The Pittsburgh Pirates have a huge hole to fill at first base in the offseason. With Justin Morneau being a free agent and Garrett Jones a non-tender candidate, the Pirates’ lone remaining first baseman is Gaby Sanchez. Sanchez is a capable backup, but the Bucs cannot afford to go into 2014 with him as their starter.
According to MLB.com’s Tom Singer, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington recognizes the first base issue and he has a specific player that he wants to target over the offseason. The player that tops Huntington’s wish-list for the offseason is Kendrys Morales, a first baseman that was with the Seattle Mariners in 2013.
Morales is a very good offensive player, but he is bad defensively. The good thing about Morales, though, is that if there is any position where a team can hide a player’s inability to play decent defense it is at first base. Morales, a switch-hitter, hit .277/.336/.449 with a 116 wRC+ and 23 home runs in 2013. He had been slowed by injuries in previous seasons, but in 2013 he played in 156 games, his first season since 2009 without missing a significant number of games.
It appears likely that the Mariners will offer Morales a qualifying offer, so if the Pirates do want to sign him, they will have to realize two things. First, in order for the Bucs to even have a chance to sign him, he will have to decline the offer from the Mariners. Also, if the Pirates sign Morales, they will be forfeiting their first round draft pick for next year.
The idea of giving up a draft pick isn’t pleasant for a small market team like Pittsburgh, but at some point they need to fix their first base woes. Signing Morales fixes it for the short term, but they still don’t have any obvious replacements in the minor leagues. At some point the Pirates will need to draft a capable first baseman.