It took longer than fans would had hoped for, but the Pittsburgh Pirates finally found their man for the first-base job on Friday night as they traded for Ike Davis from the New York Mets. Davis is obviously no sure thing, but he provides a much more promising left-handed hitting option than Travis Ishikawa had brought. Like any trade, however, it effects more than just the current first-base position.
With Davis now on the team, the Pirates’ minor-league player of the year in 2013, Andrew Lambo, becomes nothing more than a depth option. The Pirates have several options for what to do with Lambo in the near and long-term future.
The Pirates could opt to move Lambo back to right field where he played the majority of his professional career, but top prospect Gregory Polanco will be up in June, making that move seem unnecessary. Another option would be to float Lambo around as trade bait as the MLB trade deadline approaches. He hit 33 home runs between three levels in 2013, and he can play first base and right field, so he would have some value on the trade market.
The final option, and the most likely option, would be to stick with Lambo at first base and keep him as depth. Behind Davis and Gaby Sanchez, now that Ishikawa has been designated for assignment, the Pirates don’t have much in terms of first base depth. If Ishikawa clears waivers and decides to play for the Pirates’ Triple-A team, then they would suddenly have excellent first-base depth with him and Lambo.
The decision to trade for Davis rather than calling Lambo up to be the left-handed hitting first baseman was a wise move for general manager Neal Huntington. The Pirates will use a platoon at first base, with Sanchez hitting lefties and Davis going against right-handed pitchers. With Davis in the platoon, it suddenly looks very strong. Against lefties in his career, Sanchez is a .300/.398/.500 hitter. Against right-handed hurlers, Davis has hit for a very strong .256/.357/.471 career line.
The trade for Davis certainly hurts Lambo’s chances at making significant contributions to the 2014 Pirates, but like any backup option, he is just one injury to Davis or Sanchez away from getting a chance. If Lambo continues to rake at Triple-A, he will eventually get his opportunity.