If the Pirates want to fill their hole at first base they have plenty of options to choose from on the trading block. Here is a list of the first basemen rumored to be available: Mark Trumbo, Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, and Adam Lind. We can probably add Mitch Moreland to that list too. The Tigers and Rangers pulled off a mega deal yesterday that sent Prince Fielder to Texas in exchange for Ian Kinsler. The acquisition of Fiedler makes Moreland expendable. These six available first basemen all come with flaws. None of them are really superb defenders. Trumbo rates the the best with a 8.8 UZR/150 in almost 2500 career innings. Moreland also rates as slightly above average defensively with a 4.2 UZR/150 in more than 3000 career innings. The others are average at best. Davis, Morrison, Lind were particularly brutal defensively in 2013. However, defensive prowess is not high on the list of attributes teams look for in a first baseman.
The biggest concern with this group of players is the uneven level of offensive productivity they provide. They all have some Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to their games. They have tended to have alternating good and bad seasons. One year they play like an all-star candidate. The next season they wind up getting platooned or benched. Even in a good season these hitters have prolonged cold stretches. It is the nature of the type of hitters they are. They have long power swings with high whiff rates. The exception being Logan Morrison. Morrison’s issues are mostly health related. He is the Jose Tabata of first basemen, a young player who had early success and now can’t stay on the field. Davis, Duda, Lind, and Moreland are left handed hitters with really bad platoon splits. Trumbo is the only right handed hitter among the group. His major flaw is that he is not a selective enough at the plate. Trumbo chased 38.4% of the pitches he saw outside the strike zone in 2013. No first baseman chased a higher percentage of balls.
Just because the first basemen available for trade are flawed doesn’t mean the Pirates should not try to acquire one of them. They have a need at the position. Rolling the dice on one of them would not be a terrible idea. The Bucs are actually a nice fit for a left handed hitter. Last year the Pirates faced a lefty starter just 31 times. That was a league low, and it doesn’t appear that number will increase significantly in 2014. Their opposition in the NL Central possess only three notable left handed starting pitchers. And there is some real upside with some of these hitters. Trumbo, Davis, Lind, and maybe even Moreland have 30 home run potential. The Pirates don’t have the resources to land the perfect first basemen. But sometimes if you gamble right the perfect hitter can emerge. Chris Davis looked an awful lot like one of these six flawed first basemen before the Orioles acquired him in 2011. He evolved into a player that finished 3rd in AL MVP vote following a season with 53 home runs and 138 RBIs. If the Pirates could get 2/3rds of that production from one of these flawed players the trade would be well worth it.