First Pitch: The Pirates Need to Trade For a First Baseman

Last night I wrote about how the Pittsburgh Pirates shouldn’t give the first base platoon to Travis Ishikawa, and instead should give Andrew Lambo a shot. Instead, they optioned Lambo to Triple-A as part of today’s big wave of cuts. That means that Ishikawa is currently projected as the other half of the first base platoon. Neal Huntington didn’t sound like Ishikawa was locked into that position earlier today.

The Pirates shouldn’t be locked in with Ishikawa as their initial first base option. You just need to look at his career .737 OPS against right-handers in 684 at-bats to see why. Ishikawa wouldn’t be a bad depth option if none of the other options worked out. However, there’s no upside with Ishikawa, and the Pirates need to try and get some upside from their first base position. If they go with Ishikawa, they’re basically hoping for “Garrett Jones 2013” numbers as the best case scenario.

The current internal alternative to Ishikawa is having Gaby Sanchez playing first base full-time. That’s not a better option, since Sanchez also can’t hit right-handers. He has a career .700 OPS in 1260 at-bats against right-handed pitchers. Even in his best seasons, which were 2010 and 2011, he had a .742 OPS.

If the Pirates aren’t going to go with Andrew Lambo at first base, then they need to make a trade. Ike Davis is presumably still available. Mike Carp could also be available if Grady Sizemore wins a job on Boston’s bench. There still aren’t many teams looking for a first baseman, with the Pirates being one of the primary teams. So you’d think the price wouldn’t be extremely high. That’s especially true when you consider that Davis and Carp could be to their teams what Vin Mazzaro and Jeanmar Gomez are to the Pirates. They’re good options that just don’t have a spot on the team, which means a trade would be likely.

I’m not sure what the cost would be for one of the first basemen. I thought Andrew Lambo would have been a fine alternative to a trade, since none of the trade options were really a guarantee. However, now that Lambo is gone, the Pirates need to deal for a first baseman. The current in-house options are “Garrett Jones 2013”, at best. And as we saw last year, the 2013 version of Garrett Jones is not enough. The Pirates had to trade for a first baseman last year because of the performance from Jones. It just makes sense that they’d have to do the same this year if they’re expecting the same quality of play.

Links and Notes

**The 2014 Prospect Guide is in stock on the products page of the site. The book features profiles, scouting reports, and grades on every player in the minor league system, including our top 50 prospects. The Prospect Guide has been mentioned as a resource several times on the Pirates’ broadcast, and has been purchased as a source of reference by opposing MLB front office members, opposing scouts, and media members. If it’s a good resource for them, it’s a good resource for you. You can order your Prospect Guide on the products page of the site.

**Pirates Make a Lot of Cuts From Major League Camp, Including Andrew Lambo

**Travis Ishikawa is in the First Base Platoon…For Now

**The Pirates Could Be Active on the Trade Market in the Next Week. I think they’ll trade a reliever for sure, and wouldn’t be surprised if they bring in one or two guys for their active roster.

**Pirates Trade For Vance Worley. Mostly I think this is just depth in Triple-A, since the Indians will be missing Jameson Taillon for a month, and won’t have Jeff Locke stretched out right away. The Pirates might also like him as a reclamation project. But part of me wonders if another shoe is about to drop here, leading to a trade from the rotation depth in Triple-A, with Worley replacing that pitcher.

**John Sickels Releases Top 20 Pirates Prospect List

**Wei-Chung Wang Looks To Have Opening Day Spot. I think he’ll be back at some point this year.

**Draft Prospect Watch: Bradley Zimmer Hits Sixth Homer

  • He’s one of the best defensive first baseman in the league. He has decent OBP and good power vs righties and he had a career high walk rate last year. He fits in well with what the pirates look for: good on defense, won’t kill you as a hitter with potential to improve. He has had a low career BABIP (.262, league average closer to .300) maybe he’s been unlucky so far.

  • The mariners need a starter and have Justin Smoak and good alternatives at first. Could the Pirates and Mariners match up on a trade? Maybe Tabata locke and mazarro for Smoak?

  • That’s a fair criticism. His overall body of work is subpar. But he had pretty good splits against righties last year, he’s still relatively young and hope that he’s a late learner, he has tons of power, and a great pedigree.

  • The Pirates needed to get a 1st baseman 3 months ago. What was there that showed that Lambo was going to be the solution ? His 32 HR’s in the minors ? What’s that got to do with playing the position ? the last thing this lineup needs is another high K guy. Right now they need a guy that can hit around .270 with a little pop and doesn’t K a whole lot. At the very least the team needs good D at 1st. Lambo doesn’t give you that. To score more runs they need to put the ball in play more often. Lambo doesn’t give you that either. These things were apparent months ago and Lambo wasn’t going to change any of it. The experiment was a waste of time.

  • According to ESPN MLB Rumors Blog, Mariners could use some depth at starting pitcher. It seems there something to be done here that would benefit both parties and at a fair price.

    • Mike Adamson
      March 26, 2014 5:24 pm

      If they resign Morales and trades him to us I’m OK with it. Locke and Gomez? That should provide plenty of depth for a guy in limbo.

      • I was thinking more like Smoak or Logan Morrison (or Nick Franklin) for the usual suspects. I think that the MLB would have to sign-off on a Kendry’s sign and trade, so I don’t view that as likely. But I guess it’s a possibility. Pirates would probably be interested in a 1 year deal with Morales if they don’t have to forfeit 1st round pick. Maybe Pirates could do a sign and trade and send Mariner’s one of the low revenue team picks (like the Gaby Sanchez trade).

  • tom from st pete florida
    March 26, 2014 3:29 pm

    I still think they should take 1 more shot at Adam Lind.

  • What would it take to get Ike Davis? What about Mike Carp? I suspect you’ve covered this at some point, but can’t recall.

  • Tim I thought you might like Travis because how much you was pushing for Loney. They seem very similar to me and Loney has only had 1 good year in the past 3. Lambo looks completely overmatched in limited AB’s. He needed to hit a little to get the 1B job and he didn’t. I think the Pirates have made the right moves so far.

  • Not sure this is realistic: trade for nate schierholtz. Stick him in right to start the season and get him up to speed ASAP to play first. He came up as a third basemen. It shouldn’t be too difficult of a transition. Cubs are more desperate for young pitching than other teams

    • Sure ! Anything to help the Cubs get closer to respectability, right ? Are you serious ?

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    March 26, 2014 8:48 am

    Although he obviously has had a terrible Spring at the plate, I hope the Pirates have not given up on Lambo long term. I still believe he can be a good MLB player and hitter. Maybe he put too much pressure on himself or was overwhelmed at also having to learn a new position. Either way, I hope he can get back in the groove at Indy and force the Pirates hand later in the year. I still have hope for him.
    As for a trade now for a first baseman – sure it sounds good. But, its always about who are we getting and what does it cost to get that player. Unless it is someone who is clearly an upgrade over what we have inhouse, I say stand pat. I would not want to give up a Glasnow, Kingham, etc. to get a mediocre first baseman – just to say we did. I do not consider Ike Davis an upgrade – plus he’s injured. I would not sign Morales, if it means giving up a first round pick. He can hit, but he’s awful in the field. Justin Smoak or Moreland would be interesting, but what would it cost to get one of them?

    • Davis is *supposedly* healthy now.
      The dude mashes righties and has battled some adversity in his career with some injuries and that tough Valley Fever year. I think he’s a worthwhile gamble. Definitely doesn’t make me as warm and fuzzy as… say… Mike Napoli would’ve. But i’m not sure how Davis isn’t an upgrade.

      • I think part of the problem is that the Mets’ philosophy is Moneyball Run Amuck–they really want their guys to hit in deep counts, and I think if Davis gets in a situation where he can be more aggressive and sit against tough lefties, he could be a quality hitter again.

      • Definitely agree 007, Davis would be an upgrade. His career OPS vs. RHP is .827 and I think he’s adequate with the glove. Even in his terrible 2013, his OPS vs. RHP was .727, basically what GIJ’s was. So that appears to be the floor, with a potential ceilong way higher, buying low off that horrible season (and ST injury?) and the dude’s still only 27 years old. Mazzaro + a prospect in the 20 – 30 range. Do it Neal!

      • I don’t think that the Mets are going to just dump Davis. Met’s GM has a proven track record of holding out until it receives something of value. If they don’t want Stolmy or Locke, we don’t have anything for them (obviously we’re not going to trade taillon, glasnow, or kingman for him).

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        March 26, 2014 2:48 pm

        If he is the hitter he was 2-3 years ago, he’s an upgrade. If he is the Davis of 2013, not an upgrade. Again, it all depends on what it would cost to get him. If the Mets would settle for Locke, Cumpton, Irwin, Welker, etc – or some combination of those types of prospects, I’m all in. If the Mets want a Glasnow or Kingham for Davis, now way.

  • I keep looking at Davis’ and Carps’ career stats and I don’t see where they are worth very much in a trade. I trust the FO doesn’t give away anything worthwhile to obtain either one of those guys. Davis hit 32 hrs one year but whiffed in Pedro like numbers and Carp had a decent season in Boston last year but he won’t have the protection he had with Boston in Pittsburgh’s line up.

    • The Mets have one slow, left-handed hitting first baseman too many, and they really need bullpen arms (there’s even talk that Vic Black may start the year in AAA.) A deal between the Pirates and Mets almost makes too much sense not to happen.

    • Davis’s numbers look bad because he can not hit LHP at all!! However, he has always hit RHP well. He would fit perfectly in a platoon with Sanchez, in my opinion.

      • I agree with that, but the Mets are asking return on a full time player and the Pirates shouldn’t give that much for a former starter because he will be a platoon player in Pittsburgh.

  • Leefoo Rug Bug
    March 26, 2014 8:33 am

    I’m still in Lambo’s camp….people forget that he has had few AAA ABs. Ishi is a placeholder like Tabby/Snider. I am not comparing Andrew to Polanco, but there is no need for a knee jerk reaction for an average 1bman. It’s not like any of these available guys are Joey Vottos.

  • Keep an eye on whether the Mariners resign Kendrys Morales next week (by signing after opening day, Morales would avoid the tender offer next year). It looks like there is mutual interest. If they do, I think the mariners would have 3-4 1B/DH types. They would probably be interested in dealing smoak or Logan Morrison.

  • BlueBomber72
    March 26, 2014 7:40 am

    I wonder if things change if the Pirates somehow trade for Didi Gregorius? Maybe Walker gets moved over to 1st? Or Alvarez? Seems late in the Spring to consider this, but it might be a creative solution?

    • I really like the possibilities of what dealing for Gregorious can do for the club in the short and long term. I don’t like the idea of moving walker to 1st yet, as he would have to learn it during the actual season. But putting a superior (and non- 6’3″, 200+ lb, 28 year old {thats Jordy Mercer this August}) defender at ss, and using Mercer to mash lefties in place of walker or alvarez would make the team better.
      Assuming the price for Gregorious is something on the order of a Jeff Locke, I see no reason why a deal for both a 1b and Gregorious couldn’t happen.
      plus that lets any worry of Alen Hanson’s arm not being strong enough for SS away.

      • Jon,
        If the Pirates trade for Gregorious it would most likely be.
        Diamondbacks: Jeff Locke/Brandon Cumpton and a low level minor leaguer from the Buccos
        Mets: Didi Gregorious
        Pirates: Ike Davis

        • So the Pirates are giving up Locke/Cumpton, Mazzaro, and a low level prospect for Ike Davis? The Pirates have no use for Recker whatsoever. Huntington is too smart to make a deal like that.

        • LOL, it most likely would not be this.

          • PirateFanMan
            March 26, 2014 2:27 pm

            By most likely I meant “Most likely in my Pirates dream land where things always go perfect and NH is always right”

    • How does moving Pedro to 1B solve anything? It just creates at hole at 3B then. Will never understand how people think moving Pedro to 1B fixes anything, it just simply fills one hole by creating another. Not to mention the fact he’s never played 1B, so who knows what the defense might be like.

      • pedro to 1b next year. sign pablo sandoval or chase headley :). Martin, Grilli, Liriano, Wandy all off the books.

        • I’d put Sandoval at 1B before Pedro. But I like this idea. Both Sandoval and Headley are switch hitters too, which would balance the Pirates lineup nicely!

      • Probably shouldn’t included Pedro in this. If you move Walker to 3rd, then you’d have to find a RH 3rd base compliment. We already have Sanchez as good RH option at first. Walker to 1st.

  • Tim, I agree completely! Ishikawa is not the answer and neither is Sanchez full time. We have seen what they can do. Ishikawa is a journeyman backup and Sanchez is a platoon player. A trade needs to be made!

  • Lambo, as expected, was a train wreak in the spring. He looked lost and the numbers backed that up. If the Pirates don’t add someone at 1B I’d just go with Gaby full time. If he could produce his 2010-2011 numbers vs RHP Bucs would be okay. However, I do expect a trade before Monday. Whether it be for 1B help, or Didi Gregorious.

  • Everybody has come to a foregone conclusion there will be a platoon at1B. I wouldn’t rule out the idea of the Pirates wanting to see what Sanchez can do as a FT player. They may have kept Ishikawa on the roster to be more of a lefty bat off the bench.
    Nothing this FO has done recently tells me they’re going to overpay to bring in a name like Carp or Davis at the beginning of the season. Now if they’re in contention in July/Aug and 1B is a drag on the lineup, than is when we’ll see NH make a deal.

  • I’d rather see Ishikawa make the team now opposed to the team making deal prior to opening day for several reasons. First off, look at the Morneau deal last year. I’m certain Ishikawa can match those numbers. Two, Ishikawa could be a short stop gap if Lambo or McGuiness get hot in AAA and could carry that momentum to the Pirates. Three, Ishikawa has always been known for great D at 1st. So if he puts up G.I. Jones like numbers at 1st, your still getting a better deal due to the glove work. Four, as per your article, “I’m not sure what the cost would be to the team.” Before the Pirates start making potentially ill advised deals, just let Sanchez/Ishikawa play it out. If I were NH I’d be more concerned with rotation depth anyway.

    • JW: Excellent work, and right on with every point especially the defense. We are a GB throwing defensive team and having two guys at 1B with strong defensive capabilities is a massive improvement on the Pirates of 2013 when Garrett Jones was playing 83 games at 1B.

    • Good points JW. I’d also disagree with Tim’s assessment that “they’re basically hoping for ‘Garrett Jones 2013’ numbers as the best case scenario”. True Ishi’s career OPS vs. RHP is barely better than GIJ’s 2013 figure, but as with any average, he has better numbers at times in his career. For example, his OPS vs. RHP for the last few seasons are .777 in 2008, .730 in 2009, .768 in 2010 and .752 in 2012 (last year he only had 18 ABs). So while GIJ’s 2013 numbers might be the expectation and or even the most likely outcome, the best case scenario would be better. Add in the better defense and it could certainly be an improvement over last years production, albeit not a huge one.
      But I’m not opposed to bringing in another option via trade for the right price. They obviously don’t have a long term answer at 1B, and any Carp, Davis, etc. with some upside would have a chance at being that. Or Lambo finds his groove again and carries it over to MLB. But Ishi has such limited upside and with Lambo yet to prove himself, the more depth the better, I say.

      • I totally agree with jw,em, and sticky on this one. No time for a panic move for an Ike Davis or even Carp for that matter.

  • 25 abs…..
    while ignoring his career #s…
    all i want is very very short leash

  • Is this not like throwing out the baby with the bathwater? If the Pirates make a trade for an Ike Davis or a Mike Carp, what do you suppose will be the chances that Lambo will ever see PNC from the home team dugout? Ish is a placeholder who had an excellent ST and as long as he continues to hit, he will stay where he is at, while our others are getting themselves back together again at AAA.

    • Ish is a bad baseball player who had a pretty good 3 weeks against AAAA pitching. Davis and/or Carp are controllable guys who are no more a roadblock than Lambo is to himself. They are controlled, going thru their arb years, and can be non-tendered at any time that Lambo shows that he is ready to be better than either of them. If one of them does well they stay and the one who isn’t…….doesn’t.

  • Juan Francisco is a lifetime .776 OPS against RHP which, while not stellar, is a safe distance better than the in-house options. Why he’s been ruled out as an option is a mystery.

    • I honestly think it’s because they know they’re going to get Carp or Davis.

    • Brooks, I’d only add that it has to mean something that the Brewers, basically the only other MLB team with a 1B situation as unsettled as our Buccos, were the ones that released Francisco. Maybe the defense, baserunning, etc. are so bad that they can’t overcome the moderate increase in hitting vs. RHP? I’m not sure, but when you’re a 1B and get cut by one of the teams that needs a 1B and have no interest from the other team that needs a 1B, something is definitely there.

    • Possibly because he is atrocious in the field and was knocked out of spot in Milwaukee by Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay for God’s sake ?

  • Was this basically a move based on Lambos spring numbers or what?

    • i’d guess that it has more to do with spring scouting than spring numbers. Spring numbers don’t matter when the player still looks decent to the naked eye. But i bet Lambo just looked uncomfortable and like he wasn’t ready in addition to the actual raw stats.