Pirates Notes: Offseason, Morales, First Base

Pirates GM Neal Huntington says that one reason for the Bucs' relatively quiet offseason is that they didn't want to make moves that would hurt them beyond 2014, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. "We'll see if those situations come back available," says Huntington. "If not, we feel good about this club, we feel good about our core. We've got some guys that are deserving of opportunities and if they can't capitalize on those, then we begin to look elsewhere." After an extremely successful 2013 season, the Pirates' only significant moves this offseason have been signing free agent starting pitcher Edinson Volquez and trading for former Yankees catcher Chris Stewart. A.J. Burnett, one of their top starting pitchers in 2013, remains on the free agent market. Here are more notes on the Pirates.

  • Earlier today, one report suggested that, if the price were low enough, the Pirates would have interest in free agent Kendrys Morales to help them at first base. MLB.com's Tom Singer lists the pros and cons of signing Morales — Morales would help the Pirates at designated hitter in interleague series, Singer says, but his limited ability to play first base regularly is a detriment. Also, of course, there's the fact that Morales would cost the Pirates the No. 25 overall pick in the draft this June.
  • The Pirates' current options at first base include Gaby Sanchez (who will almost certainly make the team as a strong option against lefties), Andrew Lambo and Chris McGuiness. But the Bucs will continue to search for a first baseman to start against right-handers, Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review writes. They might not acquire him until the end of spring training, when teams might be more motivated to make trades as they try to set their rosters.

54 Responses to Pirates Notes: Offseason, Morales, First Base Leave a Reply

  1. Using Morales’ ability to DH as a pro for the Bucs’ signing him shows how much of a stretch him signing there is. Boras should go to every AL team without a DH and ask them to make an offer and take the best one. Playing games with NL teams to jack up his price isn’t going to work.

    • onemanrevival 1 year ago

      This tells me that even Boras isn’t confident in his ability to play first base. Agreed that he needs to go to the AL.

    • johnsilver 1 year ago

      He doesn’t really fit anywhere with teams known to spend. yes.. Baltimre he does, but they need to get some more guys in the farm system and really.. I’d rather have the 1st round pick if I was Duquette in his situation.

    • harmony55 1 year ago

      The defensive shortcomings of Kendrys Morales have been overblown.

      In the two seasons since returning from his injury, Morales has played sparingly at firstbase only because his teams had better defensive options in Albert Pujols and Justin Smoak, respectively.

      Morales has a career UZR/150 of 7.7 in 2,858.2 innings at first base, including a UZR/150 of 11.5 in 241 innings with the Angels in 2012 and a UZR/150 of a negative 6.3 in 274.1 innings with the Mariners in 2013.

      As points of reference, Oriole firstbaseman Chris Davis has a career UZR/150 of a negative 2.3 in 3,470 innings while two-time Gold Glove winner Mark Teixeira of the Yankees has a career UZR/150 of 6.3 in 12,368.1 innings.

      Kendrys Morales may not be a great defensive firstbaseman, but he is at least adequate.

      • Those are very small sample sizes for 2012-2013. Yes there were better options, but that doesn’t mean that he’s suddenly up for the rigor of playing the field after not playing it regularly since 2009.

        Which plays into the risk factor. If we were talking about a low risk situation, then it could be worth a shot. But we’re talking about a guy who would cost the Pirates a first round pick on a potential multi-year deal. That’s a huge commitment to an uncertainty for a team that doesn’t have a ton of flexibility. If an AL team signs him to play 1B, then there’s always the possibility he could fallback to DH if it doesn’t work out. The Bucs would be taking a huge risk for a non-elite hitter. It’s not worth the risk at all.

        • harmony55 1 year ago

          When I think of the rigors of playing in the field, first base is the last positon to come to mind.

          Before I provide the small samples for 2012 and 2013, I gave the career UZR/150 numbers for Kendrys Morales.

          I agree that Morales might not be worth a first-round draft pick, but he should be defensively adequate at first base.

      • The_Unnatural 1 year ago

        You’re forgetting he was ready for the DL after a week of covering 1B for Smoak last season. The guy isn’t an athlete.

        • harmony55 1 year ago

          I’m not sure to what stretch you’re referring, but last season Kendrys Morales never spent a day on the disabled list despite starting at first base in 13 of 14 consecutive games at one point. Only 34 players in all of baseball played more than the 156 games Morales played in 2013.

          A year ago Mike Napoli’s ability to play first base raised more concerns, although Napoli responded by playing in 139 games, including 131 at first base. Morales, who is a year and a half younger with no serious diagnosis, should be able to surpass those numbers.

      • John Cate 1 year ago

        That was what I’ve been thinking on the matter. A first baseman has to be downright abysmal to really hurt a team by playing in the field. You have to be Dave Kingman bad, Frank Thomas bad, Adam Dunn–that kind of bad. Kendrys Morales is bad, but nowhere near that bad. Worst case, he might cost you 10 runs, and since he’s way more than plus-10 with the bat–especially in a better hitter’s park than he’s played in to date–then he can help a team as a first baseman.

        Someone who needs a big bat should bite the bullet, sign the guy, and live with the defense. Put him at DH when you can, and after he’s had his last at-bat, put in a defensive replacement. He’s going to put a lot more runs on the scoreboard than he’s going to let in.

    • Daniel Morairity 1 year ago

      And the only team that morales will sign would be the rangers and i think the rangers can sign him they just need to trade mitch moreland

  2. Christophe Lachance-Tardif 1 year ago

    I’m pretty sure Morales would be an adequate 1B option for the Pirates. Yes he didn’t play much there last season but keep in mind that the Mariners also had Justin Smoak, who is a younger, better fielding first baseman than Morales. If the M’s didn’t had Smoak. Morales would have played about 140 games at 1B and we probably wouldn’t even have this disscution right now because he would be a 1B instead of a DH and his market would be much better.

    • macdice 1 year ago

      Or how about just trading for Smoak who doesn’t really fit into the Mariners plans with Logan Morrison and Corey Hart on the team.

      • johnsilver 1 year ago

        Seattle might still be in on Morales after they move one of Miller/Franklin and one of the 1b/DH options for a back end SP type if they go that route and Morales market is even slower to develop.. As in during ST.

  3. Todd Smith 1 year ago

    Kendrys Morales had a .785 OPS last season in Seattle. The only Pirates who hit better than that last year were McCutchen and Byrd. Morales hit .277/.336/.449 last year. Pedro hit .233/.296/.473 last year. This would be a significant upgrade to the lineup.

    When Morales has played 1st in the past, he’s been quite good defensively. He has a career 7.7 UZR/150 over 2800+ innings at 1B. It’s up to the Pirates training staff to determine if he is healthy enough to play defense everyday. If so, get the deal done.

    • monkeyking42 1 year ago

      Probably better to look at his numbers since coming back from the injury. He’s only put in about 500 innings on the field, and UZR has him at +1.1 in that time, while DRS and rPM both say -3.

      Small sample warnings, of course, and I’m not sure any of the systems have really nailed 1B defense yet.

  4. Three Definitions of Leader 1 year ago

    Hopefully the Bucs can re-sign Burnett.

  5. Tommy Sohn 1 year ago

    Freaking sign him bucs!

  6. Nathan Boley 1 year ago

    Count me among those happy to see a lack of moves this offseason. Remember that we got to where we were last year without Morneau or Byrd for the majority of the season. The only loss of any substance is Burnett, and there is a chance he will return. Younger guys like Cutch, Marte, Pedro, Cole and Tabata should all improve. There are highly touted prospects ready to join when August rolls around.

    I would be much, much more worried if they signed Morales, especially when it comes to giving up that draft pick.

    • Todd Smith 1 year ago

      I agree that guys like Cutch, Marte, Pedro and Cole should all continue to improve….and adding guys from within like Polanco, Taillon and Kingham will be a huge boost. Unfortunately – none of them can play 1st base.

      As good as the Pirates farm system is, 1st base is pretty barren in the system. You either have to cross your fingers with guys like Lambo, Hague or Curry – or you have to go find a 1st baseman somewhere else. For me, I’d rather trade a late round pick for a known commodity like Morales – who instantly becomes the 2nd best bat in the lineup – rather than trade a guy like Justin Wilson for an Ike Davis and hope he can somehow manage to figure things out.

      • Nathan Boley 1 year ago

        If the Pirates trade a stud like Justin Wilson for a guy like Ike Davis, the Pirates have bigger issues.

        I would be much more inclined (and I’m assuming many other teams would be too) to sign Morales if it didn’t mean losing a draft pick. The Pirates have drafted exceedingly well lately and I would have tough time giving up a quality first-rounder for a guy like Morales, who would likely sign for one, maybe two years with the Pirates.

        • Todd Smith 1 year ago

          Would you trade Pedro Alvarez for a 1st round compensation pick?

          • Nathan Boley 1 year ago

            No but Pedro’s overall value is higher than Morales. He’s younger, healthier and a proven contributor with the Pirates. He will also cost less, at least for the time being.

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            So, the #27 pick is far more valuable than a guy who hit .277/.336/.449 last year and the #32 pick is far less valuable than a guy who hit .233/.296/.473 last year. Nonsense.

          • Nathan Boley 1 year ago

            You’re not factoring in contracts and injury history which do have a large impact on a player’s net value. I know Morales has better stats than Pedro but he also has several hindrances (one of them being a free agent) that makes him less valuable, in my mind, than Pedro. I wouldn’t trade Pedro straight up for Morales.

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            I wouldn’t trade Pedro for Morales either. Luckily, they don’t have to. All they have to give up is a late round pick which is clearly less valuable than both Pedro and Morales.

          • StevePegues 1 year ago

            Any first round pick is pretty valuable. Yeah, you gotta wait to see if the pick pays off, but you also gotta wait to see what that FA you wanna sign does. What if he tanks or gets injured? Happens all the time, and then you kick yourself for losing that draft pick.

            I think that GM’s factor that kind of risk into their free agent calculus and fans mostly don’t.

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            When Huntington traded a first round pick for Gaby Sanchez, this is what he had to say:

            “…you recognize there’s about a 15% chance of getting an everyday big-leaguer in the 30-to-40 pick range. We felt like it was worth that 15% chance that we were going to get an everyday big-leaguer. You’ve also got a smaller chance to get an impact guy like David Wright, but you’ve got about a 60% miss rate at those picks, and in our minds, it’s going to be even [higher] now that the draft is much more scripted than it’s ever been.”

            I can’t imagine his opinion has changed much since then. If Gaby is worth a #32 pick, clearly Morales is worth a #27 pick. To even trade for a guy like Ike Davis or Smoak, they would likely have to give away a player or prospect more valuable than that #27 pick.

            The only real question here is whether Morales is healthy enough to play, and if they can get him for the right price. Considering there is no real market for Morales right now, price probably isn’t a big issue. If he checks out with the doctors, this should be a no brainer signing.

          • StevePegues 1 year ago

            “I can’t imagine his opinion has changed much since then. If Gaby is worth a #32 pick, clearly Morales is worth a #27 pick.”
            No, not necessarily. In July 2012, the team was looking for a player for the stretch run. Sanchez cost Gorkys Hernandez and the pick and not much money. And he came with Kyle Kaminska.

            It’s now 2014. If you sign Morales, you have him for the whole season, barring some weird, unforeseen trade. All that’s needed is a platoon partner for Sanchez. But Morales ain’t coming cheap in terms of dollars and also costs a draft pick. Not sure if it’s smart to pay that kind of top dollar when all you’re looking for is a platoon player.

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            I’ll never understand this idea that the Pirates should actively be looking for a player who is awful against left handed pitching…Platoons usually look much better on paper than in real life. See Matt Diaz/Garrett Jones in RF a few years ago. …but even if that is the case – what do you have to give up to get a guy like Smoak or Davis in a trade? Would you rather give up the pick, or a guy like Justin Wilson? And in the end, you still end up with a part time player who isn’t as good as Morales.

            I’m not so sure that Morales is really going to be that expensive either. Who else is bidding against the Pirates? The Pirates could probably throw out an incentive based deal similar to what they did with Liriano with a 2nd year option. Base the incentives on games started or days off the DL if his health really is an issue..

          • StevePegues 1 year ago

            They’re looking for that kind of player because– I assume– it’s all they think they need and can reasonably afford.

            If they’re right and they find that kind of player, then he’s probably not gonna be too expensive in terms of dollars, trade cost, or draft pick cost. If they’re right and they can’t find that kind of player, then– again I assume– they’ll go forward with what they got in-house, rather than overpay, and try to cobble together something at 1B, and see what develops as the trade deadline approaches. And if they’re wrong… well, then it’s a long season.

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            You assume they are looking for that kind of player even though the reports say they are interested in Morales. I assume that’s because they actually want to improve the team.

          • StevePegues 1 year ago

            Where does it say they’re interested in Morales for full-time 1B and that they’re willing to pay him as if he were? I musta missed it.

            But even if Morales is a good choice for full-time 1B, if he’s not strictly needed, it’s not a smart idea to pay top dollar for him. I’d like one of those fancy, huge stainless steel refrigerators for my kitchen, so I’ll pick one up if I can snag a good bargain. But my current frige works perfectly well and still looks nice, so there’s no real need for the fancy one.

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            Sometimes it helps to actually read the article you’re commenting on.

            “Earlier today, one report suggested that, if the price were low enough, the Pirates would have interest in free agent Kendrys Morales to help them at first base.”

            The idea that the Pirates should try their hardest to find the worst and cheapest player available is hardly what I call a smart idea.

          • StevePegues 1 year ago

            “Help them at fist base” means “we want Morales to be the full-time 1B?”

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            Well….yeah. Did you think that means they want him to play catcher?

          • StevePegues 1 year ago

            It seems like we’re each reading something different into an ambiguous statement. I read that to say they’re only looking for a part-timer.

          • Todd Smith 1 year ago

            It wouldn’t make any sense to sign a Kendrys Morales and then just put him on the bench as a part time player. It’s like reading the reports that the Pirates are interested in bringing AJ Burnett back and wondering if they plan to put him in the bullpen.

          • Idk why you are talking about if its smart to pay the dollars you will have to for Morales. Its been clearly stated that on the right contract for the bucs they would sign him. Therefore it wouldn’t be this top dollar you insinuate

          • Idk why you are talking about if its smart to pay the dollars you will have to for Morales. Its been clearly stated that on the right contract for the bucs they would sign him. Therefore it wouldn’t be this top dollar you insinuate

          • toddcoffeytime 1 year ago

            A first round pick after the first 10 or 12 isn’t really worth that much more than a 2nd or 3rd round pick in most drafts. For a team like the Pirates, giving up a late 1st rounder to get a few extra WAR at first base (which could mean the difference between playoffs or no playoffs) is worth it.

    • Jg941 1 year ago

      But they didn’t get to where they ended up – the playoffs – without Byrd and Morneau. Can’t forget the impact that Byrd had on the overall lineup – inserting him in the middle trickled down to improvements at several other batting order spots as those folks moved down. And Morneau at least was a big improvement on defense and in getting on base.
      Don’t think Morales makes sense for the Bucs, but don’t be too confident in the quality of their offense and don’t underestimate the broader effect of inserting another good/better bat into their lineup. That may start to happen if Polanco arrives, but the team starting off 2014 isn’t as good overall as the one that lost Game 5 to the Cards in 2013.

  7. blurb 1 year ago

    never really thought about it before, but there are some similarities between pit and atl in how they stand right now: both are two young teams that had quiet offseasons. i’d say atl overall is maybe a slightly better-rounded team, but still… seems like both front offices have faith in their young players. really excited to see how both teams do next season.

    • Nathan Boley 1 year ago

      What’s weird is that I think Atlanta is a better team than the Bucs, but I don’t think Atlanta would have a chance against us in a series. We have all these strikeout pitchers and all the Braves do is strike out.

      I was praying for Atlanta to beat LA in the NLDS last year. I thought the Pirates would have an incredible matchup. Of course, both teams lost so it didn’t matter.

    • Rico Carson 1 year ago

      Pittsburgh is a better team than Atlanta. Atlanta just played in a significantly weaker division. Pittsburgh did not lose as much this offseason as the Braves did, and they may have been a better team than the Braves last year as well.

  8. Smrtbusnisman04 1 year ago

    With the lack of 1B prospects in the system, and the abundance of OF prospects in the system, would the Pirates consider moving Austin Meadows to 1B? If he moves quickly, he could be in Pittsburgh by Opening Day 2016. I could see the Pirates trading Starling Marte in two years, but the Pirates still have alot of outfielders in the system, like Josh Bell or Harold Ramirez

    • GrilledCheese39 1 year ago

      No way does Meadows get here by 2016.. He’s projected mid year 2017, plus the Pirates seem to move people slow..

    • todd Rainey 1 year ago

      I could see Josh Bell getting moved before meadows. He already had a knee issue.

  9. Guest 1 year ago

    I would not be at all surprised if Morales had to wait until after the draft to get a fair/decent deal. The market for him is so small and consists mainly of teams who have no reason to get rid of draft picks because they are small market teams that live and die by the draft or are in rebuilding mode. Not saying an GM won’t sign him for a deal with more than 14.1 guaranteed money, but Morales should have stayed in Seattle and accepted the QO.

  10. Smrtbusnisman04 1 year ago

    Brett Wallace anyone?

    • Todd Smith 1 year ago

      Would be better than doing nothing, but there are still better options available worth pursuing.

      • connfyoozed . 1 year ago

        Agree with both of you. If Wallace can be had on the cheap, he is worth looking into acquiring… but whether they land Wallace or not, I would keep looking for 1B upgrades.

  11. Tintin 1 year ago

    Morales is not a bad player, but he’s not worth a 3 year deal at say 10 per.
    1). He doesn’t play defense and he hasn’t in 4 years…and 1b is the easiest place on the field to play. He’s a DL.
    2). It’s not so much the pick, but the draft $$$ that comes with the pick. A good team can make this work for them, but losing the dollars that comes with the pick works against a team for the whole draft.

  12. LetsGoBucs92122 1 year ago

    Morales isn’t worth a first round pick, especially for a NL team. Be patient and see what turns up during spring training.

    I’m still hoping that the Bucs and Burnett can agree on a deal. It’s the best fit for AJ and another quality arm for the rotation. Always need depth throughout the course of a season.

    • Ron Loreski 1 year ago

      I wouldn’t rule out the Red Sox making Mike Carp available at the end of Spring Training. They’re talking about giving Middlebrooks and Lavarnway some time at 1B, which makes Carp expendable.

      IMO Carp would be the best option available, and could probably be had for some bullpen pieces.

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