Buster Olney is reporting that The Angels are listening to offers for first baseman Mark Trumbo in return for young pitching. The Pirates have a need at first base. Justin Morneau is a free agent while the platoon of Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez are arbitration eligible non-tender candidates. Morneau and Jones are both players on the decline. The Pirates could stick with the status quo and tender arbitration offers to Sanchez and Jones, or they could tender just the right handed Gaby Sanchez and sign a free agent for the left handed side of the first base platoon, but that would come at a significant increase to the payroll spent on the position. The free agent market offers limited options and Gaby Sanchez will make in excess of $3 million. That is a pretty steep price for a player with such limited playing time. The Pirates only faced a left handed starter 31 times in 2013. There just aren’t that many southpaw starting pitchers in the NL Central. Between Sanchez and whatever veteran left handed hitter he platoons with the cost will approach $10 million dollars. The Bucs could go the cheap route and pair rookie Andrew Lambo in a platoon with Gaby Sanchez, but it would be a risk to count on an unproven hitter with little first base experience. The trade market makes the most sense for the Pirates to upgrade the position while controlling costs.
Mark Trumbo is an intriguing option. He is young and has lots of power. He has 95 home runs over the last 3 seasons. But Trumbo has plenty of warts too. He strikes out a ton, doesn’t walk a whole lot, and sports just a .299 career OBP. He is coming off a down year that saw his OPS decline more than 60 points from 2012. In fact Trumbo’s .747 OPS this season was only slightly better than the .726 OPS that Pirate first basemen combined to post in 2013, and that number was drug down by manager Clint Hurdle exposing Gaby Sanchez to too much right handed pitching. So unless Trumbo rebounds closer to his 2012 form he may not represent all that much of an upgrade over the status quo. However he would be cheaper. As a first year arbitration eligible player Trumbo is estimated to make a little less than $5 million in 2014. That is roughly half of what the Pirates could be expected to pay two veterans to platoon at first base. Trumbo also would be a longer term answer at the position. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2016 season.
Of course there is an additional cost for Trumbo. The Angels aren’t going to just give him away. They want young, controllable, major league ready pitchers in return. The Pirates do have plenty of those types of assets. I don’t believe the Bucs should give up any of their top 3 pitching prospects in a deal for Trumbo. Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, and Nick Kingham in my mind should be off limits. I would however part with Jeff Locke or Brandon Cumpton. The Pirates also have bullpen pieces that would be of interest to the Halos. I think a fair starting point for trade discussions could be Jeff Locke and Mark Melancon. That is a deal I could endorse.