Friday, June 26, 2015

Brief recent history of Pirates first basemen, the future?

The Pirates need for a first basemen is great. The Pirates haven't had a good first basemen to start the season since Adam LaRoche in 2009. Adam was a good hitter with 20+ home runs and a decent average. He was also pretty good in the field, in fact he went on to win the Gold Glove in a great defensive season in 2012, though he wasn't that good while on the Pirates team.

Our next first basemen was Garrett Jones. Garrett had(has) good power potential and was hitting at a decent average. He wasn't the worst at first but he wasn't great either. In 2011 he didn't play many games at first due the Pirates getting Lyle Overbay. (next) Again, while he wasn't hitting as good he was 'okay' at first but surely not the best. In 2012 and 2013 we have more of the same fielding is consistently nothing exciting Not anything special but won't lose many games. In his career with the pirates he has gotten over 15 home runs each season flirting with 30 once and over .270 average twice.

In 2011 the pirates signed Lyle Overbay to play first and moved Garrett to the out field most of the time. While generally a better fielder than Garrett everything else was not as good. This along with his salary lead to his release in the following off season.

Before the 2012 season started the Pirates traded Jose Veras to the Brewers for Casey McGehee. Casey had a couple great hitting seasons with the brewers and it seemed the search for a first basemen was over. Casey was great at fielding the first base position compared to what we have been used too but couldn't do anything at the plate struggling to stay above the Mendoza line. Casey was traded at the dead line that year to the Yankees for Chad Qualls. Casey was then granted free agency at the end of the year.

2013, remember 2013 oh yeah things are looking up now. Gaby Sanchez started the season for us at first. Gaby is a good first basemen. Pretty steady and doesn't make many mistakes. His problem is his bat. There was early hopes that he would be able to live up to his early hype but there was no such luck. It was bad enough they they traded for Justin Morneau at a fairly high cost to the team. Justin ended up playing 25 games for the Pirates at first and fielded really well. Justin did not resign with the Pirates after the season and won the NL batting title the next year.

In 2014 the Pirates started the season with a Gaby Sanchez and Travis Ishikawa platoon at first. It didn't work at all and this was known early in the spring. In the first few weeks of the season the Pirates traded for Ike Davis from the Mets for two prospects. It wasn't much better offensively but defensively it was okay. Ike was moved to Oakland in the offseason.

In 2015 we have Pedro Alvarez. To Pedro's credit.. he is trying really hard but it is coming slowly. Pedro can hit the ball as far as anyone, when he hits it. He is learning plate discapline slowly but surely but to call him a good or above average hitter would be a reach i'm not willing to take right now. Maybe in a year or two if he keeps improving. Pedro's defensive skills at first also leave something to be desired. He may one day be a gold glover at first but it will take a lot of work and a lot of luck.

The Future?

In the future the Pirates have little in the way of options internally. At one point Tony Sanchez was tried at first in the minor leagues but that idea was dropped. Right now Josh Bell is being taught first. Josh is hitting the ball rather well, though with limited power right now. We could see him at first at the end of the 2015 if not then probably 2016 sometime.

There are few first basemen that are available in trade that would be a significant upgrade to Pedro that is cost effective. Ryan Howard is a bit better defensively and right now is hitting the ball fairly well. Like Pedro he will strike out a lot though. While he would be bit of an upgrade his $40 sum million left on his contract (with buy out) is far to cumbersome for the Pirates. Even if the Phillies eat all but $10 Million it still isn't a large enough upgrade to justify.

Mike Napoli may also be available trade target. He has shown in the past he can hit and hit with a bit of power. He has also shown he can get on base at a decent clip. Mike is also a fair first basemen compared to what we have been working with. Mike is in the last year of his contract due a total of $16 million If Boston would eat half of his remaining contract it wouldn't be the worst deal ever. With the way Mike is playing right now it is more of a side grade than an upgrade.

Justin Morneau seems to be the best target. He didn't do well in his time in Pittsburgh but he doesn't cost much more than Pedro, has a mutual option for 2016 and better than Pedro in pretty much every way at first base except for maybe power. The big issues with Justin are that he probably will not take up his option making him a rental and that he is currently on the DL. If his health checks out and Colorado can talk him into accepting the option this would be a great deal to give Bell another season to learn first.

Chris Davis. Not going to happen. Baltimore won't trade him in the middle of a playoff run unless they feel that Matt Wieters will be better served at first. It is doubtful but the way Caleb Joseph is coming on it is a remote possibility. Chris's salary is fairly high for the Pirates to swallow but he can field well and has shown he can hit in the past and has some monster power like Pedro. Over all Davis would be a stat for stat upgrade over Pedro especially on defense. Also Chris would be a rental, Like Pedro he is a Boras client and probably would not be resigned.

This is an internal option, but last on my list. Neil Walker. Of all the players currently on the everyday line up Neil would be the best choice to move to first. Neil is a ball player not a catcher, third basemen or even second basemen. He will just play and do a fair job at it. This makes the most since if Pedro is not on the team because they could move Josh Harrison to second and insert Jung Ho Kang at third.  This also frees up a spot to bring Alen Hanson up when he is ready.

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