With pitchers and catchers set to report to Bradenton in under a month, the Pittsburgh Pirates still need to fill a huge hole at first base for the 2014 season.
Currently the Pirates are prepared to enter the season with Gaby Sanchez as the starter and a possibility of guys like Andrew Lambo, Chris McGuiness or Travis Ishikawa earning a spot on the Opening Day roster in a platoon situation.
That won’t work, which brings me to the best available player left on the market in Kendrys Morales.
It hurt the Pirates that the market this year was as thin as it was, but the money that would have gone to A.J. can still upgrade this team.
But is Morales the guy?
Like most players left on the market, Morales has his pros and cons. Offensively, he can improve the Pirates lineup.
Last season, the Pirates ranked just 19th in wRC+ as a team at first base with the likes of Garrett Jones and Justin Morneau platooning with Sanchez. While Sanchez crushes left-handing pitching, he is basically Rey Ordonez against right-handed pitching as ESPN’s Paul Swyden notes.
Morales would solve most of the Pirates problems at first base against right-handed pitching.
In addition to putting up a .277/.336/.449 line with 23 homers and 80 RBI last season, Morales as posted a 117 wRC+ against righties the past two seasons. While that isn’t superstar level, it is much better than the production the Pirates have been getting as they have posted a 97 wRC+ in that span.
That’s even more important when you look inside the National League Central as 16 of the projected other 20 starters inside the division will likely be right handed.
So on the surface, Morales will help the Pirates out immediately.
But there’s a lot more to a potential signing that could sway the Bucs away from him.
Most notably, Morales isn’t great defensively. He’s viewed more around the league as a designated hitter and not a first baseman. While many people think you can teach a guy how to be a competent first baseman, it has been four seasons since Morales logged 1,000 innings in the field.
Next is the fact that Morales is a Scott Boras client, so you know signing him won’t be cheap and due to the Boras factor, the Bucs may want to stay away from Morales altogether.
Finally, and probably most importantly, Morales comes with draft-pick compensation attached.
While the Bucs won’t be picking until 25th this season, you have to wonder if it makes sense to not only likely overpay for a guy like Morales, but lose a first-round pick, too.
That’s a scenario I can’t see happening.
I would still expect the Pirates to look to make a deal for a guy like Mike Carp, Adam Lind or Ike Davis. But the problem there is that the trade market is as thin as the free-agent market and it doesn’t make much sense for the Bucs to have to overpay there either.
Despite having some extra money, I just can’t see the Pirates making a run at Morales as it will likely prove to be too costly in the long run.