers on those players a little deeper.

        • Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to hypothesize about wheeling and dealing, etc., but some of the stuff these guys come up with is just absurd. Marte’s a budding All-Star who’s not arbitration eligible until 2016 – the Pirates wouldn’t trade him for Mickey Mantle, much less a league-average 1B.

          I could see it maybe if it were Matt Adams, but STL would never go for that.

  • Aledmys diaz
    I hope they are saving their pennies for this cuban ss. FA eligible in mid February.

  • During the 2013 season there were rumors the Pirates were trying to get Edwin Encaracion. He would be a game changer, a true number 4 hitter, and even help McCutchen get better pitches to hit. Also if it’s true that Sanchez can play 3rd why hasn’t he done it yet?
    Here are also 3 left handed 1st baseman that would be great platoon situations Yonder Alonzo (SD), Brandon Bolt (SF), and Eric Hosmer (KC). These teams are still rebuilding and would seem to make good trading partners with the Pirates.

    • I agree,
      I wanted hunington to go after Encaracion at the dead line last season. I read earlier this off season SD is getting impatient with Alanzo. He is still young and plays in his graveyard.

  • CalipariFan506
    December 16, 2013 3:10 pm

    The Diamondbacks have traded a future every day CF, a future every day 3B and a #3 starting pitcher for a relief pitcher with average numbers and a guy who can’t defend the OF with an under .300 OBP. That is unbelievable.

    • sooooo kevin towers… how about jason grilli for chris owings? you could have TWO proven closers!

  • If the Addison Reed trade is any indication of the value of relief pitchers… we should be gunning for the best 1B available.

  • CalipariFan506
    December 16, 2013 1:13 pm

    I’d sign Morales for anything under $7M.

    • And give up a 1st round draft pick? Not I.

      • What if you got the pick back next year? (See the comment above). The system is set up to be gamed if you play it right.

        • CalipariFan506
          December 16, 2013 3:12 pm

          Ya I think they could potentially get it back. Ad even if not we have like a 45% chance of getting a competitive balance pick in the 30s. IMO NH should use thoe picks as a fallback for the rare scenario where he may want to sign a FA with a QO.

  • Defense for a 1st basemen is a big deal, if Dickerson was as good as some think he was he would not have been playing the outfield in the Fall League.
    The Pirates could make ten different moves for 1st base and none of them might be accepted by the public. Huntington is far ahead of me, I can see the value in his moves, he waited patiently to get guys like Byrd and Morneau when he needed them, I think he will upgrade 1st base to some degree before ST.

    • I don’t disagree with the trade I just didn’t understand it. They know a hell of a lot more about their people than I do.

  • Still don’t understand why they traded Alex Dickerson, for a team that doesn’t have any 1b prospects he was better than nothing. Any chance that they may be thinking of Matt Hague as a last resort?

    • Even though Dickerson didn’t get on base nearly enough,I didn’t think that was a wise moe at this time either mike.

    • ” Double-A is the transitional level, where prospects must turn their dreamy tools into actual performance. If a player has not learned how to take a walk by now, they probably never will and their chances of becoming a productive hitter are slim to none. ” piratemike : just read this on another site ( BD ) rating AA prospects. This is probably the thought the Pirates FO and scuts had regarding Dickerson. The same rating by the way,had Xeander Bogaerts ( # 1 ) and Greg Polanco ( # 2 ) ranked much higher than any other in the Top 150 Prospects in AAA in 2013.

      • Should have read ” in AA in 2013 “.Sorry.

        • Buster, yeah I read that earlier but I didn’t apply that to Dickerson, I didn’t realize his OBP was bad this year I know he had a .353 and .393 the previous two years so along with his BA I thought the issues were with his power.

    • Hague is redundant to Gaby, except no power.

    • Because they feel Dickerson cannot play 1B defensively. So in essence they are trading two OF prospects for each other, one of whom is ready to possibly contribute this year when they have a hole.

  • Interesting, out of the box suggestion about Polanco at 1B Hidden Vigorish! No one seems to object to the idea of trying Lambo or Bell at 1B.

    • Polanco is a plus defender with a great arm and great speed. They are not going to move a guy who could be a future gold glove CF to 1B.

      • You wouldn’t be moving him for the long term. You would be adding positional versatility for the short term. Of course up the middle D is way more important. However, with all the emphasis on shifting perhaps Dan Fox will find that 1B defense is of greater importance than RF defense. An extremely athletic 1B opens up greater shift opportunities. Huntington in an interview this weekend said this about the shifts, “The biggest thing is, what’s the next part of the shift? What’s the next element to the shift? How individualistic does it become, or is there something else we can do to maximize the shift even more than we’ve already done?” Could finding an athletic 1B be the thing “the next part” that will maximize the Bucs shift usage? Just a thought to ponder.

        • thewalkingtoolshed
          December 16, 2013 11:18 am

          I think it is a great idea, if he can play 1B then we have so much more versatility and options in the future if we can decide every year whether its best depending on the free agent/trade market plus internal options to play The Walking Tool Shed at 1B or RF………plus if we have ever suffer a major injury at 1b or an OF position it just gives us that much more depth, I love this idea, especially with our RF dimensions at PNC

    • Move Polanco to 1st base ?!?! Greg Polanco ?!?! Please say that was an attempt at humor.

      • Let’s say it is July. Jose Tabata has locked down the everyday job in RF and is playing well. At 1B Lambo has stunk and Sanchez has proven again that he can’t hit right handers. 1B is a black hole. Meanwhile Gregory Polanco is raking in Indy. It is obvious he is ready for big league duty. What do you do? Wouldn’t it make sense to prepare Polanco to potentially fill it at 4 positions instead of 3?

        • Uhhh….NO !

        • We talked about this on Twitter earlier. I would not move Polanco. He’s got more defensive value in the outfield. In your scenario, I’d move Jose Tabata to first base. Polanco would upgrade the outfield defense, and I don’t think Tabata would be any worse at 1B.

          In fact, I think Polanco would be horrible at first base. He’s tall, and he’s 90% legs. He has a ton of value in the outfield because he can cover a ton of ground with long strides, almost to the point where it looks like he is gliding across the outfield. If you put him at first base then you’re asking him to make short shuffles left and right, shorter sprints, making quick reactionary grabs at his feet, etc. That would be very awkward for the way he is built.

          • And add Polanco’s arm to Tim’s description ! You just don’t take a player like that to an infield position at1st base .

          • I think Tabata is too short for 1B. There have been other short 1Bs but most of them had significant experience. Also feel Tabata’s attention to detail and baseball acumen is lacking and he’d have issues with the nuances of the position. I think Polanco has more natural abilities for 1B. Left handed, tall, etc. Maybe the footwork would be an issue for him. That is why you give him a look in spring training and see if he could handle it. I think if he is a natural athlete he’d do fine. I get that he has more OF value because of his range. But he isn’t going to be playing the big field anytime soon. RF at PNC has much less real estate to deal with than center and left. And again, this wouldn’t be a permanent move. It is about gaining positional versatility to help the team at which ever position is the biggest need come mid season. Just an opinion. This is out of the box thinking. No different than piggyback 4 man rotations or hitting the pitcher 8th. I completely understand the skepticism.

            • You’re using a very vague definition of athletes. Not everyone who is athletic can do the same thing. Take running for an example. Some people are built for long distance running, while others are sprinters. Both would be athletes, but they have different individual skills. Polanco is an athlete, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to work at any position.

              Also, I believe you’re only talking about this as a short-term fix. Polanco is one of the best prospects they’ve had coming through the system. The last thing they need to do is move him around all over the field, putting him in a position where he can’t establish a routine and consistency. That’s a good way to ruin a prospect.

              • I’ve seen enough baseball and I’ve seen enough of Polanco to believe he has the tools, fluidity, and right body type to play 1B. He actually kind of reminds me physically of Fred McGriff. The argument of it being detrimental may have some merit. But a lot of players, even top prospects, have moved around with no issues.

            • Uhhh…once again,NO ! I can almost bet you have never seen Polanco,hit, run,field or throw.

              • I saw him play live in 2012 at Lakewood. I saw him last year against Trenton. I try to catch the Bucs minor league affiliates when they come to Jersey. I also have a milb.tv subscription.

            • You’re saying that Tabata is too short for first base, which would make Polanco a better option. But what do you think has more overall value to the team? The upgrade Polanco’s height can give at first base, or the upgrade his range can give in the outfield?

              You don’t really need a tall first baseman. Gaby Sanchez is only 6′ 1″. The defense would be better with Polanco over Tabata in the outfield, rather than Polanco over Tabata in the infield.

              Overall this is extremely hypothetical. But even in the most hypothetical situation, I wouldn’t move the best outfielder the Pirates have to first base.

              • Put aside for a second that we have differing opinions on which player has the better tools for the position. With Polanco you have some time to actually work with him at the position a little in the minors. Tabata you’d be moving him there cold. As for the value of the positions themselves, I believe for this team with what they want to do with shifts, the ground ball staff they’ve put together, and the home ball park that doesn’t have a ton of real estate in RF…..1B may just be a more important defensive position than RF.

        • In that scenario, why don’t you move the indifferent outfielder to first base and let the youngster with Gold Glove potential and a great arm play right field?

  • IMO, people waiting for the big splash signing are going to wait a long time, it is not likely to happen, from the people I talk to they are looking for a left hand compliment to Sanchez and waiting on A.J., other than that not much is going to happen, even if the media in Pittsburgh stirs the pot like they are doing know for the Pirates to go out and spend some big Bucs. The same lame argument keeps coming up, “What If” and “We have holes to fill”. Every team has holes and will have holes on opening day, it just costs to much for any team in baseball to have every position on the field manned by an all-star. The holes the Pirates have still have good players playing in those holes, maybe not all-stars, but good players.

  • My preference is to sign Chavez and have he and Lambo split the left side platoon duties at 1B. Chavez can’t hold up for 120+ starts but he could make 75 or so. Both Chavez and and Lambo have additional positional versatility so they could get away with carrying both of them. Speaking of positional versatility, here is the internal plan B option if they are forced to go with Lambo and he tanks. http://hiddenvigorish.com/2013/12/should-gregory-polanco-be-a-option-at-first-base/

  • It would make better sense to wait until deep into Spring Training to see what they’ve actually got in Lambo at first base before evaluating the necessity of trading for another first baseman. You would also know at that time which of the excess outfielders and pitchers that you would be willing to move to obtain another 1B. Exercising a little patience here and not doing anything until March would be prudent.

  • CalipariFan506
    December 16, 2013 8:40 am

    Ryan Howard! I’m convinced half the people here prefer the Phillies model or Brewers to the Pirates.

    • thewalkingtoolshed
      December 16, 2013 9:37 am

      I wish all of these fans would embrace our model and learn not to freak out over everything! No one should have even expected very much to be done this off-season. We have a young core and instead of signing risky, overpriced free agents we have much better options. Its called bringing up 2 superstars in June for 500k a piece. It would be the equivalent of signing Tanaka and Ellsbury for 5 million a year or something, I bet everyone sure would be excited and praising our front office if that happened! Why can’t people realize bringing up Polanco and Taillon is the same thing and just as exciting!!! Besides the playoff games, I don’t think I have ever been to a cooler, more electric, fun game than the one where we brought up Gerrit Cole. Embrace the gameplan

      • toolshed, If everyone bought into the the Huntington Way, then it would only be a matter of time before all other teams did the same and it would be much less effective. I’ll take half our fanbase either not understanding it or not believing in it as long as 90% of the other teams do the same. So they keep overpaying for avg FAs and the Bucs keep bringing studs up for the minimum and mining gold in the bounce back market.

        • If every GM embraced the Huntington way, then average FA would suddenly become affordable as the large market big pocket guys would no longer pay a premium for them.

          Word on Morales is he might sign a 1-year deal for less than the QO and give it another go next year when the 1B options are even thinner. So here’s a thought experiment: at what price would you sign Morales and accept the loss of a pick?

          • I keep thinking about this question as well. I’m pretty sure the Pirates would need to RECEIVE cash to make that worthwhile. Or could they plan to let him walk after 1 year and get a comp pick in 2015?

            • That’s what I’m thinking. All you’re doing is punting your ’14 pick – which is in the high 20’s anyway – for an additional pick in ’15. And with Frankie a potential QO as well, you could be looking at 3 of the top 40 picks in the ’15 draft. If Morales’ price falls to $10M or so, the Bucs could certainly afford him. It could certainly work, although there is one flaw in the logic (apart from the risk that Morales either sucks or gets injured) – it puts the Bucs in a position to need a 1B again for ’15 when the FA crop is even weaker.

          • I think trying to justify a Morales signing is an exercise in self deceit. Morales was DHed in favor of a first baseman who played defense on par with Prince Fielder. The Pirates draft slot is valued between $7.3-5.7 million in 2011 dollars. And the idea of trading a slot that would be gained next year assumes Morales would 1) be worth a qualifying offer, 2)Pirates offer him one, see Burnett.

            The market is thin and there are not many options, but Morales should not be one, he is not worth the pick let alone whatever his salary would be.

            • Well, let’s run the numbers. We don’t know exactly where the Bucs will pick until Choo, Jimenez, Cruz and Santana sign, but it will definitely be in the 20’s. Beyond the Box Score ran a back of the envelope analysis a few months ago, working off Nate Silver’s earlier work, that indicated a pick in the 16-30 range would, on average, return 2-3 WAR in the player’s first 6 seasons. Let’s split the difference and say 2.5 WAR. At $6M/win, that’s $15M of value. To get that value, you pay $2M in signing bonus (what the slot is worth), and, on average, 31% of his fair market value (per Nate Silver), or about $4.5M. Net net, the player delivers $8.5M in excess value.

              If you sign Kendrys Morales for $10M and he delivers 3 WAR, you’ve essentially broken even, with $8M in excess value. To wit, if Morales does deliver that 3 WAR, he’s in line for a QO, which, if declined, would deliver another pick toward the end of the 15-30 range to the Pirates. If not declined, the Pirates would have him for another season at something between $14-$15M, and he would need to deliver 2.5 WAR to break even.

              So really, it’s not that far fetched, as long as you think Morales can deliver 3 WAR in 2014. And if the FO believes it can do as well picking at ~#30 in 2015 as it does picking ~#25 in 2014, then it actually makes more sense from a value perspective to do it.

            • I do not dispute your numbers here is the article I was pulling the draft slot valuations from.


              But Morales a 3 win player? He did that once is his career when he had ISO .063 points above his average and a career high BABIP. He is a going to be 31yo DH, who is the worst base runner in baseball and a move to first will only lessen his value. I hate to be negative especially when I do not have a solution, but Morales will not be a 3 win player. Maybe 2 wins playing DH in a home run friendly park.

  • I agree with Tim that Justin Smoak looks like the best option, but I am kind of biased because I’ve been calling for a Justin Smoak trade for more than a year. I think he is on the verge of breaking out, at least as big power/high OBP first baseman. The secret: limit his at bats against LHP. And the Pirates have the perfect fit for a platoon with Gaby Sanchez.
    The Mariners are saying they will play Corey Hart and Logan Morrison as OF, but I don´t buy that, they both have weak knees, so my guess is that they have to get rid of Smoak to open a spot in 1b for one of those guys, while the other is a DH.
    By saying that, I am thinking it won´t take that much to trade for Smoak, maybe Bryan Morris and Cumpton, or even Grilli. I would trade a 37 year old closer for a 27 year old 1b with potential. Just move Melancon to the closer role and sign another bounce back reliever like Andrew Bailey.
    I think the Rangers and Mets would want a lot more for Moreland and Davis.
    And as Tim said, Lambo has to be a Plan B.

    • I would be fine with Smoak for a reliever.

      Honestly, unless they are planning on trading for Price, I don’t see them wanting prospects anyways. They seem to be in “win-now” mode. Those kinds of teams tend to overvalue relievers.

      What worries me about Smoak is that if he doesn’t break out, you’re stuck with Travis Snider 2.0 (ie. dead weight for multiple years who you gave up a quality arm for). BUT if he is even just “good”, you’ve solved your 1B problem for a few years.

      Reward > Risk? I think so, but not by much. I would have no problem with Chavez/Gaby/Lambo if the return for Smoak is too high.

      • Smoak is in his first year of arbitration. If he really bombs, just non tender him next offseason and it´s not like the Pirates have a real legit prospect coming up.

        • Agreed.

          But as we’ve seen with Snider, it can be difficult to give up on a guy like that and non-tender him. That’s what I was referring to.

          I’m trying to figure out what Seattle would want in return. My guess is that they would ask for Taillon, get rebuffed, and then ask for either J. Wilson, Melancon, or Locke.

          I really can’t see them wanting a position player (anyone we’d trade, anyways). I’d probably pull the trigger on anyone out of the bullpen not named Wilson or Melancon. The question is, would that be enough?

          • I read posts about how we should trade relievers for Smoak and think the Mariners would never go for that… I do hope that “anyone not named Wilson or Melancon” would get it done but I would be very upset if the Pirates were on the opposite side of that theoretical trade. But then I see the piece about the Mariners front office and how clueless they are about advanced metrics and well, their jobs in general and it just might be possible…

            • I don’t know enough about Seattle’s FO to know how they value relievers, but they’ve made plenty of trades/signings that this Pirates FO wouldn’t (/didn’t) make.

              Just spit-balling. That’s what I would trade for him, if they were interested.

              • Now that I’ve seen what the white sox got for addison reed,.. this type of trade looks completely reasonable.

    • I’m mystified at the appeal of Smoak. Frankly, 27 is a bit old to be talking about someone’s “potential”, and Smoak hasn’t really done anything anywhere except one half-season in the Texas League. His resume is limited to the fact that he’s been in BA’s top 25 prospects a couple of times, and that was on the basis of potential as opposed to anything he’d actually done anywhere. I just can’t get worked up over a guy with a career 97 OPS+ at a corner position.

      • Yes, well Lambo seems to fall into the same category. Smoak is a few years older, but he’s also at least shown the ability to hit MLB pitching, albeit not consistently.

        The other appeal is that he MAY be available and MAY be the cheapest option (trade-wise).

  • Ryan Howard? He’s owed $70M for the next 3 years plus $10M to decline his 2017 option. Phils have been looking to move Papelbon to free up more money.

    Howard has 3 problems, 1) can’t hit LHP to save his life 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 1B vs RHP at this point, which would solve problem 1) and help with problem 2). I’d personally take him for the equivalent of 3yr/$30M.

  • Wilson Betemit, missed 2013 due to a knee injury sustained in a ST game.

    OPS vs RHP career = 819
    OPS vs RHP 2012 = 859
    OPS vs RHP 2011 = 865
    OPS vs RHP 2010 = 873

    My sources tell me he would cost much less than Loney.

    • m: Betemit could probably be signed to a minor league contract as he missed almost all of 2013. He has played many positions, but thinking of him as a first baseman on a team oriented toward strong infield defense is a mistake. As a switchhitter who plays 1B, 2B, 3B, and OF, he may be worthwhile as bench strength.

      IMO, the market spiked with Jack Z giving up a young, strong SP/RP (Carter Capps) for LoMo. Therefore, if I were NH I would ignore the urge to get somebody quickly and find out who is willing to make a reasonable deal. Dobbs is a nice defensive 1B who played 423 innings at 1B for Miami in 2013. They signed Garrett Jones to a 2 year contract, and Dobbs made $1.5 mil in 2013, so he may be available – except that the Marlins will think that every team has Jack Z as a GM – wait until mid-Jan or early Feb. Another strong glove is Daric Barton who has played on and off for Oakland and has a great eye at the plate. He gets DFA’d on a regular basis to clear room on the 40 man roster, so if we pay attention, we could have a great glove for peanuts – he was DFA’d 03/13, and again later in 2013.

      I still like Mitch Moreland who I think would fit this Pirates team like a glove. Has the glove, bat, and we would have him for at least his 3 years of Arb – he is not going to take time from Fielder, and he is not that strong with the bat to think of him as a DH. Maybe after this deal gets done with Choo, their GM may want to look for more OF depth like Jose Tabata.

      • Is the difference between: (1) Gaby/Morland platoon, and (2) Gaby/winner-of-Betemit-vs-Lambo platoon enough to merit losing a useful player or pitcher, i.e., whatever it would cost to acquire Moreland in a trade? Maybe so, I don’t know. To be honest, I’m not sure there would be a difference at all, or you might get more production out of option (2) than option (1).

        In any event. I’d be leaning toward “bring in some competition for Lambo in ST, one or two guys who won’t cost me any $ or players” (Gamel would have been perfect, but it’s too late for that now, ATL saw to that last week), but that’s just my perception.

        • m: If Gaby were the full time 1B, it would not upset me one bit. All RH batters can hit RH pitching, but he does hit LHP’s better. His last full time I think was in 2011 and did well on D, and I think fairly well with the bat. We got him for a song, but he is much better than what we gave. Lambo is a kid who does not have the skills or any significant experience as a 1B. Just because he is a LH we have folks who think that alone would automatically qualify him to play 1B. The Dodgers never thought so, nor have the Pirates.

          Moreland played well in the SEC for Miss St, one of the best and most traditional college programs in the country, and has been in the lineup for a perennial playoff contender (Texas) for the better part of 3 years. Reminds me a lot of The Fort – a hard-nosed guy who brings his lunch pail to the job, and is a great teammate – we have guys like that at other positions, but it never hurts to have one or two more. He would love the opportunity to get a shot at 350 AB’s, and he and Sanchez would be a very strong defensive combo.

          • Cato the Elder
            December 16, 2013 9:47 am

            I think the 30 HRs he hit last year (and the fact that he was once a top prospect) are the “skills” that potentially qualify Lambo to (at least have a chance to) play first base. The fact that he bats lefty only sweetens the deal since he could platoon with Gaby who crushes LHP.

            • CtE: No doubts about the number of HR’s he hit in AA/AAA in 2013, but my point has to do with defense. I think he was tried at 1B for the Dodgers 14 games in his first year and then 6 in the 2nd year and then nothing further at 1B for them, and little if any from the Pirates. Maybe both the Dodgers and Pirates overlooked something, but I doubt it.

  • ” It seems like a lot of people are viewing his return to baseball as a given, and the only thing stopping him is the Pirates not offering enough money:”

    THANK YOU, TIM. Until the rumors turn from “Orioles really want AJ Burnett” (who WOULDNT want AJ Burnett? 30 teams should want AJ Burnett!) to “Burnett in talks with Team X” i’m going to stick to the Buccos or Retirement scenario because that’s what the facts indicate.

    All we know is that he’s said “Buccos or Retirement” and there hasnt been any real news from his camp since. I don’t understand why so many are so mad that Burnett is an Oriole when he isn’t an Oriole.

  • Mike Carp, 1b, could be had, plays OF also. Offer them Tabata, or. Melancon

    • A pretty significant overpay for Mike Carp.

    • Wilbert : thats not a bad idea…except ! Do you really think Ben Cherington would turn around and re-acquire Melancon ? I would be shocked if he did that.

    • I don’t think Boston is going to deal Carp – Napoli is still an injury risk and they’re not particularly deep at the position. And they certainly don’t need a 5th OF or another RP after signing Mujica.

      Seattle is the better bet. They traded a young RP to get Morrison, see if they’ll trade Smoak to get one back. It’s not like their bullpen was lights out to begin with.

    • I mentioned Carp last week. I think Carp could be had for fairly cheap if the Bucs were willing to eat Dempster’s contract. The BoSox have no real need for a $13.5 mill swingman but I imagine they’d love more financial flexibility as one more major contract signing gets them very close to the luxury tax threshold – flexibility they may need during the season.

    • I would rather trade Marte for Brandon Belt +a propect and move Tabata into the leadoff and in LF. Let Lambo/Decker/Snider (and possibly Sands, if he clears waivers) battle it out for RF until Polanco is promoted. IMO, this makes the offense better in the ST and LT by trading from strength (OF) for a system weakness (1B). You replace a fast guy with unsustainably high OBP and poor plate discipline with a guy with much better OBP and plate discipline with more power. Belt could also play OF against lefties allowing Sanchez to get some time at 1B. Pirates need to move away from relying on players with poor plate discipline. Tabata doesn’t hit for power or have a lot of speed, but he knows how to get on base.

      • I would hate that move. Marte is still developing and he has a way higher ceiling than Belt in my opinion. Plus we have depth in the of, but not really in the upper levels yet, and I don’t want to count on tabata to be a permanent starter. I also would like a nice higher percentage player like Belt and I agree that the bucs need some guys with better plate discipline, but I don’t think trading away guys like Marte,who I think could develop better discipline, is the right way to do that.

        • Not certain why you think Marte has a much higher ceiling than Belt. See these stats.

          Belt – Age 25; BA .289; 9.1% BB%; 21.9% SO%; .360 OBP%; .481 SLG; 17 HRs; 39 doubles; .193 ISO; 5 SBs; .351 BABIP

          Marte – Age 25; BA .280; 4.4% BB%; 24% SO%; .343 OBP%; .441 SLG; 12 HRs; 26 doubles; .161 ISO; 41 SBs; .363 BABIP

          The only category that Marte beats Belt in is stolen bases. I should also point out that Belt’s BABIP is much more sustainable since he had the same BABIP in the prior year – reflecting his ability to maintain a pretty high BABIP. Marte has not had such a high BABIP since AA in 2011. Marte’s OBP% is also unsustainable and significantly aided by 24 HBP compared to Belt’s 6 HBP. I would not be surprised and really expect Marte to be more of a .245 to .265 BA hitter in the major leagues with an OBP that is much closer to .300. If he has shown very little ability to take a walk beyond AA, he is not likely to become much better suddenly now. He also has not shown a lot power through the various minor league levels. Sell high on him now and get a good return – Brandon Belt + a prospect.

  • First off, Marte is the leadoff hitter. I feel that we have put so much pressure on Neal to find a 1B that he may have to at this point.

    As of now, I feel the most likely scenario is Chavez for 2.5. No one will embrace it, but Neal can rest assured that he actually did something. Still not sure why we haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Neal has to know the prices by now, and waiting probably won’t make much of a difference.

    We need offense desperately. I’d like to see someone brought in at 1B and roll with the Lambo / Tabata in RF. Remember this is the same team that nearly got no-hit in the playoffs.

    • I think polanco leads off when he arrives and probably for a while after as well. If NH makes a single move because of any perceived pressure applied by the fan base, this org is in a ton of trouble. He’ll make a move if he thinks it’s prudent for the team, not because of anything you or I or tim or any of the commenters here say.

      I think chavez would be a good fit at this point, with the bonus being he can play some 3b in a pinch too. I dont see any rush to pull it off as he doesnt seem to be a hot commodity right now.

      while it’s a fact the bucs were nearly no hit in the playoffs, the dodgers were also and so were the nats in the last week of the season. Wacha was pitching pretty well at the time. It’s also a fact that the bucs were extremely close to league avg in runs scored. I would love to see an upgrade of the offense, but I think desperate is an exaggeration.

      On the off season in general so far, I am disappointed that the bucs haven’t done anything bigger than extending morton yet. Almost any fan would love to see a splashy signing or trade to fill perceived holes. But I think the FO set unreasonable, almost unreachable, expectations with its last offseason. Remember Martin and Frankie were not exactly huge splashes at the time, but were probably the 2 best FA signings l last year, especially value wise.

      It’s unrealistic to think NH will have the best offseason of any GM every year. Maybe this year there just weren’t any candidates to provide the kind of value Martin and Liriano did. Especially at the Pirates areas of need. Maybe Loney goes on to post 2 -3 WAR every year of his contract and turns out to be the value we should have signed. I think it’s much more likely he plays under the cost of the contract, but only time will tell.

    • Right now Marte’s OBP against RHP (.307) is too low to be an effective lead off hitter. Against LHP he is great. Don’t be surprised if the Pirates move either Tabata or Decker into the leadoff spot against RHP, moving Marte down in the line up. When Polanco arrives he’ll leadoff due to the combination of high OBP and speed.

      • I don’t think its prudent to move Polonco to the lead off spot right a way. In time when he gets his feet on the ground he can be an option at lead off. Also no way I drop Marte to 6 or 7th in the order. You don’t move that type of speed or someone with his ability to bunt down that far in the line up.

        • Thank you, IC Bob, for once again representing the 20th Century. Alex Rios and Carlos Gomez – two of Marte’s fellow 40 SB club members – both logged significant time in the 5th and 6th spots.

          And did you really just use bunting as a rationale?

          Once Polanco comes up it will be obvious which player is better suited to get on base and be driven in by the 3-4-5 guys, and Marte will settle into a role more suited to his skill set – average-above average power, poor plate discipline, good hit tool. He’s a great #6 in a deep lineup.

          • Well I didn’t realize you had such knowledge of baseball metrics. The Pirates including NH have always sided with me about this but I guess they should have asked you about dropping the fastest player on the team and one of the fastest in the league to 6 in the order. Rios is a horrible copmparison since he doesn’t steal early as much and he has more power. Gomez spent most of his time at the top of the order and I guess Mil. figured that out since they got rid of Aoki. By the way using modern stats Marte was considered the 6th best lead off guy in the league. I guess since he isn’t doing it at AA we should just shudder him to the bottom of the order. Heck I would imagine you want him to bat right behind Lambo.

            • 1. Don’t confuse a lack of viable alternatives with a comprehensive strategy. The Pirates did not have a legit alternative at leadoff in 2013. Once Polanco is promoted they will. Hurdle admitted in an oft quoted article that Marte isn’t a prototypical leadoff hitter but that many of the greats in the game weren’t prototypical either. And when asked about it at Pirate Fest this year Hurdle stated his preference to bat Marte 2nd. So to interpret that as the Pirates agree with you would be a mistake.

              2. When Polanco comes up he, and not Marte, will be the fastest player on the team. So you are contradicting yourself because above you suggest that Polanco should hit lower in the order – meaning you’re moving the fastest player on the team down in the order. When you figure out what it is you believe then we can have a discussion.

              3. I don’t have any special knowledge, I just research. I read everything I can and talk to people in the industry (and talk to people who talk to people) so that when I write something I know it has some backup. There’s nothing I wrote above that hasn’t been validated before by any number of analysts and scouts.

              4. Your refuting of the Rios and Gomez points is incoherent.

        • It’s interesting you don’t want to put Polanco at leadoff right away. My impression was that even though Marte seems like more of a middle of the lineup bat and doesn’t have the natural OBP for leadoff, they put him at leadoff and I thought that was so didn’t have to try to do too much…just bunt for some basehits, lean into a couple dozen pitches 🙂 and use his speed as much as possible.

          IMO Polanco profiles as the prototypical leadoff guy, at least until his power develops. No way Marte should be any lower than 6th (and that only against RHP). I think 2nd is best once they have a guy that can steal ahead of him so he sees more fastballs than he knows what to do with. Maybe 5th if you want to get Walker up to 2nd against RHP.

          • I can agree with this. I do see Marte as a good two hitter. His OBP is a little deceptive. Though he doesn’t walk as much as we would like his ability to take one for the team is top two in the league. Additionally his plate patience from the time he played in 2012 to the end of the year was significantly better. I think in time he will be a 30- 40 walk guy. Additionally at the two hole, it would allow Cutch our best player to see a whole lot more fast balls, plus could you imagine a better way to turn Marte triples into doubles better then having Lambo or Sanchez or Pedro chugging in front of him.

        • I asked Clint a couple of questions yesterday at PirateFest. One dealt with how to improve OBP of 1-2 so Cutch could get more RBI opportunities. He noted that he’s like to eventually move Marte to 2, but didn’t say that would be because of Polanco’s arrival (he also responded to an earlier question that he’s thinking of Martin at 2). Interestingly, he also criticized Cutch for having a poor record of driving in runs from 3b with less than 2 out, at least in the 1st half.

  • Great recap Tim………thank you sir!!!

    May I repost from the previous thread???

    Though LLOYD fully expects the Buccos to contend in 2014, 2015-16 are the years that excite him. Here’s why:

    1. Polanco RF L
    2. Walker 2B S
    3. Cutch CF R
    4. El Toro 3B L
    5. Marte LF R
    6. Lambo 1B L
    7. Sanchez C R
    8. Mercer SS R

    1. Cole R
    2. Morton R
    3. Tallion R
    4. Locke L
    5. Kingham R

    And there should be plenty of money and other internal options for lineup/rotation upgrades, the bench and the bullpen.

    Anyone else see the great possibilities?