A few weeks ago I wrote about the first base platoon, asking which players should stick around for the platoon in 2015. The Pittsburgh Pirates saw all of their internal options have down years in 2014, with Ike Davis, Gaby Sanchez, and Pedro Alvarez all struggling at the plate. Based on the career numbers, a platoon of Davis and Sanchez would be the best internal option. However, this would also cost around $7 M, which is getting close to the price you’d pay for a regular first baseman.
At the time of the article, Adam LaRoche wasn’t a free agent, and I wasn’t sure if he would have his option picked up. Since that article, LaRoche had his option declined, and is now on the open market. The FanGraphs crowd sourcing has him receiving a two year, $20 M deal. Having Davis and Sanchez would cost at least $15 M over those two years, and possibly more. So would the Pirates be better off with LaRoche, or their internal options?
LaRoche is coming off a year where he had an .817 OPS and a 1.6 WAR. By comparison, the Pirates combined for replacement level production at first base. The easy call based on those numbers would be to go with LaRoche, who would cost $3 M more than Davis/Sanchez, or $2.5 M less than those two and Alvarez.
The downside is that you don’t know what you’re going to get with LaRoche. I liked him when he was in Pittsburgh before, but the last few years he has been wildly inconsistent. He posted a 3.3 WAR in 2012, then an 0.5 WAR in 2013, followed by the 1.6 WAR in 2014. You might have a good shot at getting the 2012 or 2014 LaRoche for one year, but what are the odds that he will show that production for two years?
On the flip side, what are the odds that every current Pirates’ first baseman will follow up a down year with another down year? If Pedro Alvarez bounces back offensively, then that’s a 2-3 WAR player. If Gaby Sanchez hits lefties like it’s 2013 and not 2014, then that’s another win. Ike Davis would be worth a win as a platoon player if he bounces back to his career numbers.
Ultimately the decision comes down to whether the Pirates trust their current guys to bounce back, or if they trust LaRoche to remain at his current levels and want to pay a few million more to play it safe with him (although they haven’t been linked to him, so this is just theoretically speaking).
It’s not an easy decision to make. The finances are about $2-3 M on either side, depending on whether you’re comparing LaRoche to two or three of the first base options. Therefore, the main focus is on the production from either option. No matter what happens, I think the Pirates will part with at least one of their left-handed platoon options (Alvarez or Davis). Even that is a decision that is without a consensus pick, which pretty much sums up all of the decisions on first base.
So which one would you take? Vote in the poll below, and respond in the comments.[polldaddy poll=8431108]
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