Pirates Looking For a Left-Handed Bat at First Base

Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington was on MLB Network on Monday afternoon and said that the Pirates are working hard to add a left-handed bat to complement Michael Morse and Jason Rogers at first base.

Talking to Chris Russo on High Heat, Huntington was asked about the first base situation and how he would replace the offense from Pedro Alvarez. He said “We are working hard to try to find a left-handed complement(for Morse and Rogers). We may need to get creative or work outside the box, but we would like to add a veteran, professional hitter that’s going to command the zone and work the count and complement the offense. In a perfect world we’d like to add a left-hander there, but we do like Rogers and Morse and we will see where this market takes us.”

Huntington earlier acknowledged that Morse didn’t have the best season in 2015 after doing well in 2014. He also said that Rogers has put up some nice numbers in AA and AAA, but his Major League time is limited, making it sound like they are fallback options to acquiring a better hitter there. Interestingly, Jake Goebbert wasn’t listed as a possible option at first base, so it sounds like he isn’t in the mix, at least as a possible platoon option.

As Tim Williams pointed out earlier today, the Pirates could decide to stall until Josh Bell is ready for Pittsburgh sometime in the summer, as opposed to spending for someone who would block him later this year and beyond. They could go with Morse, Rogers and a veteran lefty bat, sticking with whoever is hot until Bell looks like he is ready to take over the position.

  • Could Andre Eithier make the switch to first?

  • How about Brett Wallace from San Diego? Trade Morse for him, platoon with Rogers. Frees up more money to sign a #3.

  • Chewing gum and baling wire until Bell is read. Since his defense is a work in progress at 1b he could probably use as much time at Indianapolis to develop as possible. The options look pretty limited unfortunately. Jose Osuna isn’t ready yet either most likely, an is also rh. The fact that Pedro turned out to be unplayable at 1b has really really hurt the club.

  • Freddie Freeman bats left

  • My money is on Morse swapping for a like talented vet lefty 1B with pirates taking on some salary for 1 year.

    • I had that same theory but it’s tough to find a good fit like that. I came up with Loney and maybe Moss from the Rays and Cards respectively.

      • we’re not doing any deals with Cardinals. I’d honestly much prefer Morse over Loney.

        If they want a lefty, Morneau is the obvious choice, but I dont know if it makes sense. Not sure if he’d take 1 year deal and again he’s a health risk.

        • Morse is better than Moss

          • if this is 2011, sure. But over the last 4 years Moss has been far and away the more valuable player, and it’s not even close.

            • That’s not true, sorry. Moss is already heavily on the decline.

              • Fortunately we have resources that can validate these claims:

                Brandon Moss WAR 2012-2015: 2.3, 2.1, 2.5, 0.6.
                Michael Morse WAR 2012-2015: -0.1, -1.7, 0.9, -0.5

                Brandon Moss wRC+ 2012-2015: 160, 137, 121, 94
                Michael Morse wRC+ 2012-2015: 113, 81, 134, 83

                It should be noted that Moss suffered from a hip injury that lingered through the first several months of 2015; his wRC+ in the second half of the season was 130.

                Now, from the wRC+ numbers, it is apparent as you say that Moss is on the decline. His Steamer forecast is for 110 wRC+, which is consistent with aging patterns for hitters of his type.

                Then again, Morse is forecast for 98 wRC+. And as long as we’re forecasting declines, Morse is 1 1/2 years older than Moss. So he carries at least as much injury and collapse risk.

                I don’t see any measure by which Morse can be seen to be superior to Moss, but – and I mean this honestly – I am open to hearing what you have to say.

                • Did you not read the “on the decline” part? Lets look at 2015 for Moss vs. 2012-2014

                • Sorry, that last post was incomplete- My theory or hypothesis is this: Morse has already declined, he is what he is. Moss- being on the decline, might still make people think that his 2012- mid 2014 is the player you are getting, but it’s not. You are really getting a lefty Morse with worse splits. I will give that defensively Moss is better, but how much better or what is that worth….? I’m not sure I can quantify that. I don’t really care about “forecasts” because they really don’t know anything we don’t know. I believe that Moss from July 2014- current is what you are getting if you sign him, and to me, that is not an upgrade. I could be wrong, but that’s my thinking.

                • and if you want to quantify that. Moss hit .160 from July1st on in 2014 and hit a combined .226 in 2015. Explain how that is even halfway acceptable as even a bench player….? Morse already bounced back and showed some value after we acquired him, so that goes into my thinking as well….

                • I will give you the fact that Moss was somewhat better in the second half but still not good by any stretch.

      • I came up with Moss too. Loney works if Rays eat half his salary then take Morse’. I actually like Morse better but as bench for bench trade… which it will be by mid-season, wishing for a Loney comeback might be a value proposition. Of course the Rays have to cooperate and I would still gag but I half expect it.

      • I’m with you sound like he described James Loney, aghhh

  • His name is John Jaso.

  • Professional hitter = Matt Stairs.

  • “… the Pirates could decide to stall until Josh Bell is ready for Pittsburgh.”

    If this is the plan, it’s not a very good one.

  • Eh, let’s just bite the bullet and sign Chris Davis.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    December 21, 2015 2:46 pm

    Hey Neal – guess what, Josh Bell is a switch-hitter – how about platooning him with Rogers to start 2016? I know you don’t like bringing up your own prospects unless absolutely forced to do so, but how about giving that a shot?

    • Again, would you rather have 2 months of Josh Bell in 2016 or a full year of him in his prime in 2022… It’s not rocket science. He’s not getting called up until the super 2 deadline is passed and that won’t change until the CBA changes.

      • Bell’s bat might be worth the risk, but he really needs more time to learn the position. He just hasn’t had much time at first base, and it shows. He’s still making mistakes over there, both mental and physical. If he doesn’t get off to a hot start, Bell might need the whole year at Indy.

        The situation really screams for NH to chase after a guy like Justin Morneau to bridge that gap.

        • BuccosFanStuckinMD
          December 21, 2015 8:26 pm

          No to Morneau – he was a bust the first time in Pittsburgh. If we’re going outside of the organization for a short-term solution, I’d rather it be someone who is an outstanding first baseman defensively, but still is respectable with the bat. How about Loney? Is he a free agent?

          • Loney? Morneau did better in Pittsburgh when we all thought he stunk then Loney has done the last two years. Also Morneau when healthy has been a good to great hitter almost his entire career. If healthy he would be a great pick up but I don’t think the Pirates are willing to pay him what he wants. We certainly wouldn’t want to be the 28 highest payroll in the league that might just break Nuttings bank.

            • You can’t just casually throw in that “when healthy” caveat when four years of his career have been derailed by crushing concussion symptoms.

          • I think Loney is the guy they should target. Good defender, contact hitter, and most of all – leverage. The Rays are looking to dump Loney’s salary and aren’t interested in kicking in money. You use Loney’s salary as leverage to target one of the Rays starters like Drew Smyly or Matt Moore at a reduced prospect cost.

          • Disagree, he was a platoon player only. He was going in the hunt for the batting title after he left Pittsburgh. He will have no interest in Pittsburgh.

        • We should just trade Bell for someone who CAN actually play first base now and maybe hit vs. both lefties and righties. What is Bell’s trade value currently?

      • So long as he’s called up after the first two weeks or so, he’d still be on the team in 2022.

        • Well, unfortunately, the Pirates won’t do that because he’ll get 4 years of arbitration rather than 3.

    • For the record, Bell is much better as a lefty than righty. The splits are dramatic. I think as a lefty against right handed pitching, his ops is .920, as a righty against left handed pitching, its like .650. He may be a switch hitter, but at least for the time being he’s a switch hitter like Neil Walker is a switch hitter. Meaning, good from side of the plate, meh from the other side of the plate. Which when he comes up in June, he becomes the lefty bat that NH is looking for…that said I’m frankly not sold on the righty options we have at 1B. Again, Morse would be fine as a 1B if he has a year like 2014, but I dont know if he’s going to be able to find his old self again. Rogers is decent, but he’s a back, good be a very valuable bench player, but he’s not starter.

      • Last year Kris Bryant was placed in AAA for about 2 weeks and then brought up when he could only get 171 days of MLB Service – 172 is a full year. Therefore, he can qualify for Super 2, but the Cubs do not lose that extra year. So, Bell can be a similar situation. He has flaws defensively, but the Pirates are far from needing perfection. They need a LH bat, and we just seem to have one at AAA who hits well above average, knows the strike zone, and finished 2015 with 65 Walks/65 K’s in AA and AAA – he puts the ball in play.

  • Neither Morse nor Rogers are starting are every day options in my opinion.

  • He “talked” to Chris Russo? How do you talk to a guy who screams at the top of his lungs all day?

  • “We may need to get creative or work outside the box, but we would like to add a veteran, professional hitter that’s going to command the zone and work the count and complement the offense.”

    Too bad they traded that guy two weeks ago.