The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Justin Morneau from the Minnesota Twins in August of 2013 just days after acquiring Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the New York Mets. The Bucs needed some production from the first base position that they weren’t getting from Garrett Jones. Unfortunately, Morneau didn’t provide much power in his short time with the Bucs, with no home runs and just four doubles.
The one thing Morneau did give the Pirates was consistently good at-bats. In his 25 games with the Pirates, Morneau walked 13 times and only struck out 12 times. He walked in 14.4 percent of his at-bats with the Pirates.
With Morneau entering free agency, it seems unlikely that he will return to the Pirates in 2014. Pirates GM Neal Huntington has said that he would like to bring him back, but he shouldn’t try too hard to do so. Unlike most positions, first base has some good options in free agency including Kendrys Morales, James Loney and Jose Dariel Abreu.
Morales is a switch-hitter that hit .277/.336/.449 with 24 home runs in 2013 for the Seattle Mariners. He is terrible defensively, but he plays at a position that doesn’t require a great defensive player.
Loney is a player that doesn’t have as much power as Morales, but is a better contact hitter. With the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013, Loney hit .299/.348/.430 with 13 home runs.
Abreu is a Cuban first baseman that is made of pure, unadulterated mammoth-type power. He isn’t the complete player that fellow Cuban prospects Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig are, but he is much more powerful. Abreu will command a lot of money, but the Pirates have money to spend this offseason. There is also risk that comes with signing a player that has never seen MLB pitching, but his power is legit. Signing Abreu could cost up to $60 million, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan.
My preference of the three options is Abreu. His 40-50 home run potential is very enticing. Loney is probably the safest choice and the cheapest choice. Pairing Abreu and Pedro Alvarez on the same team would give the Pirates one of the scariest power combinations in MLB.