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Do you like Ike?

SOUTH HILLS – Since the season ended, the Pirates’ greatest need has arguably been a left-handed hitting first baseman (unless you’re comfortable fielding Andrew Lambo there on Opening Day). And as of this morning, the neon vacancy sign is still glowing.

We can confirm via a source who has knowledge of the talks that the Pirates have interest in Mets first baseman Ike Davis.

 

This news didn’t exactly seem to illicit excitement on Twitter yesterday evening. Yes, Davis was demoted to Triple-A after a horrendous start to the season last year. Yes, he batted .227 in 2012 and .205 last season. Yes, he earned Super 2 status and he’s eligible for a second year of arbitration this season. Davis has also battled some injury issues.

 

Still, there are some things to like about Ike:

 

Davis hit 32 home runs in 2012 as 24-year-old at power-sapping Citi Field. He has legit power despite his paltry total last season.

 

After Davis returned for Triple-A last season he did something remarkable: he led the NL in on-base percentage (.449). Davis has shown plate discipline throughout his career, posting double-digit walk rates everywhere he’s been.

 

And remember, the Mets and Pirates were trade partners in August when the Pirates acquired Marlon Byrd. The Mets have a surplus of first basemen and are in search of young talent, no doubt eyeing some of the arms in the Pirates’ farm system, or perhaps one of their young lefty relievers.

 

Why else should you think about liking Ike? The first base trade market is more barren than originally thought Brewers GM Doug Melvin tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel”

 

It’s pretty quiet,” said Melvin. “We know all the names. It’s a small group. Nothing changes from one day to the next. Ike Davis is the one player people talk about. Other than that, there’s not much available.

 

Melvin says the Rangers aren’t ready to part with Mitch Moreland.  The Blue Jays reportedly asked for Neil Walker for Adam Lind. Neal Huntington hinted at the idea that Justin Smoak might be available but the Pirates have not been directly connected to him in trade talks.

 

Should you like Ike? Perhaps it’s the most realistic option if you would like Pirates to upgrade 1B.

 

- TS

104 Comments

  1. Do I like Ike; Yes and No

    The age, the walks, the past power, he hits RHP well, there’s some break out potential there. If that’s the guy they end up getting and don’t give up to much they could do much worse and he’s one of the names tossed out so far that doesn’t make cause me to face in palm.

    On the other hand, why is the front office stuck in the small minded mode they are and only looking at platoon mates for Sanchez? Why can’t they seem to think a bit bigger and find a top quality solution at first base even if it means they have to give up something from an area they’re pretty deep in?

    Finding a left handed first baseman who can walk and hit some home runs just shouldn’t be as difficult as the Pirates have made it the past few years.

    • “Why can’t they seem to think a bit bigger and find a top quality solution at first base…Finding a left handed first baseman who can walk and hit some home runs just shouldn’t be as difficult as the Pirates have made it the past few years.”

      Sounds great. Now since it is so easy, lets make a list of all the options the Pirates have missed out on. You go first.

      • Prince Fielder. Just kidding, but that is the only one a could think of that would have been considered as thinking big that has been traded for. Unless you move Trumbo to first. I personally don’t like the holes in Trumbo’s game to give up the amount that was needed to get him. He essentially is Ike Davis’s 2012 year repeated for 3 years straight with a much worse walk rate.

        • I didn’t necessarily mean established star when I said “top quality solution” I just meant someone who could play everyday and put up average or better numbers for a few seasons without breaking the bank rather than the list of names we’ve heard so far who must be platooned and represent very little of an upgrade over what they’ve gotten the past few seasons.

          I’ve haven’t wasted as much time this season perusing the minor league rosters as I have in the past because the Pirates seem disinclined to go this route, but there’s almost always one to three guys in AAA waiting for a shot at the majors they won’t get because their blocked by a bigger name or contract.

          Someone not unlike Clint Robinson who probably won’t be a star but won’t cost much to find out and probably can’t hit RHP worse than Sanchez.

          • My comment still stands, North.

            Let’s make a list of first basemen “who could play everyday and put up average or better numbers for a few seasons without breaking the bank” that have been acquired via trade or free agency in say, the last three years.

            “…but there’s almost always one to three guys in AAA waiting for a shot at the majors they won’t get because their blocked by a bigger name or contract.”

            Didn’t you just describe Andrew Lambo?

      • Sure no problem, how about let’s start with Chris McGuiness. Left handed, 25, extremely patient, moderate power that should play well at PNC, no platoon issue and is now buried pretty far down on Texas’s depth chart behind Fielder, Moreland and Baker and has little chance of seeing the majors any time soon.

        What do you think it would cost the Pirates to see what he can do? How about Hunter Morris, less patient better power but still a 24 year old left hander who seems unlikely to get a call to the majors anytime soon.

        I’m just spit-balling here and have really researched anyone in particular but you don’t have dig very far in the minors to find first base candidates that could be had for virtually nothing. The reality is 1B base is where guys who can hit get moved when they can’t field a tougher position and that’s why guys like David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez are found on the waiver wire quite frequently.

        • “…but you don’t have dig very far in the minors to find first base candidates that could be had for virtually nothing.”

          Like the one the Pirates already have?

          • If Lambo’s defense is even close to the horrible defense Jones gave us last year I say give him a chance. His chance to succeed seems every bit as good as a player like Ike and Smoak. He had tremendous upside at one point then made some bad decisions but started recognizing that upside again last year. He also cost nothing.

          • I’ll assume you’re talking about Lambo here and say if the Pirates think he can handle the first base job full time and that’s their solution then by all mean plug him in and let him play.

            The problem is they don’t seem to believe he can handle the job based on the fact he’s only been mentioned as one of the players in RF mix and the Pirates’ stated goal in fill what they’ve identified as a hole at the position. If they saw Lambo as a potential full time first baseman they wouldn’t be exploring trade options for first baseman.

            And let’s be honest, if Lambo does make the team out of spring training is there anyone who believes he’ll get significant playing time at first when Hurdle can plug Sanchez in as much as possible as he did last year?

          • I disagree.

            If they weren’t comfortable with Lambo as a first base option, they wouldn’t be having him play the position in winter ball.

            The fact that they’re not comfortable handing him the position without even bothering to look outside seems completely logical given his level of experience.

          • I think him playing first base in winter ball is to see if he can handle it not because they know he can handle it. Reports are he has been shaky but I think he’s not a bad athlete and can reduce the learning curve a little. I’m confident he can get to the point of being adequate if his bat plays in the majors.

            As far as looking at other options outside the organization they do that at all positions I would think. You are constantly seeing if there is a way to improve your team. I’m sure Lambo is option B or C. I’m also sure they have a value they have placed on how important it is to use any option before him. When they get to the point that they are not comfortable crossing that value in dollars or prospects to get a first baseman they don’t make the move and use Lambo.

            I agree with NRM that NH is very good at not making a move just to do it. If he doesn’t see the return value outweighing or equaling what he is giving up in payroll or prospects he goes with what they currently have and continues to look for solutions.

      • Carlos Santana – Cleveland Indians. Not going to catch there, not going to play first there. Wants to play the field. They want pitching.

      • NPF didn’t say that they missed out on anyone. You seemed to conveniently cut & pasted his comments.

        He said he wants them to think bigger even if it means giving up something that we may have a surplus of.

  2. Travis,

    There are reports out there that the Mets are looking for Kingham in return which in my opinion is a vast overpay for a platoon first baseman. I think there better off giving Eric Chavez whatever he wants for a year and let him handle first against righties and have Lambo get accustomed to 1st in AAA and have as a depth opton. I know Chavez isnt a 1st basemen by trade but he was a former gold glover at 3rd so he can probably handled 1st. Plus there is 1 more DFA candidate on the 40 man in Andy Oliver so it works out well for them. Your thoughts?

    • The Pirates have been very protective of their young arms and for good reason: the price of FA pitching is incredibly costly. I’d be surprised if they parted with Kingham. I think ideally they would like to move some of their relief surplus.

      • But is that a match with the Mets? Do they need relief pitchers. I know they got Black last year from us so maybe it is a need but it would seem to me they would want more then a relief pitcher for Davis. Maybe Wilson would work because he could be a starter but I personally really like Wilson and wouldn’t want to lose him for a player with as many questions as Davis.

        • Ike Davis is bad. Let’s not lose track of that.

          Even with the understanding that relief pitchers performance is highly variable and Wilson or Watson could blow up at any minute, they are still, at present, very good baseball players.

          Ike Davis is not.

          • NH will struggle with the available internal options @ 1B rather than give away too much for someone like Ike Davis.

          • People won’t like it, but this is the type of situation where Huntington is very good.

            The guy does not panic. You just won’t see him do something like go four years for James Loney or give up a future mid-rotation starter for a reclamation project.

            It may mean getting nothing, but sometimes that is the better choice.

          • You say he doesn’t panic, I say he’s overly cautious, unwilling to take calculated risks and as a result frequently sees opportunities pass him by.

            If my only choice is between watching the offense spin its wheels as it currently is and taking a gamble on a long shot so long as it doesn’t severely compromise the future I’ll take the latter.

            The weird thing I see in the guy is the dichotomy between how he approaches acquiring players for the defense & pitching and those on offense. He has no problem taking flyers on pitchers like Liriano, Burnett, Volquez or Martin, but when it comes to finding hitters outside the organization he’s a timid as a church mouse.

          • Travis Snider says hello.

          • He’s timid because the game still values offensive number more then the other stats. The return on the dollar is not as good. He can gain 50 runs a year on offense by spending 20 million or save 50 runs a year by spending 15 million.

            I think he has taken some calculated risk more recently because the team has gotten better. Martin was definitely a risk especially after missing on Barajas just one year before. The mid-season trades made over the last couple of year have been calculated risk. Not as much in Wandy’s case but last year he knew he was renting a player and giving up some decent prospects.

          • I believe Travis Snider is Christmas shopping with Jeff Dacker, NMR. Or Jaff Decker. Or Jaff Dacker. Whatever that guy’s name is. So, they both say hello.

        • Please, no, Nate! Not Wilson for Ike and Tina Davis! He is a LHP that can get lefties and righties out. He had one of the lowest batting avg against in MLB last year. Wilson is far too valuable.

      • I doubt if NH will give up a Kingham for the like of Ike Davis & I don’t blame him. 1B will be a challenge for the Bucs in 2014, it’s looking more like Lambo every day to me.

      • Jeff Locke for Davis?

        • My problem with that deal is Locke’s stock would seem to be going up after last year even with the horrible second half. Ike’s stock went down last year. 32 HR’s down to 9 and sent down to the minors. He also is a super 2 so you have 3 years of arbitration. In the end if he actually is worth trading for and has a nice rebound year he would cost upwards of 15-18 million over those 3 years. At that point why not just get Loney and hold onto Locke?

        • Unless of course they think Ike Davis’s upside is that much better then Loney’s, but with Loney you know exactly what your getting. With Davis you may end up with Jeff Clement and you lost Locke in the process.

          • Not sure how anyone can say they know what they’re getting in James Loney.

            Guy has been worth less than one win in HALF of his big league seasons. He’s just not a very good player.

          • Loney is much more of a sure thing then Davis. The Rays who find value in the same type of the things the Pirates do thought enough of him to sign him to a 3 year contract. I’m not saying he is much more then average at his position but you know he isn’t going to be sent back down to the minors or worse DFA’d if he has no options left.

          • “Loney is much more of a sure thing then Davis.”

            Except you don’t need a 3+ year commitment with Davis.

            “The Rays who find value in the same type of the things the Pirates do thought enough of him to sign him to a 3 year contract.”

            The same Rays who signed Carlos Pena for $8m two years ago? Thought so. The Rays make mistakes, too.

          • Except I said nothing about contract length or commitment. I was speaking strictly from a standpoint of which player any team in major league baseball would be more comfortable penciling into the line up for 120 games a year without having to worry about having other options available except for injuries. Last time I checked they have a hole at first and it needs filled. If the hole gets filled by somebody for 3 years then so be it. He’s not blocking anybody.

            If no money is involved in the equation I’m pretty confident that most teams would pick Loney over Ike to feel a need at first.

        • Straight up value wise, Jeff Locke is worth more than Davis.

          But Jeff Locke might be replaceable as early as this spring for the Pirates, so that has to be considered.

          Thornburg isn’t much of a prospect, but Milwaukee has nothing in the way of pitching coming through their system. Considering the fact that they’ll likely suck for the next few years with or without Davis, may as well hope Thornburg turns into something down the road.

          • Exactly. Locke has more value to other teams than he does for the Bucs. I like LHP in PNC, but I don’t think he’s going to be a star.

  3. I personally don’t mind the move if they don’t have to give up that much. If Ike duplicated his 2012 year last year he is essentially the same player as Pedro. His good walk rate at least keeps him from being a complete non factor for long periods of time like Jones was last year. It’s not exactly what I was hoping for at first but it’s apparently what we may get. Him or Smoak seem to be the options. Napoli would have been nice.

  4. For the 3 previous off-seasons, I have been a loud advocate of Bucs picking up either Chris Davis or Justin Smoak, based on potential or upside alone.

    Chris Davis is obviously off the board. Dare I push for Justin Smoak for a 4th straight Hot Stove season? I can’t decide.
    I seem to have picked up Huntington’s Disease . . . . Neal Huntington, that is. I can’t decide; maybe I’ll just see what’s left over at the end.

    If you wait to do your shopping until Christmas Eve, it is much easier———because everything is already picked over and there are less choices to paralyze.

    • I believe Seattle moved the fences in a bit before last season, right? I think I read that. It turned Safeco (or whatever it is called now) from maybe the most extreme pitcher’s park in MLB to closer to league average, or maybe still trending a bit toward the pitcher’s but not nearly as dramatically.

      So, I noticed the Smoakmeister had a pretty decent year from the left side in ’13. He had 308 ABs, with 13 doubles and 18 HRs. His slash line was a nice .260/.361/.477, with the high OBP due to drawing a ton of walks. He has not always hit so well as a lefty, and I wonder if the more fair hitting environment at home helped there. If so, he could rake in PNC.

      He’s the guy I would go after. The Super Sonics just signed Morrison and Hart, who both have iffy knees. One of them has to be ticketed for 1b, right? I know expecting logic out of Jack Z is a dangerous proposition, but I would think this guy is available. Would Jeff Locke fetch him? I would think so. If we could get him for less, I’d be all for it.

  5. I think Davis is one of those players for which career trajectory has to be considered. He is, after all, still young enough that he has yet to establish a consistant track record of any sort. Still at the stage of his career where pitchers are adjusting to him and vice versa.

    If you buy that theory, the numbers do not paint a pretty picture (all stats vs. RHP):

    2010 12.5%/22.0% .254/.348/.439
    2012 12.3%/22.4% .253/.345/.523
    2013 17.5%/26.1% .222/.356/.371

    Ike Davis has the biggest hitch in his swing of any player in the major leagues, and that is not hyperbole. It was a known issue when he was drafted, and hasn’t improved since. An increase in strikeouts coupled with a dramatic drop in power has all the signs of pitchers figuring him out and an inability to adjust.

    Unless something changes drastically, I don’t see any reason for optimism.

  6. don,t give up hope there will be a trade before spring training starts for a 1st baseman

  7. And NMRs dream of a rotation featuring Roberto Hernandez goes down flames. To the Phillies for $4.5M guaranteed, with another $1.5M in IP incentives.

    Will be interesting to see who made the better investment; the Pirates with Volquez, or the Phils with Hernandez.

    IMO, Volquez has potential for a higher reward, while Hernandez is definitely the safer signing.

    • On a few free agent list I saw they actually are listed right next to each other in the rankings. Hernandez seems to be the safer bet to not go Jonathan Sanchez and be a complete mess. I personally preferred Hernandez but maybe the scouts/pitching coaches see something in Volquez. I won’t judge until it fails because that’s much easier to do and always makes me right.

      • Neither of these guys have a chance of going all Jonathan Sanchez, which speaks more to Sanchez than the other two.

        • If Searage & Co. can just get him to throw strikes the potential is there… I seem to remember reports of Sanchez being unwilling to change, and not really into making changes to his delivery and/or pitch selection. Which again, speaks more to Sanchez than it does anybody else.

          Hopefully Volquez is ready and willing…

          • Given the expectations of a back end starter, I really don’t think Volquez has THAT far to go. 9.9% walk rate last year was bad. No getting past that. But it wasn’t holy-crap-this-guy-is-hopeless bad.

            Tighten him up mechanically, sure. But I think you can even get improvements by changing pitch selection. A sinker/changeup guy shouldn’t be getting himself deep into counts in the first place. That’s a guy who’s repetoire is about getting weak contact. Shouldn’t take 4+ pitches to do that.

          • Sanchez never converted fully to a two seamer, and kept throwing his four seamer which was terrible. He had that predictable loss in velocity since his earlier career and most likely lost that velocity difference between his fastball and off speed/breaking stuff.

            I cannot wait to see how Roberto Hernandez does in front of that aging middle infield in the bomb box that is Philly. Volquez is a project, that walk rate was a career best. I think the problem is his K rate fell by a batter/inning. Remember the Pirates got back end value from Locke with a BB% of 11.8%

          • Then again Locke wasn’t making $5 million/year.

    • Most likely will turn out similar to my gripes last winter when the Phillies signed John Lannan.

      I’m batting 1.000

    • Agreed on Volquez vs. the other Roberto Hernandez, Boston.

      And Atlanta added Gavin Floyd. Injury history there. His career stats are not pretty, but I wonder how much of that was because US Cellular is a launching pad.

  8. Last season the San Francisco Giants moved Brandon Belt to left field for a month while they tried to fit Brett Pill into their line-up. Now in the last two days Giants have signed Mike Morse, who plays his best at 1B. They still have the right-hand hitting Pill.

    I wonder what it would take for BMTIB to pry Brandon Belt away from Giants?

    And I’m all for trading Gaby Sanchez if he is so good. Then Pirates don’t just have to be looking for a platoon partner.

    • I would think Belt would be pretty pricey. He had a monster second half, excellent pedigree, and seems to be trending in the right direction

      • But it would be a big move and it would cost something but then we wouldn’t have to worry about who’s playing first for a few years.

        • But, we’d have to worry about another position or two, I think, North. I still say a platoon can be cobbled together. Adding Gaby and Smoak from last season would have produced a monster 1b hitter.

    • Belt would take an awful lot, Groat. I do not think SF has plans on trading him, but if they do, it would cost us dearly. He is an everyday guy now, for sure, at 25.

      60 XBH last year, with a .289/.360/.481. That’s pretty good stuff.

      I have to say, though, what is the fascination with insisting on an everyday 1b? What is it about combining the stats of Gaby and Smoak, and coming up with a guy who will hit .280 with 25+ bombs and a .380 OBP that is so unappealing to so many people? 1b is a traditional platoon spot. What’s the harm? And, we would not need to give up a very good player or prospect(s) to do it.

  9. While I like Ike as a replacement for an ineffective and inept Garrett Jones; I believe that the trade for Ike Davis could be either a brilliant move or a complete disaster … His power if returns to 2012 level could be a perfect complament for Sanchez but if last yr was more reflective of his power, fans ( yes Me incl) will be screaming for a real 1B…Also, I dont like the low batting ave-.205 BA I think I read? The .227 wasnt that great either, but may be best avail. in price range. I saw Moreland play for Texas and WASNT impressed,I dont know Smoak’s #s well enough to say but cant be that good either if light hitting Seattle is shopping him… I’ll take Ike but try Tony Sanchez @ 1B until Martin leaves after yr..What else he haveto prove @ AAA?

    • Sanchez has to play everyday in Indy, Hawk. They are trying to make sure he is ready defensively for Pgh next year. Playing 1b is not what they want for Sanchez. The Pirates value defense at catcher as probably 80% of the total value.

  10. Any of the first base trade options are going to depend upon 1) What is the cost? 2) What is the upside or can the flaws be fixed/minimized?

    Nothing profound here but, I do not have any strong arguments, for or against any of the options. Other than Morales, who is not worth the cost of the pick, let alone his salary. Not sure why the Pirates would search AAA, when they have the Lambo route.

    I read some stuff on Davis’s swing, has anyone seen video/shots of his change since his mid season demotion, he seemed to have a fairly good July and August?

    • His player page on MLB.com ha a ton of high quality video with dates.

      I’ll let you decide for yourself, but I personally don’t see much difference at all.

  11. UPDATE: Cross another potential 1B fit off the list (and a member of my all $15 million platoon team). … Eric Chavez has agreed to a one-year deal with the Diamondbacks, per Jon Heyman.

    Outside of Morales, who is really viewed as a DH, the free-agent 1B market is pretty barren at this point. Lance Berkman anyone?

    • I was initially liking this option as well, Travis. Then, it was pointed out on Dejan’s blog just how injury-prone he has been of late. Chavez has not had 300 ABs since ’07.

  12. Really think NH has backed himself into a corner. He underestimated what the market was going to be….or didn’t care. It’s same old argument of theirs regarding internal value. They may have been able to get Morneau back at the less than $6M the Rockies are paying him for two years but it’s too late now.
    Now if they want to upgrade they’ll have to pay by trade. And now the Mets have the upper hand.
    This off-season has been very disappointing. The AJ stuff has dragged on. He’s not coming back, which lessens out starting rotation. And we’ve gotten worst in right field and first base.
    The glow of 94-win season is gone.
    The stakes have gotten higher after coming off a visit to the playoffs.
    C’mon FO, learn to realize making moves to get a guy like Loney is the cost of doing business. I am getting tired of hearing about them not wanting to give anybody a three-year contract. Give me a break.

    • I think he didn’t care. I think he is very much a driven by historical data. I don’t think it matters if he was the GM of a team with an 80 million payroll or 150 million payroll, he would run the team the same way. He is going to go by calculation of what percent of payroll makes sense for a certain player in a certain situation and he will rarely move from that. He believes a solution will eventually present itself that makes sense.

      It’s sort of like Jim Tressal when he was at Ohio State. The numbers told him while on his side of the field with 3 and 12 or more he should run it or throw a screen pass because that resulted in a first down 20% of the time but a turnover only 3% of the time as compared to throwing a deeper pass which gave you a first down 35% of the time but resulted in a turnover 10% of the time. He never went by his gut. Just simply what the math told him to do.

  13. By all means make a trade for him (minor league arm) and hope he benefits from the change of scenery and the short RF porch.

    He’s young and, tall and heavy (6’3, 220″), he’s shown he can hit for power just two seasons ago, so what’s not to like when you consider our depth at 1b?

  14. People think I’m crazy for suggesting Gregory Polanco get a little time at 1B in Spring Training and Indy to be the Plan B in case Lambo tanks. I say get Polanco prepared so he could be an in season solution at 4 different positions. If Tabata is producing, but 1B is a black hole having Polanco move to 1B just for a little while (a la Darin Erstad) might just be the best way to go.

    • It’s an interesting thought. I actually suggested the possibility of Tony Sanchez playing first to keep him on the team and to learn from the two veteran catchers and solve the first base issue cheaply and internally. Obviously Polanco offers a better offensive option then Sanchez.

      I’m not familiar with Erstad and his prospect status back then. Messing with a fringe prospect isn’t to big of a deal and maybe made sense in his case. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to mess with a top prospect and have him moving all over the field. Especially a 5-tool one. Playing first is removing two of those tools and you still have an issue going forward unless you keep Polanco at first for multiple years which really doesn’t make sense to me.

    • Count me among those people, Hidden. I give you credit for creativity, but Polanco’s defense in CF is rated above both Cutch and Starling’s at the same stage. He is way more valuable in RF than at 1b. We may have the best defensive OF when he arrives for any MLB team in a l-o-n-g time.

      • Last year the Pirates had fewer balls hit to RF defensive zones than any team in baseball in the 10 years that defensive zone data has been tracked. Bottom line is that RF is a vastly overrated defensive position given the way the Pirates staff is constructed and the amount of real estate in RF at PNC park.

        • Good stuff, Hidden.

          Still would rather have Tabby at first and Polanco in RF given your hypothetical.

        • Interesting thought, but several issues with this; the balls in zone stat, has been redefined, go look at the trend of BIZ for the outfield. There were 7,371 BIZ for MLB in right field in 2013, compared to 13,083 in 2003, and there same been a comparable increase in out of zone plays. So the definitions are not stable thus year to year comparison is worthless.

          Second the Pirates right field defense was -7 runs by DRS, -11.5 runs by UZR, so getting even an average fielding performance in right field is an upgrade, taking a good defensive center fielder and placing him in right could easily be worth a win.

          Also Polanco’s projections list below, the Pirates got .706 OPS from Jones last year. Much of Polanco’s initial value is in his defense, which is lost with him at first. So in the hypothetical I think you move Tabata, Snider, or whoever is performing well. But in reality I think the Pirates would not promote Polanco and look to trade for a first basemen.

          Streamer: 258/313/390
          Oliver: 254/310/389
          ZiPS: 262/310/393

          • It is true that the methodologies for tracking BIZ and OOZ have changed a bit. It would probably be fairer to go back only 5 years for data comparisons. That is about the time when the classifications of the zones were hardened. Although I still stand by my earlier statement that the Pirates have had more balls in RF defensive zones than any team in recent years. Not only was Pirates BIZ low for RF but OOZ was well below league avg too. Some of that is related to the talent of the fielders. Much of it has to do with comparably lower numbers of OOZ batted balls in zones adjacent to the defined RF zone. There are two problems with moving Tabata and/or Snider to cover for an in season deficiency at 1B. First, it would be a cold move. You are talking about uprooting a guy in the middle of the season and putting him at a new position. With Polanco you actually have some time to prepare him. He can get acquainted with the position in Indy. Second, I think Polanco has better skills to translate to the position. Taller, quicker, a lefty. And with all the stuff the Pirates want to do with shifting there will be more burdens on the 1B. Especially as they desire to shift on more right handed hitters. A more athletic and nimble 1B could be a huge asset.

          • On the whole I think this hypothetical is borderline absurd, plus defensive centerfielders who can hit are not exactly a common commodity. Moving even an average defender from right to first is a loss of a half a win in value. And prepping Polanco in spring training, or AAA to play first seems like a situation where you are introducing risk/variables in order to prepare for a situation that is unlikely, three healthy outfielders all hitting at above average levels, while lacking a competent hitter at first. Something that could mid-season be more easily addressed through a trade.

            I think there are certain assumptions that are far from proven. 1) What is the correlation between year to year batted ball data to different sections of the outfield for each team? 2) If first base is important to the Pirates defense why not move Polanco there permanently?

            I think the point about shifts is specious, Pirates shifted (true shift, three infielders on one side of second) around 450 times last season, that is less than 8% of batters faced, and they shifted much more frequently against LHH. I think is it going to take more than ground ball staff to make first base more important position than right field, regardless of dimensions.

            However, I will concede this, Neil Walker was moved from 3rd to 2nd, the dreaded rightward shift on the defensive spectrum, having played 21 games at the position in AAA.

          • Andrew. I don’t see how the scenario is unlikely. The Pirates go into the season with two question marks, RF and 1B. If the candidates in RF are performing that means there is no opening for Polanco. I’m ok with leaving him in AAA all year. But he very well could be the best hitter they could add to the lineup. As for the zones, question it if you want. It deserves to be scrutinized closely. It is just a theory and the evidence is hardly conclusive. I agree RF is still more valuable than 1B. I agree Polanco adds lots of value in RF. But if the positional versatility helps the team in 2014 it is worth a look. As for the fact that that most shifts are against LHH, that actually supports my theory. There are way more opportunities to do shifts on RHH with high pull tendencies. However, most 1Bs have limitations therefore those opportunities can’t be take advantage of. I feel an athletic 1B may be the next evolution in the shifts. Consider what Huntington had to say about the shifts at Pirate Fest, “The biggest thing is, what’s the next part of the shift? What’s the next element to the shift? How individualistic does it become, or is there something else we can do to maximize the shift even more than we’ve already done?”

  15. Because they lost out on Loney and Locke is an iffy MLB pitcher.

  16. Cumpton, Locke or Stolmy for either Smoak or Ike straight up? Anything worthwhile in those scenarios, anyone?

    • Hmmm, kinda like that idea using Stolmy or Cumpton, but not Locke. I’m thinking everybody’s down on Locke because of his second half. Just because McDonald didn’t bounce back doesn’t mean the same thing will happen with Locke.

      • Good point about Locke. He’s probably worth more than we’d be getting in trade. I was just thinking that it might take him to pry away Smoak, and Locke is dealing from depth.

  17. Unless Seattle or NY is interested in a salary dump, I am not sure why anyone would trade for Jeff Locke -based on his second half performance.

    • For the same reason anyone would trade for Davis, Morrison, Smoak, Moreland, or Lind.

    • Again, Jeff Locke is not James McDonald. You could just tell the way Hurdle and Searage talked about JMac that they were not pleased with some of things he did or didn’t do. JMac’s biggest problem was between his ears.

    • I like Locke, too. Sure, he had a rough 2nd half, but I still think ‘it is in there’.

      jmho.

  18. Here’s an idea that has flown under the radar…. buy very low on Kevin Youkilis. He’s suffered from a back injury last year, but a move to first base could help keep that under wraps (he has played both 1st and 3rd throughout his career). The guy gets a ton of walks, and is the gritty team player type the Pirates like. He may not still be an MVP candidate, but I’d rather see him at first base than Gaby… and he can’t expect to make much this season.

    • I think he’s done isn’t he?

      • No, he wants to play in 2014. He said he would prefer to play close to home in California, but there are zero starting jobs at first or third anywhere out there. I think $3-$4 on a one year “prove himself” deal could get it done, hoping he’d get a better multi-year contract somewhere headed forward.

    • I also think that although he was viewed as a good teammate by fans it has come out over the last few years that he is not a good locker room guy at all. I’ve heard a few reports about him being tough to get along with. He gives 100% but isn’t the great veteran type leader he was thought to be.

    • I’m not Youk is better at this point than Gaby just hitting vs. LHP. That is all I want out of Gaby.

  19. Here is why I wish the Pirates made a bigger push for Loney. I don’t think they should have gone to 4 years but maybe offered a little more money over 3.

    http://www.tampabay.com/sports/baseball/rays/loney-proves-good-fit-with-tampa-bay-rays/2157106

    • I wished we had signed Loney, but we didn’t, so its time to move on, unfortunately.

      I still prefer Lambo. It’s funny in that Davis, a noted partier, is finally ‘getting it’. I would LOVE to have him, but not at a steep cost.

      However, we have a guy with as much power, Lambo, a ‘noted partier’, who is finally ‘getting it’. Why not put HIM at first base?

      • Foo I think at the end of the day NH will not give up much for Davis for the exact reason you stated. Lambo is still an option. NH will be patient and if he doesn’t like what the Mets want he will roll the dice with Lambo knowing other options will present themselves throughout the season.

    • Any team in baseball could’ve signed James Loney last year, and the highest offer he could find was $2m for one year.

      What did he do last year that made him worth a three year commitment and over $20m?

      • NMR I agree and disagree with you. No he’s not worth $7M a year over three years, but he’s a solid player and a very good fielder. And that’s the going rate. If you don’t want to pay it, you don’t have to, but right now that’s the cost of doing business in baseball. So, now, as has been the case way too often during the past few years, we are left with crumbs and now will probably have to overpay in a trade. What ticks me off now, is this isn’t an under .500 team.
        It’s coming off a 94-win season. You don’t experiment with a Lambo at 1B. On opening day would rather have Lambo at 1B or Loney? We should have signed Morneau at $6M for two years.
        The FO said in the past, they would spend when we got to the point of being a contender …to fill in through free agency to put us over the top. Well, they’re not doing it.
        AJ screwed everything up to begin with (and still is) but not making a decision.
        I get so sick of their internal value on players. Just because they have a ‘value’ on a player doesn’t mean that’s what he’s worth.
        I think all the attention and praise paid to NH last season went to his head and now he thinks he’s some kind of genius that will push all the right buttons.

        • You got all that from Huntington not wanting to sign James Loney?

          Whew. Tell me what number to play tonight!

        • Anyways, I understand your frustration.

          I’m sure we’d all love for the owner to start funding the team how we believed he said he would.

          But you see the problem with paying whatever it takes in free agency to fill holes every year, right? Loney is a much better option than Lambo right now. But in basing their decision off that alone, they get stuck with Loney for three years. I promise better first base options will present themselves over that time.

          Like it or not, the Pirates will have major payroll decisions at 3B, SS, 2B, C, and at least 2 SP spots in the next few years, not to mention Cutch getting paid. That absolutely has to be considered when deciding whether or not to commit close to $10m at 1B for no more than average production over that time.

      • Loney doubled his production from 2012 to 2013.

        I guess the market decided he was worth a 3 year commitment and over $20 mil. I would bet the Rays wished they could have signed him for less.

        • And is that production something you’re confident he can replicate?

          That’s the real question, right? I’m sure you agree that the Pirates should be paying guys for what they’ll do in the future, not the past.

          Look, I love all the parts of Loney’s game that get fluffed in these articles. I do. But I can’t help but think he got paid for half a season of good hitting, that was clearly unsustainable.

          • Sure I would hope the Pirates would do that. But a lot of times in baseball that isn’t how it works.

            Do you think Robinson Cano will be worth $20 million in year 8, 9 or 10 of his contract?

            Baseball isn’t like the real world.

            And you seem to be very quick to fluff up the parts and stats you like, and de-fluff a lot of parts that others bring up.

          • Just because other teams sign poor performing contracts doesn’t mean the Pirates should as well.

            And yes, I absolutely “de-fluff” other stats. Not ashamed of that what-so-ever. I fully believe that all stats aren’t equal, and my views reflect that.

          • NMR, maybe I’m not remembering correctly but didn’t you defend the Cano contract or the Ellsbury one. I’m not trying to catch you in any kind of ah-ha moment but wouldn’t Loney’s contract be the Pirate equivalent to a large market team doing that kind of contract. Three years isn’t exactly a long period of time and the going rate for a player of Loney’s ability is 7-8 million.

            Trust me, I like Lambo and would love to see what he can do on a team coming off of 75 wins but this team is already competitive and needs answers more then it needs questions. Loney may not be the best answer but he definitely is less of a question mark then Lambo, Davis or Smoak.

          • Fair question, Nate.

            Couple big differences in my thoughts on the situation.

            First, and most obvious, is total payroll size. Even if the percentages of payroll for Loney and Cano/Ellsbury are similar, the teams that signed Cano/Ellsbury still have about $100m more than the Pirates left to play with. That makes a huge difference.

            Second is the quality of player. Ellsbury and Cano are both true impact guys. Both very capable of outperforming even the large sums they are paid at the beginning of their contracts. The teams that signed them basically traded higher salary up front for potentially unproductive years at the end. Loney isn’t even close to that type of player. Given his position and skill set, he’ll literally have to repeat his peak each year in order to justify that kind of salary on a team like the Rays or Pirates. Looking at his past, he might’ve only had two years to his name in which Pirate fans wouldn’t be upset about paying him the sum he eventually earned.

            I just don’t think that eating up $10m of payroll for average production (including platoon mate) at a low value position is a smart thing for the Piraes to do.

    • Thanks for sharing Thunder. He does a lot of things well that go unnoticed. The Pirates definitely could have used more hitters that have quality at bats. I would much rather have Loney under the Christmas tree then Ike or Smoak. Easy guy to pencil into the lineup and feel good about. Just a solid major league player. It’s OK to have a few of those on the team and 8 million a year doesn’t seem crazy especially when there are so many minimum payroll guys after next year.

      • I’m frustrated as well by the lack of filling that LH 1b platoon need by now. I do not want to see them give up much for Ike Davis or Smoak. But, we need somebody. Lambo may do the job, but my gut tells me he won’t be a competent hitter in his first crack at a defined role on a big league team. That LH hitter at 1b is 450 ABs. I think Lambo’s going to struggle because that is what most guys do – especially guys with good but not great track records. I see him as another Brandon Moss, possibly. It may take a couple of years.

        Ike finished well. Smoak had a nice season batting lefty. If that is what is left, go get one and use our pitching depth. Not Wilson or Watson, though.

        • I get the frustration, I do, but who has the team really missed out on?

          That’s the part of this 1B search that I feel has become overlooked. Corey Hart? Logan Morrison?

          The goal of making a good acquisition seems to have turned into the goal of getting somebody, anybody.

      • I think Loney is the best fielder of the 3, Nate. And, I also think he would hit for the highest batting avg. of the 3. He would also put the ball in play most often. But, would he have the highest OBP? The other 2 guys draw a lot of walks. Would he hit the most HR? No, he’d probably come in 3rd.

        I also think that if Clint got Loney he would have fallen in love with some intangibles and put him in the lineup more often than he should. Clint is still a recovering old school manager. He’s not completely past the old way of thinking at times. When Morneau showed up, Clint stubbornly penciled him in that lineup every day. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t producing. The mind was made up.

        If we get Smoak or Ike, I don’t think that will happen. We could have a true, effective platoon.

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