The Pirates’ last, best hope at first base?


SOUTH HILLS –  With the Mets indicating they’ve taken Ike Davis off the market, with  James Loney and Corey Hart and Logan Morrison definitely off the market, there are few obvious external candidates to fill one of the Pirates’ greatest needs – a left-handed hitting first baseman.

Jamey Newberg, who blogs and writes about the Rangers, thinks it’s possible the Rangers and Pirates revisit trade talks for Mitch Moreland, particularly if the Rangers come to terms with a a free agent like Nelson Cruz or Kendrys Morales. While it’s approaching February, there are still significant free agent dominoes to fall that could stir up the trade market.


“Recall when Peter Gammons said on MLB Network during the Winter Meetings that Texas and Pittsburgh were discussing a deal that would send Moreland to the Pirates for left-handed reliever Justin Wilson, whose power repertoire would fit great here — especially now that Robbie Ross could be asked to audition for a rotation spot in Derek Holland’s absence.  Wilson would be under club control for the next five seasons.  Neal Cotts can be a free agent a year from now. ….

“I’ve written a couple times this winter about my guess that Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who was Moreland’s batting coach when he broke into the big leagues in 2010 (putting up an .879 OPS over the season’s final month and then hitting .348/.400/.500 in 51 playoff plate appearances), is probably a Moreland fan…..

“Not that I’m sure the Pirates would make that deal.  They evidently wouldn’t in December (or perhaps it was Texas that wouldn’t sign off on the trade that Gammons thought was imminent), but the first base options are far fewer now for Pittsburgh than they were then…..


Moreland makes some sense. He’s a career .258/.325/.468 hitter vs. right-handed pitching with respectable .205 isolated power. But he has played his home games in a hitter’s paradise.


I can understand why Justin Wilson is a stumbling block. He’s a lefty who hit 100 mph last season and made the back end of the Pirates’ bullpen dynamic. I’m not sure many teams have the late-game lefty combo like Wilson and Tony Watson. It’s especially valuable when facing division foes Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Matt Carpenter, Oscar Taveras and Matt Adams in future late-game situations. And if you’re giving up Wilson, I’d call on Justin Smoak before Moreland, Smoak who has more upside and has had his value depressed in an awful hitting environment.


The price might be too high but Moreland might be the only bat left on the market that fits the Pirates’ needs and fits their budget.




As of today, Andrew Lambo is likely the leading platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez. Hurdle believes Lambo deserves a shot at the major league level. He thinks the Pirates need to find out if the bat is real.  The power might be better thank we think — and we think it’s pretty good. Lambo’s 32 homers last year were impressive but Baseball America has an interesting report that suggests Lambo’s power was significantly affected by his minor league home ballpark.


•  Double-A Altoona played host to the fewest home runs per game in the Eastern League from 2010-12, a fact probably not lost on Pirates left fielder Andrew Lambo after he hit two of 14 homers there in 2013. Despite a home-park handicap, he still managed to rank fifth in the minors with 32 homers overall, a total that included 18 at Triple-A Indianapolis (eight home/10 road).


Oh, and it looks like the Cardinals just might have another under-the-radar Allen Craig/Carpenter type prospect moving through the system.


• Cardinals prospects face a dramatic shift in park effects as they venture from high Class A Palm Beach, which features the fewest homers in the Florida State League, to Double-A Springfield, home to the most longballs in the Texas League. The travails of right fielderStephen Piscotty in 2013 illustrate this point, after he hit zero of his nine homers for Palm Beach at home and then hit five of six for Springfield at home. With another year in right field under his belt combined with more favorable home parks in 2014, Piscotty could emerge on the national prospect scene.


Lambo is going to swing-and-miss. He’s going to hit for a low average. He’ll walk at a league average rate. But he’ll hit for power. Kind of sounds like Pedro Alvarez 2.0. And at this point, I think the Pirates would rather take a chance with Lambo than trade an asset like Wilson.