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Transaction analysis: Pirates like Ike. Should you?


SOUTH HILLS – The man hunt is over.

The Pirates finally found their left-handed hitting 1B on Friday, a search that had been ongoing since the team parted ways with Garret Jones and did not resign Justin Morneau back in October. The Pirates were connected Ike Davis way back on Dec. 17. Though the Pirates lost out in the bidding for James Loney, though they did not heavily engage in the Jose Abreu sweepstakes and initially settled on March Cinderella man Travis Ishikawaka for the lefty-hitting Opening Day roster spot, GM Neal Huntington indicated the search for an upgrade at first base had not ended.

Just as Huntington and the Pirates were patient in waiting for the price on Morneau to come down last summer, they were also apparently willing to wait for the ask on Davis to decline. And this time, the acquisition could be more than a short-term fix and Davis under club control thru 2016. The Mets had two left-handed first basemen and had elected to give Lucas Duda the bulk of playing time.

So the Pirates have found their lefty bat.

I think I like Ike.

The Pirates seem to like Ike.

Should you like Ike?



Campaign button from Ike’s first base competition this spring


*Davis is a former first-round pick – 2008 – who hit a rough patch. The Pirates like to target pedigree with diminished stock. Progression-to-the-mean ideology.

*Davis has a career .828 OPS against right-handed pitching. That’s the key number. Pair that with Gaby Sanchez‘s excellent numbers against left-handed pitching and the Pirates should now have a platoon that effectively gives them above-average production from first base, which is one of their biggest issues entering the offseason.

Expect a cookie-cutter platoon.

“The word ‘platoon’ gets thrown around a lot,” Huntington said. “I think this will be where (manager) Clint (Hurdle) will use his judgment. I think this will allow Clint to use his bench a little more as a bench instead of a platoon bench as he’s had to do to this point.”

*The power is real. Davis had a career-high 32 homers in 2012, telling of his power, but he also struggled mightily in 2013 – earning a demotion to the minor leagues. He was also affected by injury in 2013.

*Upon his return to the major league club last season, Davis led the National League with a .449 on-base percentage in the second half of the season. He has a blend of power and patience with a 12.2 percent career walk rate.

*His swing has a hitch, it’s a long, and it’s going to require upkeep and make him subject to streaks. Davis was a 3.1 WAR player in 2010. But he produced 2.1 combined WAR over the last three seasons. There is plenty of risk and frustration laden in his profile.

*He’s getting more expensive. He has a $3.5 million salary in 2014. He’ll hit Arb 3 this offseason and Arb 4 entering 2016. He’s a free agent in 2017. But the Pirates are willing to pay those costs.

“Hopefully this is a move that solves our first-base needs for years to come,” Huntington said.


Davis is a flawed player but he fits what the Pirates’ need and he apparently comes at a reduced price: Zach Thornton and a PTBNL.

Thornton has put up some huge numbers as a reliever at Triple-A, but he’s going to be 26 in a few weeks and the Pirates have a surplus of relievers. Huntington has indicated the Pirates would like to trade from that surplus, which is wise since bullpen arms most subject to wild swings of performance and the Pirates’ major league roster and long-term plans are not effected. The PTBNL will be interesting but unless the Pirates are giving away Tyler Glasnow, the deal makes sense for both clubs. (The Mets received a borderline top 10 prospect in Dilson Herrera for a month of Marlon Byrd last year so the PTBNL could be significant.)

Davis reminds me a bit of former Pirate Adam LaRoche another streaky but effective left-handed first baseman. They have similar raw power, they have similar walk rates, they’ve each been subject to streaks, to good years and bad. LaRoche has had more productive seasons but he’s also 34. Davis could become LaRoche. He is 27.

The Pirates had no immediate help coming up the pipeline. Travis Ishikawa is a nice story and could be a useful bench bat but he shouldn’t be receiving the lion’s share of playing time. The Pirates needed help at first base. The searched all winter and they finally have it. So, do you like Ike?

– TS



  1. Nate83 says:

    I’m guessing the PTBNL is not a top 10 prospect in our system. If it was he wouldn’t be named later, it would have already happened. I think it could be a 2013 draft pick which can’t be traded until 1 year with the team or they are picking from a group of players that they now want to scout. Maybe but hopefully not including the group of pitchers they have in the 15-20 prospect ranking range. Hopefully it’s one of their young outfield prospects not named Bell. They seem to have some depth in that area.

  2. Nate83 says:

    I also like Ike. The walk rate has always been there. You have to like the OPS against right handers. I know that is helped by his 2012 year but it’s also hurt by his 2013 year. I’d like to think it’s about where he belongs. If he didn’t have a nice bounce back couple of months at the end of last year I would be a little skeptical but he did so I’m willing to see what he is capable of in a lower pressure situation.

  3. bourgmic says:

    I don’t know if “excited” is the best word to describe how I feel about this trade, but I am certainly encouraged by it. It shows that the front office is willing to make moves to improve the big league club and not just sit on what they have. It also shows that they are not going to “give up the farm” either (Huntington’s trades last year also showed this as well). I think for what the Pirates need right now, this deal makes perfect sense and as long as Gaby and Ike can maintain their career platoon numbers then the team will get solid production from first base all year.

    I am more concerned with what they will do if Wandy continues to struggle. Do they call up Locke? Or do they give someone like Gomez a spot start? Cole and Liriano have not been outstanding so far, but they also have not been horrible and I think that they will improve over the coming months.

  4. bpn8pitt says:

    Where does he bat?

  5. Andrew says:

    Fifth? Even adding in Davis’s below average 2013, he is essentially Alvarez but walks a little more, strikeouts a little less, and is slightly worse against LHP. Hopefully, his issues from last year were or can be fixed, because he was weakly pounding balls into the ground and struggling against the fastball.

  6. bpn8pitt says:

    Thanks Andrew. Hoping he recaptures 2012.

  7. piratemike says:

    It looks like this team has a hangover from last year.
    They bathed in the glory of a great year in the off season and I guess they thought all they had to do was step on the field to win this year. They were too busy trying to find new ways to celebrate, like pulling out their six shooters but all it looks like is they are just shooting themselves in the foot with those six shooters.
    As for acquiring Davis I don’t know how this will turn out but I guess Neal had to do something.
    I just hate that the Pirates will have to give up a really good prospect who down the road will be a good player for the Mets when Davis will only be remembered as the guy in the deal that the Pirates got hosed again by Sandy Alderson.

  8. bpn8pitt says:

    I honestly wish the Pirates would consider moving more prospects from time to time.

    Brooks Pounders, Robbie Grossman, Chris Holt. Rudy Owens.

    Not every prospect turns into an All Star, mike. I realize they got a highly rated system, but most of those guys will bust instead of boom.

    But I hear what your saying. Maybe they should of made a sizable investment in 1b, 2 or 3 years ago and the Overbay, Clement, Gabykawa, and Davis band aids wouldn’t be necessary.

  9. The Czar says:

    I like the move and wonder how this lineup looks say end of June?
    Could be a force to be reckoned with. At least I hope so…

  10. FLACOOP says:


  11. Flbucco says:

    Excuse me – he is not now anything close to Pedro in power – his fluke 32 hr year is in the distant past

  12. T.S. says:


  13. Ed says:

    Barring an unforseen miracle Ike will he another in a long line of failures at first base…Eldred, Overbay you name it. Should have kept Morneau or ponied up for Trumbo. Trumbo would have been great protection for Pedro.

  14. cmat0829 says:

    Ask for Trumbo would have been Taillon plus 2 other prospects, decent ones at that. You woudl’ve been ok with that? I wouldn’t. Power bats, with high strikeout totals and middling defense are things at even teams with the Pirates resources can pretty easily acquire. Young, ace starting pitching. Zero chance outside of the draft.

    Ask Kevin Towers, after he is canned in about 20 days or so, if he wants a Trumbo do-over. Answer is yes.

  15. James says:

    I like Ike. I don’t like the trade.

    Baseball players improve with repetition. Platooning at any position does not work. Clint has historically utilized the “hot hand” at positions where there are two players with complimenting strengths. I would prefer to see Clint and Neal anoint an everyday first basemen and stand by them through the ups and downs. Gaby stated very early in the spring that he worked his tail off and wanted to prove to management and the fans that he is an every day first basemen. So Ishikawa gets the opening day/week start? Gaby earned the confidence investment that he did not receive.

    Last year the Fans clamored for Andrew Lambo. And in Indianapolis the Pirates now have four almost but not quite good enough 1st basemen. Lambo can move to the outfield but why? The Pirates have collected a plethora of just short of the mark players in an attempt to find a platoon that works. All of these players have worked the back sides off with the dream and goal of being in the bigs. So the payoff is is telling them they are good enough on Tuesday, laid off on Wednesday but stay close because Thursday your good enough again.

    Polanco arrives in Pittsburgh this June. Tabata or Snider platooning with him? Next year Bell? Two to three years from now Meadows?

    So now they bring in Davis. First rounder with great potential and an apparent flaw in the swing that keeps him from being good enough on today but outstanding tomorrow. Excellent.

  16. LeeFoo says:

    I am with T.S……a big fat NOPE!!!!

    Eisenhower was okay, tho….His son used to play in one of our APBA leagues :)

  17. Leo Walter says:

    How about Compton ? He has been excellent, if not lights out. Locke, not so much in his 1 AAA start.

  18. Leo Walter says:

    not Compton ! Cumpton…..sorry for the typo.

  19. Leo Walter says:

    +++ cmat

  20. NorthPirateFan says:

    Still saying the same thing after the trade that I did when Davis’ name first popped up… Ike is decent, his power numbers will benefit from playing at PNC but it’s still too small a move to address a big problem.

    The Pirates are currently getting below average production at three of the four corner positions and a successful Davis/Sanchez platoon merely gets them to average or slightly above at one of them …

    Not going to be a contender with that kind of production especially considering the pitching is now looking more mortal than last year.

    Only good thing that can be said about the Pirates first base moves is that they thankfully dodge the Logan Morrison bullet.

  21. NorthPirateFan says:

    A couple problems … first Lambo ain’t moving to the outfield as he was moved FROM the outfield to first as an experiment.

    Second, When Polanco is ready to come up he won’t be platooning with anyone, at least not for very long. Polanco’s arrival in Pittsburgh almost certainly means the end of Tabata’s Pirate career and the team is just hoping he puts up numbers good enough to make him trade worthy so they don’t have to release him and eat all that contract. Snider likely get’s as much time resting Marte against RHP as he does Polanco.

    Third, as hopeful as I am for Bell’s recover and development he’s still in high A ball so it seems quite unlikely he’ll be in Pittsburgh next year.

  22. Steelkings says:

    The Dreaded SK 9 Inning game:

    1st inning:
    Dont put all the blame on Jason Grilli and his below average hanging over the middle hard stuff that he telegraphs to really good hitters. Give some of the credit to the Brewers MVP Ryan Braun who comes through for his team in the clutch, unlike our MVP who does not. Hey Andrew, You are being out hit by Starling Marte. Nuff Said!

    2nd Inning:
    Travis Snider threw a few punches yesterday during the brawl. Pirate fans were not surprised by more weak contact after a swing and a miss.

    3rd Inning:
    20 clubs (None Named Pittsburgh) attended Joel Hanrahan’s private work out. Hanrahan threw the ball in the mid 90’s with movement.

    4th Inning:
    Hurdle said; (About Wandy)
    ““It’s uncharted territory for me as it is for him. He didn’t have the surgery, sometimes you have the surgery, you get mph. He didn’t have the surgery,” Hurdle said. “Time will tell. Right now it is sitting on where it’s sitting.”

    Uh Oh! Locke better get it together pretty quick.

    On to the 5th:
    Guess who leads the Major leagues in being struck out? Thats right. The Pirates 2nd leading hitter. He’s on pace to reach 300. I thought fast guys needed to put the ball in play.

    Top of the 6th:
    Here comes Leake, Cueto, Simon and Cingrani. two guys who have dominated the Pirates and two guys who has dominated everyone else so far.

    7th inning stretch:
    If the Pirate offense continues to flounder and they fall farther behind the Brewers, And if Polanco continues to go 3 for 5 every night, the cry to bring him up will get louder and louder. If the offensive slump continues for a few more weeks the Pirates could find themselves double digit games back of the leaders and the season over before the end of May.

    8th Inning:
    4 with the Reds, 3 @ the Cardinals, 2 @ Baltimore, 3 against the Blue Jays, 3 Vs the Giants, 3 more against the Cardinals, Then they get to go back to Milwaukee. Then off to Yankee stadium, Then they get the Orioles, 4 with the Nationals, Finally a break with 3 against the Mets before finishing the month of May with 3 in LA against the Dodgers. As I said, if the offense doesn’t get going they could be kicking at the lid by the end of May.

    The 9th:
    We are losing our swag. Perhaps we need this:

  23. NMR says:

    Davis purposely took an outside pitch to left field two more times in his first game than I’ve ever seen him do before in his entire career. So there’s that.

    But yeah, this ain’t gonna do it.

  24. Botherhood of the Redus says:

    Pedro and Cutch get white hot this week and everyone feels much better

  25. NMR says:

    Thatta boy, Steel!

    1) Ridiculous.

    2) Hilarious.

    5) Serious concern for the Pirates. Marte’s contact issues are glaring right now. Not only is he striking out profusely, but he’s popping up one out of every six pitches he manages to put in play and has just five extra base hits.

    7) The Pirates are 6th in the NL in runs scored and one run out of 4th. The offense has been just fine.

  26. Nate83 says:

    That’s just about right Redus. Everyone needs to take a deep breath. The Pirates have decent overall offensive numbers. They are currently 6th in the NL in runs scored. The problem is it has been feast or famine. They have been losing games 8-7 and 2-1. It seems like that when they score runs they have a bad pitching outing and when they have a good starting pitching they don’t get runs.

    5 blown saves hurt and has to be rectified. Morton and Wandy struggling hurts but they had pitchers struggling early last year. They will either get better or be replaced by other options. Cumpton looks to be a pretty solid pitcher again this year. They actually have a +1 run differential so some bad luck has come into play.

  27. NorthPirateFan says:

    The Pirates offense is not fine by any stretch of the imagination. That 6th in the NL is a small sample distortion … 23 of their 80 run total came in two weather impacted games which are no more indicative of their production than the two they got shut-out in.

    They’re averaging an utterly dismal 3.35 runs per game in the other 17 games, 4.21 per with them included. If you adjust those two anomalies using the higher average that’s 3.44 runs per game which puts them on a pace to score a very poor 557 runs for the year.

  28. NorthPirateFan says:

    They’re over all numbers are bloated because of the 12 and 11 run games on the 4th and 17th … that won’t hold up and every game with bring their over all production closer to the 3.21 runs they’ve scored in the other 17 games.

  29. NorthPirateFan says:

    Why would anyone feel better about a two man offense?

  30. NMR says:

    Hahaha, speaking of distorting small samples…

  31. NMR says:

    Let’s play the game where we pick out the stats that DON’T support our opinion and project the rest of the season based on what is left!

  32. NMR says:

    Travis, I must say that your headshot in the print edition is much more refined that online. ;)

  33. Steelkings says:

    _NMR Said;
    7) he Pirates are 6th in the NL in runs scored and one run out of 4th. The offense has been just fine.

    Thats kind of fools gold right there!

    1. It washes because they are 7th in runs allowed.
    2. They are 2nd in Hr’s hit and tied for first in HR’s allowed.
    3. They are 26th in BA. at .232
    4. They are 17th in hits.
    5. They are all alone in 7th in getting struck out.

    What I’m saying is, soon the air will be warmer and more humid and the ball will not fly as well. Of the Pirates 80 runs scored, 24 of them have come from the long ball. That’s about a 1/3rd. On average most major league teams Runs to HR ratio is at about 1/5th. And that will drop too.

    With that said, the offense is not just fine.

  34. NorthPirateFan says:

    Nonsense. The Pirate’s offense is not capable of maintaining the 4.21 runs per games their totals thus far show them at.

    Regression to the mean doesn’t apply to individual performances only.

  35. Steelkings says:

    Also the hitting would be just fine if the Pitching was better.
    In the division in runs allowed

    Pirates : 79
    Cubs: 76
    Brewers: 63
    Cards: 63
    Reds: 62

  36. Andrew says:

    North I cannot follow your argument. The Pirates offense currently has a .314 wOBA (9th in NL), and 98 wRC+ (9th in the NL), the offense has been around league average and slightly below after the most recent performance, while maintaining .274 BABIP (14th in the NL) I checked this a couple times and wRC+ bounces around from 92 to 108, so you know, the volatility of small samples thus lack of predictive value.

    Additionally I am not sure why you are complaining about run distribution when the differing Pythag methods have the Pirates expected record of 9-10 or 10-9. Fangraphs give projected runs scored and runs against. For the Pirates ROS RS/G 4.04, RA/G 3.91

    Pirates are currently 8-11 because their pitching both starters and bullpen have performed at replacement level. A huge reason for this is performance in high leverage situations, now this in only 122 batters faced, so I do not put any predictive value in it but, the biggest issue this year has been the Pirates pitching, not offense.

    High leverage situations
    2013: FIP 2.89 (2nd in the MLB)
    2014: FIP 5.78 (29th in the MLB)

  37. NorthPirateFan says:

    What, you mean Neil Walker isn’t going to really hit 51 homer runs and Gabby Sanchez isn’t going to hit 26 either ?

  38. NMR says:

    Absolutely no idea where you’re going with any of that, Steel.

  39. NMR says:

    Oh please, tell me all you know about regression!

  40. Andrew says:

    Interesting starting nine Steel, I don’t have much to add expect Wandy’s performance makes no sense right now.

    NMR, Marte has only hit 2 pop ups, I think the 1 in 6 is the amount of fly balls, but definitely contact issue are there despite the walks, he also hit only 3 pop ups all of last year.

  41. NorthPirateFan says:

    The hitting would not be fine even with better pitching … the offense has scored fewer than 3 runs more than half it of its so far, 10 of 19, the pitching would have phenomenal, better than it was at this point last season to cover that much inadequacy.

    The totals look superficially adequate due to a few outliers, both game results and individual performances, that time will soon erase.

  42. Nate83 says:

    That is why I pointed out the 5 blown saves. I’m not sure how long it took for them to get to that number last year but I’m confident it was probably after the all star break.

    The starting pitching will work itself out. There are options. I’m not saying those options will put up a sub 3.5 ERA but they will at least give the team a chance to win. Currently when Wandy and to some extend Morton go out to pitch the Pirates have little chance to win. They will either pitch better or be replaced by somebody who at least gives the team a chance.

  43. Steelkings says:

    I mean the offense was putrid last year too. They finished 20th in runs scored. Pitching more than made up for it. In that sense, last year the offense was just fine. This year However………….

  44. Steelkings says:

    Let me throw some common sense into the offensive offensive argument.

    You can throw at me the FIP, wRC+, BABIP, ROS RS/G, PDQ, USSSA and LOL. But the ole Uncle Steelkings E.Y.E test shows how the Pirates scored 2 runs in 14 innings yesterday.

    That’s 9 games this year when they have scored 2 runs or less. Debate that!

  45. Nate83 says:

    I agree that needs to be better but I don’t think most realize how common it is to score 2 or fewer runs in MLB games. The Cardinals and Nationals both have accomplished that same thing 7 times this year and nobody would argue they are bad offensive teams. The Brewers who have the best record in the NL have done it 6 times. It happens to every team.

    They just scored 12 runs combined in 3 losses. That’s enough offensive output to win. Especially at PNC park. The offense could be better but it is hardly the number 1 reason for the current record. Pitching and defense has been below what I would expect for this team and I expect that to level off. Probably not to last years levels but it will be better then current numbers.

  46. NorthPirateFan says:

    Exactly, the expectation that the pitching will ever be able to consistently put up sub 2 ERAs and win many of those games in just not realistic.

  47. NorthPirateFan says:

    There’s no one number 1 reason for the record that’s the point … both the pitching and offense are not performing as well as they need to in order to get and keep them in contention.

    But some people want to lay it all on the pitching and claim the hitting is fine when it’s clearly not been.

  48. Nate83 says:

    No the expectation that a team can consistently put up 4 or more runs is unrealistic. Every team is going to have many more games scoring 0,1 or 2 runs then you realize. That is how an average comes out to 3.5-4.0 runs which is what most teams average.

    For every game that you score 11 runs like the Pirates did in the first game of this series you are going to have a few games with 3 or fewer runs. Your pitching is going to have to win you some of those games if you want to get to more then 87 wins which is what gets you in the playoffs most years. Good teams win a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games. They win yesterday if their bullpen does their job.

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