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First (base) priority: Loney, Moreland and Lind emerge as targets … and a Snider breakout?

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SOUTH HILLS – According to ESPN the Pirates’ top free agent target is first baseman James Loney, which seems like a pretty natural fit. Loney is left-handed, and can be paired with Gaby Sanchez in a platoon, and Loney is also a good defender and above average athlete for first base. Those are all characteristics valued by the Pirates.

 

 

Others in this space and elsewhere  (Tim Williams over at Pirates Prospects) have thought Loney would be a natural fit for the Pirates. The fit makes sense even if it’s more solid than exciting, and so to might the dollars if they come down:

 

Fangraphs’ crowdsourcing pegs Loney for a two-year $15 million deal as does CBSSports.com’s mystery GM.

 

But Loney set his price rather high according to Yahoo! (Of course every player begins asking for the Moon before coming back down)

 

 

I can’t imagine the Pirates would go beyond two years but he could be their version of the Russell Martin two-year splurge last offseason. Perhaps Loney’s realistic price is much lower and Justin Morneau  might have set the market for middling, left-handed first baseman when he reached agreement on a two-year, $13 million deal with the Rockies on Tuesday, according to the Denver Post.

 

The concern with Loney is that he has ebbed and flowed from being a 2-win to 0-win player at first base, and he’s coming off one of his better seasons. Here’s the representative comment on Loney from Fangraphs:

 

“His 2013 numbers were unsustainable. After a great start, he batted merely .276/.322/.378 in the second half. Some GMs will need a first baseman and see his decent .299/.348/.430, but that was propped up by an unusually good April/May. I’d stay away from him completely, unless I had a gaping hole at first base and all the other good options were taken.”

 

I’m rather ambivalent toward the prospect of the Pirates of adding Loney.

 

I think you really have to believe in Loney’s defense and athleticism to give him a multi-year deal. For his career he’s a good but not great against right-handed pitching: .791 OPS, 113 wRC+.

 

The Rays signed him to a $3 million deal and he produced 2.7 WAR last season. Ideally that’s how you buy on a player like Loney. To me he’s become the guy every team thinks is a bargain so he’s no longer a bargain.

 

While I wouldn’t condemn a Loney signing I do question targeting  a no-power first baseman. Still, the Pirates have a better handle on just to value his baserunner and defense, including the hard-to-measure talent of scooping out throws from the dirt which I imagine has real value like pitch framing.

 

*Mitch Moreland is an interesting name now available due to the addition of Price Fielder in Texas.  Moreland is a .788 OPS, 106 wRC+ against right-handed pitching with worse defense than Loney .

 

*The guy I like the most of the group  Adam Lind. He’s  the ideal target if you’re looking for a bat with pop vs. right-handed pitching posting a .925 OPS and 151 wRC+ vs. right-handed pitching last season and a .850 OPS, 125 wRC+ mark for his career.

 

Moreover he has a really friendly club contract: ’14:$7M club option ($2M buyout), ‘15:$7.5M club option ($1M buyout), ‘16:$8M club option ($0.5M buyout)

 

But unlike Loney, he’ll cost a prospect or two. And probably a top 10 prospect.

 

At the end of the day, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Pirates end up with any of these players. Who’s your preference?

 

DON’T STOP BELIEVING IN TRAVIS SNIDER?

 

Travis Snider revealed today that he required toe surgery after the season, and that he wasn’t playing through turf toe but rather bone spurs and other irritation in his left foot. See the full story there.

 

“It’s something I’m excited to overcome some of the mechanical compensations that arise for us as professional athletes when we go out there and try and be effective but as our body is responding the way we need it to be in position to hit a baseball,” Snider said. “I’m excited to not rebuild my swing but recalibrate it because there are some bad habits I picked up throughout the year.” 

 

“It’s going to help to have that toe repaired and to be able get my back foot (healthy), the one that rotates in the ground every time I swing,” Snider said. “That’s the kind of the movement that aggravated my toe the most.”

 

The bad news is Snider lost his job and hit .215 last season. The good news is the Pirates never saw a healthy Snider and he has remaining upside. As recently as 2011 he was ranked as the No. 2 Under 25 asset in the Blue Jays’ system according to Baseball Prospectus. He is a former first-round pick. He showed patience and power in his minor league career, much more power than Jaff Decker.  So it makes sense why the Pirates tendered him in this era of scarce power.

 

- TS

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Comments

  1. Nate83 says:

    When taking into consideration everything including what you would have to give up in a trade for Moreland/Lind I would rate them.

    1. Loney
    2. Lind
    3. Moreland

    Just rating them from a pure player I would like the Pirates to get I would go.

    1. Lind
    2. Loney
    3. Moreland

    The team friendly contract also makes Lind tradeable after this year if say something crazy happens like Lambo looks good this year and we want to move him to first. Or the money freed up with Wandy, Martin, Liriano and maybe AJ coming off the books is used to get or trade for a stud 3rd baseman next year and move Alverez to first base.

    Snider seems like the Troy Edwards of the Pirates. You just keep thinking he would explode and be a good receiver for the Steelers and just when you where about to give up he would do something that made you think he was worth holding onto. In the end he wasn’t and my guess is Snider will be the same. I hope I’m wrong because I was a Snider supporter until about early June of last year.

    Good information. Travis.

  2. Hank says:

    Don’t mind them bringing Snider back at all. Could be they were worried about him turning into Brandon Moss 2.0 and flourishing somewhere else after being the centerpiece of a trade bringing him to Pittsburgh.

  3. BostonsCommon says:

    Snider…. Sigh

    Like everyone else who’s ever invested, I’m waiting for, and would love to see, him break out. I would settle for him regaining any sort of trade value… I just don’t see it. To my untrained eye, his power comes from a long swing that relies on timing and guessing correctly. Kind of Adam LaRoche-esque.

    I’ll continue to think that Tabata is the 4th OF of the future, and that he will be the one to tap into his potential… Although I’d be pleasantly surprised if it was Snider. Really, it would be great for the Pirates if either of them proved to be more than replacement players.

  4. NMR says:

    Judging by this winter’s free agent market, Jose Tabata will make himself into quite the trade chip if he hits his career average this spring (.274/.339/.385). His guaranteed years through 2016 are all at least a million bucks cheaper than what guys like DeJesus, Murphy, and Young have signed for already, and those three option years look reasonable already, let alone when salaries inevitably excalate.

  5. Steelkings says:

    I agree with NMR as long as the Pirates are struggling to make the playoffs. Snider is an obvious option to bridge the RF position to Palonco. Maybe even if the Pirates are the leaders at the trade deadline, Tabata or Snider is the trade piece to help bring a possible need player for a playoff push.

  6. Andrew says:

    Snider’s injury/surgery explains why he was tendered an offer, when some outsiders predicted that he likely would be non-tendered. If nothing else it is another option in right field. I think NMR said this previously but you have to assume the Pirates know at lot more about why certain players struggled, thus Snider was worth the offer while Jones was not. However assuming the Pirates think Garret Jones still has some value, he might be worth a one year deal at less money, because the other options are uninspiring.

    Tampa Bay seems to have worked with Loney, LD% up (though not correlative year to year), when you have a high LD% a higher BABIP is expected. Also FB% is down from his LA days, but I think it is correct he was undervalued last year, and when everyone realizes he is undervalued it is not longer such.

    Saw this projection for Loney: Projection in Pittsburgh – 281/326/397, 1.4 WAR, 103 OPS+ (he is good defensively), from ZiPS.

    Lind may have a team friendly contract but is there really much surplus value there, his productive years where propelled by >19 HR/FB%, and park factors for HR for LHH for Toronto 103, PNC 93.

    Hate to be negative, especially since I do not any names to add, but less guaranteed years the better.

  7. NMR says:

    The Toronto Blue Jays made a couple moves last winter, and they didn’t work out so well. Trading Adam Lind for prospect(s) makes them a worse ballclub, and they aren’t in a position to wait around for very long.

    With that being said, we have to be realistic about Lind. We’re looking at a guy who should probably be a DH, platooned, has a history of back injuries, and is prone to hot and cold streaks (that may last an entire season).

    They need starting pitchers, a catcher, and a second baseman. Jordy Mercer, Tony Sanchez, Jeff Locke, and Charlie Morton are the players that could help the Blue Jays now, and in the future (sans Charlie).

  8. NMR says:

    At least Travis knows his swing is a mess. At his arbitrated rate, the Bucs can cut him before breaking camp without taking on the full amount. Worth it. I guess.

    And yeah, Loney isn’t going to work unless he comes in much lower than that. Provides negative value against lefties, which makes the positional cost well over $10m when platoon partner is added. That is dumb, dumb, dumb money for small markets at 1B.

    I do have one contractual suggestion that would make him more appealing, and that is more years with lower AAV. Given absolutely nothing in the Pirates 1B pipeline, I’d be fine giving him something like 4 years at $6m per.

  9. Steelkings says:

    Lind wont happen. Fa-ged aboud it! The BlueJays dont need a RF…They need SS depth. The one thing the bucco aint got

  10. NMR says:

    But you’re dead on about Lind’s trade value. Not much there.

  11. NMR says:

    Jordy Mercer, who would also currently slot as their starting 2B.

  12. Steelkings says:

    You guys will owe me a beer when the cheap priced first baseman who will tear up the National league and get his first PNC homer on July 18th draws an ” I told you so” from me.

  13. Nate83 says:

    I agree completely and that is why it always confused me when people complained about the contract after the 2012 season. It still was a reasonable contract for a 4th outfielder. Now that the market is inflated that contract definately looks good to another team that is looking for a contact hitting outfielder.

  14. John Lease says:

    Just saw on the Pirates website that Evan Chambers died in his sleep. Pretty shocking, he couldn’t have been older than 24/25.

  15. John Lease says:

    So it was his toe sapping Snider’s power. He better hope it was, I’d love to be proven wrong.

  16. Steelkings says:

    Solve one problem and create another. Only happens if the BJ’s throw in a prospect…Or cash (Roll Eyes). And only happens if the Bucs sign Tejada.

  17. Steelkings says:

    It is the captain of the toes, you know

  18. Steelkings says:

    Even then…Jordy Mercer 27….Tajada and Barmes 35+….Aint gonna happen.

  19. Johnny says:

    Pirates are better off trading for Adam Dunn of White Sox.Gives you 30-40 HR’s every yr plus 80-100 HR’s.100+ walks too. So he makes 15 million.White Sox would probably pick up 8-10 mill.White Sox are rebuilding.A good marriage. Johnny

  20. Derek Smith says:

    I want to see the Pirates pick up Lind. I realize that it might cost a prospect, and a good one at that. However, I think they are at the point where taking a shot on a guy like Lind is now worth it. It is a pretty safe risk. Also, a good winning team like the Pirates need to take more shots on experianced and proven Major League talent. Not to mention, this looks like a good value deal however it were to shake out.

    The biggest thing for me is the fact that he is controlable at a reasonable price for the next 3 years! Look at it this way. Lind at about 3/21, and a couple of good prospects, with maybe a Alen Hanson type included (just my personal guess of the top 10 player). Or, Loney with the best price being maybe 2/18? And who knows if he would take that, maybe going for more money or years from someone else. Loney is inconsistent and lacking power. If a first basemen can provide defense, that is a bonus. However, that is not what I am looking for in a first basemen. I want the ability to hit the ball on a somewhat consistent basis with power, and the ability to drive in runs with that. Defense can be primary for me at catcher or shortstop, but not first base. I WANT LIND!

  21. Donald says:

    Now that the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury, I’d love to see the Pirates make a trade for Ichiro Suzuki. It seems like we trade with the Yankees twice a season, so they are good partners for that. You have to figure Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Alfonso Soriano will start, with Vernon Wells being the 4th outfielder… so Ichiro is expendable. The guy is only making $6.5Million this season. He would be a perfect lead off hitter for a Pirates team that struggles to get on base. Even if he only hits .280, pops 8 homers, and steals 20 bases, I’ll take it. He provides great defense in right field. And he will most likely retire after the season, which provides the perfect segway for Polanco to take over in August if he is ready.

  22. NMR says:

    This assumes Jordy Mercer “solves” the shortstop problem. I wouldn’t bet on it.

  23. cosmo says:

    interesting thought about Ichiro.

  24. Leefoo says:

    I can play 1b better than Dunn, and I am 61.

  25. Leefoo says:

    Does anyone know how Lind’s defense is?

    I would prefer Loney, Lind or Lambo (in that order)….the “L” with it.

    I’d STILL like to find out if Lambo is for real. But, he does have an option left.

  26. Nate83 says:

    So there is a crazy report going around of the Pirates being one of a handful of teams interested in trading for Price. This on the surface seems very unlikely. At least it does to me. Nothing that has happened this offseason or in previous offseasons would suggest the Pirates would be willing to take on 30 million in payroll over the next 2 years and give up more then likely 2 top 10 prospects and another decent prospect.

    More then likely the Pirates placed a phone call to ask what it would take to get Price and then the Rays just lumped them and other teams into a list to make it look like more teams have serious interest then actually do. It doesn’t hurt to let the Rays know there is interest just in case they find themselves with nobody wanting to give up much and are willing to take a lesser deal like Hanson and Kingham. Polanco, Taillon and Glasnow should be off limits in my opinion unless it’s something better then 2 years of Price.

  27. The Price rumor has already been debunked, apparently. It really didn’t make much sense from the Pirates point of view.

    As for Loney, making a case for this guy is just putting lipstick on a pig.

  28. Steelkings says:

    Ha ha ha ha ha Cough! Cough, hack, cough Ha ha ha ha!

    Seriously? Price? Hahahaha! 30 miliion? He he he ha !

    I’m sorry for my negativity! Perhaps I simply got carried away with the negativity as perhaps I was unable to let go of the last 20 years before 2013. Perhaps if the management would simply do one thing to improve this team from last year I would feel just a little better. Oh yeah! Travis Snider fixed his toe! Our savior…I forgot how good he was. It is truely exciting that the Pirates will proudly prance out to the field two “once promising” number one prospects. Snider and Lambo..MVP! MVP! MVP!…They’re are gonna turn it around for sure! I just know it. See how positive I can be?
    I know, I know I’ve got a great idea…We should bring back Oliver Perez and Zach Duke. They were once very promising and represent the value the Pirates yern for! They can turn it around too!

    Lets make GOODWILL the proud sponsor of the Pittsburgh Pirates!

  29. Steelkings says:

    There is a rumor that the Pirates are interested in signing AJ Burnett!

  30. Nate83 says:

    This probably only makes sense to me but I honestly think that the Pirates in their mind made their big splash in free agnecy last year with Martin and Liriano. It’s crazy but by Pirate standards those are big contracts and they are still active.

    I think they may be willing to tread water this year and then when Martin, Liriano, Wandy and maybe AJ come off the books make some mid level free agent signings or trades next year. It also gives them a year to see how Marte, Polanco, Cole, Taillon, Glasnow, Mercer and Lambo progress. They also will know more about Walker and Alverez as they get closer to having to make a decision on those guys. At the end of next year the internal value of the Pirates players will be more defined and how those players contribute going forward will be much more clear. It will be much easier to determine how to allocate money.

  31. Nate83 says:

    hahaha, It is feeling more and more like a rumor. I still feel at the end of the day if AJ wants to play this year he isn’t going to retire over playing for 12 million instead of 15 million. I personally do not buy into the bruised ego from being passed over for game 5. He was upset at the time because he is a competitor but he hadn’t performed well in outings against that team on that field. As time want one I’m sure his anger was more at himself then anything else. Plus I doubt he wants his last game to be that playoff game.

  32. NMR says:

    Feel better now?

  33. NMR says:

    Nori Aoki traded to the Royals for a lefty reliever.

    This is getting really, really, really old.

  34. Nate83 says:

    Wait a second. We need a right fielder. We have a number of good lefty relievers. His contract was team friendly. He’s under team control for 4 years.

    Your right. This is getting really, really old. I understand not getting the 4 yr/55 million players but these kind of moves are hard to watch happen. Maybe the Brewers didn’t want to trade within the division.

  35. No, he is not under team control past 2014. There was a clause in his original deal that lets him opt out of arbitration if the Brewers picked up his option, which they did. So the question becomes, would you have traded Watson or Wilson for one year of Aoki, who is nominally better than Tabata?

  36. NMR says:

    Boy, you better give your definition of “nominal”.

    And yes, I’d trade either of those guys for Aoki.

  37. NMR says:

    Brewers aren’t going to be good for a while. Intra-division trades should be about the last thing they care about.

  38. BostonsCommon says:

    Me too. There’s you lead off hitter and bridge to Polanco…

    Ugh..

  39. Ok. Aoki was worth 1.7 WAR in 2013, Tabata 1.1, and Aoki had twice the plate appearances and overall playing time. Tabata had an OPS of .771, Aoki .726. Given equal playing time, Tabata would have been the more productive player, and I am by no means a big Tabata fan.

  40. NMR says:

    GIVEN equal playing time? You cannot GIVE a player at-bats when they’re on the DL.

    Aoki is a better baserunner, better defender, and better hitter.

    And besides, they don’t set a limit on the number of good outfielders a team can have, right?

  41. Yes, you are correct – a player’s ability to stay on the field is certainly part of his value. I was presuming equal playing time to make a point. Aoki may be a better defender and baserunner than Tabata, but in 2013 Tabata was a markedly better hitter, by any measure – OPS, OPS+, wRC+, etc. It isn’t even very close.

  42. NMR says:

    Only due to an ISO 39% higher than his previous career high. Sustainable?

 
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