We have officially hit the holiday season and the Pittsburgh Pirates are still searching for a fix at first base. For those of you that have been screaming, “It’s only December, it is way too early to start worrying about the Pirates!” It is quickly becoming time to worry. At least it should be. If you still aren’t worried about the Pirates’ first base situation, I’ll go out on a limb and say you’re an eternal optimist and simply aren’t thinking straight.
Me? I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist — I’m a realist. The Bucs are set to begin the 2014 season with an Andrew Lambo/Gaby Sanchez platoon, and that worries the heck out of me. Lambo has 33 career plate appearances as an MLB player, and he didn’t impress — striking out 11 times. The Sanchez part of the platoon is fine; in fact, it’s great. He mashed left-handed pitching in 2013.
The Pirates are coming off of a magical 2013 season that saw them reach the postseason for the first time since 1992. The second-highest PNC Park season attendance and the extra postseason revenue along with the $30 million that all teams will receive from the new television deal gave fans a sense of optimism that the Pirates would increase payroll substantially for 2014. Unfortunately, they’ve only added three significant players — Clint Barmes, Chris Stewart and Edinson Volquez. Barmes was brought back on a $2 million deal, which is actually $3 million less than the Bucs were paying him last year. Stewart will make $1 million next season, and the Pirates inexplicably gave Volquez $5 million for one season.
The Pirates should have some money left to spend on first base. So who should they give that money to?
Why not Kendrys Morales?
Actually, I can think of a few reasons not to sign Morales — he has draft pick compensation tied to him and he is an aging, un-athletic first baseman that profiles more as a designated hitter. However, the Pirates draft in the late-20s this season, so it isn’t like it will be an guaranteed great pick. The Pirates also traded the 35th pick a few years ago for Sanchez, so they have been willing to sacrifice picks before.
In December, the free agent market isn’t usually great — finding the perfect player simply won’t happen at this stage of the offseason. Any player the Pirates acquire now will have flaws, much like Morales. Even though his defense is horrid and his health is questionable, he can flat out hit. In 657 plate appearances last season, Morales hit .277/.336/.449 with a 116 wRC+. He profiles perfectly as a middle of the order hitter in 2014 if the Pirates take a chance and sign him. With one need — first base — the Pirates should be willing to take a gamble to fill that need.