The Pittsburgh Pirates have put themselves in a very bad position by being overly patient. For some reason, they were comfortable sitting back and watching first basemen come off the board one-by-one. Whether it was trades — like Logan Morrison and Mark Trumbo — or free agents such as Mike Napoli and James Loney, the Pirates have seen players they were interested in get scooped up by other teams. It has gotten to the point that the Pirates’ top remaining targets are Ike Davis and Mitch Moreland, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.
There are other potentially available first baseman on the trade market, such as Billy Butler and Adam Lind, but the Pirates clearly have no intention of going all-in for a replacement at first base, even though it is their only legitimate hole heading into the 2014 season. Kendrys Morales is another interesting option, but he is a free agent that has a draft pick tied to him and is better suited as a designated hitter.
After all of those names are off the board, the Pirates essentially have two options. There are other teams that could potentially use a first baseman as well, specifically the Milwaukee Brewers and possibly the Houston Astros. If the Pirates want one of Davis or Moreland, they need to strike sooner rather than later. If given the choice between Davis or Moreland, I’m taking Davis every time.
The Pirates will be using a first base platoon in 2014. The right-handed hitting side Gaby Sanchez is already set after he hit for an impressive .333/.448/.539 line with a 179 wRC+. The left-handed hitting side needs to be filled, and Davis and Moreland fit that description. In 303 plate appearances against right-handed pitching in 2013, Davis hit for a .222/.356/.371 line with a 109 wRC+. He also walked in 17.5 percent of his plate appearances against right-handed hurlers. Moreland wasn’t so impressive, even against right-handed pitchers. In 363 plate appearances against right-handed pitching, Moreland hit for a .227/.300/.452 line with a 99 wRC+.
Another reason to favor Davis over Moreland is that Moreland has never really had a good season. Davis has at least had a few decent years, and even when he has bad seasons, he is still hitting for power and drawing walks. His wRC+ from 2010-12 was 116, 153 and 111, respectively. He has never had a walk percentage of lower than 10.4, and in 2013, he walked in 15.1 percent of his plate appearances. He would bring a lot of strikeouts to the Pirates’ lineup, but he would also bring an on-base percentage that not many Pirates not named Andrew McCutchen can bring.