There are two major reasons cited for the Pirates’ unwillingness to chase any of the 13 free agents that were offered qualifying offers.
- 1) The financial commitment is considerable. These are the premier free agents on the market. They’ve already turned down a $14 million, 1 year offer.
- 2) Signing such a player requires forfeiture of a first round draft pick.
The first reason is very valid. The Pirates are a low revenue team with limited resources. Top free agents like Shin-Soo Choo or Robinson Cano are never going to fit within the Pirates’ modest budget. In most instances it is unreasonable to expect them to commit 15% or more of their payroll to a single player. As much as the Pirates would have liked Mike Napoli to fill their hole at 1B, it was never going to happen. His price tag was far beyond what the Bucs reasonably could have offered him. However, the loss of a draft pick should not be a major deterrence. As it stands now the Pirates will have the 26th overall pick in the 2014 Draft. Latter 1st Round picks have similar surplus value to a Grade B prospect. The Pirates have traded a few Grade B prospects in recent years. Robbie Grossman was sent to Houston For Wandy Rodriguez. Dilson Herrera went to the Mets in the Marlon Byrd deal. Grossman and Herrera both graded out as B prospects. The Pirates also parted with a competitive balance pick in the 2012 draft to acquire Gaby Sanchez from the Marlins. That was the 35th overall pick in the draft, just 9 slots behind where the Pirates are slated to pick in 2014. So the Pirates have some history of giving up assets of comparable value to their 2014 first round pick.
This all becomes more meaningful when we consider that the market for Kendrys Morales has failed to materialize. Scott Boras may have miscalculated the market for his client when they turned down Seattle’s qualifying offer. Not only does it appear Morales will have a hard time finding a lucrative long term deal, but it also appears a 1 year deal in the vicinity of the $14 million qualifying offer that he turned down will be tough to find. According to Peter Gammons, some people in the industry believe Morales may not be signed until after the June draft when he is no longer tied to a draft pick.
GM:"Just cannot see Kendry Morales signing until after the draft"
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) December 11, 2013
I can’t see Kendry Morales waiting that long. That would be a huge risk for him. At this point in his career he should probably be trying to maximize his earnings. Sitting out half a season doesn’t really accomplish that for him. That would be a huge risk. His best course of action is probably to find a team willing to give a healthy 2 year deal. If he could get a contract something like a $16 million over 2 years, he would at least be saving some face by getting an additional $2 million in guaranteed money offer the 1 year qualifying offer that he turned down. And that is where the Pirates can step in and throw him a lifeline. The Pirates still have a big need at 1B. I’m not sure Morales can physically play the position everyday. He has had some well documented serious leg injuries in the past. Last season he made just 31 starts at 1B, though he was healthy enough to DH nearly everyday and collect more than 650 plate appearances. I feel almost hypocritical for suggesting this because I didn’t want the Pirates to pursue Corey Hart for similar reasons. But the Pirates should give Morales a look. I believe his price is falling into a range that the Bucs can afford. Whether the Bucs pursue Morales or not may in fact come down to whether they view their 2014 first round draft pick as gold, or as the bronze that it really is.