Pittsburgh Pirates’ Top First Base Target Should Be James Loney
The Pittsburgh Pirates‘ biggest need in the offseason is first base. Garrett Jones will likely be non-tendered, Gaby Sanchez may or may not be back, and Justin Morneau isn’t worth bringing back unless there aren’t any better options. Sanchez is a good player, but only against left-handed pitching. If the Pirates plan on keeping Sanchez to put him in a platoon, then they need to find him a left-handed hitting first baseman to pair with him.
Kendrys Morales, a switch-hitter, may be the best free agent first baseman. The problem with signing Morales, however, is that he will demand a rather large contract and the Seattle Mariners will probably give him a qualifying offer. When a team offers one of their free agents a qualifying offer, it means that if that player signs with another team, the team signing him forfeits their first round draft pick for that season. While Morales would be a tremendous signing for the Pirates, it is probably better for them to protect that draft pick and save some money.
The next best option is James Loney of the Tampa Bay Rays. He won’t bring the power that Morales brings, but he is a great contact hitter with decent enough defense. Loney is, in fact, a left-handed hitter, so he would fit in the platoon with Sanchez. Playing in PNC Park for 81 games could do wonders for Loney’s power numbers. PNC Park is very hitter-friendly for lefties, as the right field wall is only 320 feet from home plate. For right-handed hitters, it is not so friendly. Left field and left-center field are extremely deep.
Loney isn’t nearly as flashy as Morales or a potential trade for a big-name first baseman, but he might be the safest, most reliable option for the Pirates to sign. He will get on base and he will play above average defense. Signing Loney makes the most sense for the Bucs.