Sunday, January 5, 2014

The 1B Situation for the Pirates

We’ve flipped the calendar over to 2014 and the Pirates seemingly have still not resolved their 1B situation.  They were in on James Loney, but ultimately he went back to the Rays.  Yes, they have picked up Chris McGuiness (from TEX) and Travis Ishikawa (minor league FA), but I would consider them Plan C and Plan D, respectively.  Who’s still out there to obtain that would be of an upgrade to the current platoon of Andrew Lambo (vs. RHP) and Gaby Sanchez (vs. LHP)?

Justin Smoak (SEA)
Seattle has gone on a binge of picking up potential 1B this offseason by trading for Logan Morrison and signing Corey Hart as a free agent.  Both of those guys also play the OF, in theory, but seem more aligned to play 1B.

Smoak has been very underwhelming since being drafted 11th overall in 2008 (same draft as Pedro Alvarez).  His career line of .227 AVG/.314 OBP/.386 SLG (700 OPS) is only slightly worse than his “career year” line in 2013 of .238/.334/.412 (746 OPS).  So why do I consider him the top choice?

Smoak is a switch hitter who should really stop switch hitting.  His splits from the left side versus RHP in 2013 were very good (.260/.361/.477, 839 OPS with 18 of his 20 HR), while his splits from the right side versus LHP were soul-stealing (.192/.274/.274, 548 OPS, 2 HR).  Also something to consider is that his defensive metrics grade out as average, which this front office values.

If Smoak were put in a strict platoon with lefty-killer Gaby Sanchez, it could be a very productive 1B situation.

Adam Lind (TOR)
2013 was a resurgent year for Lind, who started off strong in Toronto, had a monstrous 2009 which led to a modest 4 year/$18M extension, then has been pretty below-average since.  His 2012 campaign was particularly ugly (.255/.314/.414, 728 OPS) and saw him back in AAA for a stretch.  It seemed like the Blue Jays would play out his 2013, then decline his option years in the contract for 2014-16.

But then he had a nice campaign of .288/.357/.497 (854 OPS) with 23 HR and the Blue Jays picked up his $7M option for 2014.  This gives them the chance to keep him or trade him.  The Pirates and Blue Jays already have had discussions, with the rumor being the Blue Jays asked for Neil Walker.  Neal Huntington, in dealing with a polite Canadian, turned him down.  Perhaps they discussed how the Maple Leafs were doing before the phones were hung up, not sure.

Lind, as a LHB, is another guy that would need to be platooned as his splits were also atrocious against LHP (.208/.240/.333, 573 OPS), but exquisite versus RHP (.309/.385/.539, 924 OPS).  On the basis of bat alone, Lind would be my top choice, but I have him at the second spot because he is awful in the field by all defensive metrics.  His best position is pretty much designated hitter, but I would be willing to accept some gaffes if he could produce that line with Sanchez covering him against LHP.

Ike Davis (NYM)
Welcome to the land of broken toys.  The Mets have been trying to push Davis around the whole league this offseason, because it just isn’t working out in New York for him.  They’ve discussed him with the Brewers (wanting Tyler Thornburg), the Orioles (wanting Eduardo Rodriguez), and the Pirates (wanting Nick Kingham).  All of those deals, correctly, were turned down for being too much for a guy the Mets were on the verge of non-tendering in November.

Davis is a guy who should be better, but is stuck in his own head.  Whether it’s the coaching or the pressure of New York, I’m not sure, but his pedigree (18th overall, 2008) doesn’t lend itself to hitting .205/.326/.344 (670 OPS) with only 9 HR and a 26.8% strikeout rate.

Davis is another guy that should never see a LHP, as his line in 2013 (.145/.203/.203, 406 OPS) would attest.  He was somewhat better against RHP (.222/.356/.371, 727 OPS), but he’s not someone I would give up a decent prospect for in the hopes of a change of scenery doing him any good.  It would have to be for a lower tier starting pitcher that would project as a back-end starter or a reliever in the minors.

Mitch Moreland (TEX)
Moreland is the definition of a “blah” player to me.  Since trading for Prince Fielder, speculation has been that Moreland is on his way out of town, but he could still split the 1B/DH position with Fielder.  

In 2013, Moreland hit .232/.299/.437 (736 OPS) with 23 HR.  And, in a surprise with the tenor of the rest of this article, did not have very pronounced splits.  He was mediocre against both sides of the mound as a left-handed batter.  His splits versus LHP were .241/.297/.404 (701 OPS) with 3 HR, while against RHP his line was .227/.300/.452 (752 OPS) with the other 20 HR.  Clearly, his power comes against RHP, but it’s still not that impressive.

Of the four of the players, his defensive metrics grade out the highest at 1B, but he’s just not someone to get too excited about.

There is still time before spring training starts, so there is time for the Pirates to upgrade the 1B position.  But here’s something else to consider: In 2013, the Pirates won 94 games in the regular season with 1B being decidedly blah.  The person who has to replace Garrett Jones’ production in the 1B platoon only has to beat his .233/.289/.419 (708 OPS) with 15 HR.  It’s not that big of a bar to leap over.


  1. When I see all these guys hashed and re-hashed around the interwebz....I just want to vomit at this point. I'd probably rather see freaking Wilson Betemit signed.

    Smoak blows(seewhatIdidthere?!lulzehhrmageeerd!!!). Yeah, he had a good year vs. righties last season. Careerwise he's pretty much inept from both sides of the plate. Don't see him magically turning in to something he's not now.

    I honestly just want them to go with Lambo at this point. He's "free", he's only 24, he's a form high pedigree player and I doubt he'd be much worse, if at all, than any of those guys at the plate. Lind is probably the "safer" bet as a hitter(maybe), but he's just as big of a disaster in the field as Lambo might be and, more importantly, he'd cost something to acquire.

    I hope they just stick with what they have, unless they're able to get Toronto or the Mets to give up Lind or Davis(who I also don't care for much, but I guess I'd take a flier at my price) for a bag of magic beans.

    They should've went harder for Abreu.

  2. I'm not sure Abreu is anything more than a DH, as per the limited scouting reports.

    I'm trying to talk myself into Adam Lind, but I have a strong feeling that a Rickie Weeks for Lind swap is coming (hot salary dump for MIL, position of need for both teams).

  3. I'm not sure Abreu is either....but I AM sure about the rest of this stiffs. Meh.