Alright the season has been over long enough for me to basically take all emotions of the pathetic end out. So what I’m going to do is review the Pirates 2011 season by position and say what I think needs to be done about them.
We are going to start with Firstbase. This position looks to be a huge hole depending on what happens this offseason. Just like it was prior to the start of this season. The Pirates played five different players at firstbase this season, and we will go through all of them to some extent.
The front office really whiffed on the Overbay signing and we will start with him.
Where I was right:
Overbay’s average has also regressed for three straight years. His average went .270,.265,.243. His OPS has been lower than his career average three out of the last four years, and his WAR has declined steadily for the last three seasons in a row.
This offseason has done nothing to right the ship, and Lyle Overbay is dangerously close to a David Littlefield type move, thankfully it’s a one year deal.
And one more:
Overall Overbay is a minor risk. If he fails he’s gone because the Pirates only signed him to a one year deal. If he succeeds he’s probably gone too at the deadline, as guys like Overbay don’t really fit into this club’s long terms plans. If he reverses his clear slide (a big if), he improves this team, just not by much.
Where I was wrong:
Really Overbay is not a terrible player.
And once more:
Overbay is also a defensive improvement over Jones. Overbay is above average in all of FLD%, RF, and RF/9, substantially so in RF and RF/9. Jones has an average FLD%, an above average RF/9, and a below average RF.
Overbay really fell off a cliff both with the stick and with his glove as a Bucco. He did make some nice plays, but he was eaten up by many grounders and looked like a shell of his former self.
As a Pirate Overbay posted career lows in average (.227), OBP (.300), SLG (.349), OPS (.649), OPS+ (80), WAR (-0.7), oRAR (-6), oWAR (-0.6), and FLD% (.991). To say that Lyle Overbay had a bad season is putting it nicely. It’s very rare that someone has such a putrid year in so many categories, but Lyle Overbay definitely managed to do it.
The results weren’t bad enough, but Lyle Overbay often times looked disinterested, almost like he quit or didn’t care at times. That’s probably an unfair thing to say, but his body language definitely led people to believe it. Overbay became the Pirates Willie Gay or Marc-Andre Fleury and for good reason.
I see no circumstance where Lyle Overbay makes his return to the Pirates.
And that brings us to Derrek Lee.
The jury is still out on Lee amongst Pirates fans. On one hand you have the casual Pirates fans who almost universally want to see Derrek Lee brought back. On the other hand you have a lot in the blogging community who do not see him bringing much to the table. Pat Lackey at WHYGAVS looked into this very heavily and I think it’s definitely worth your time toGarrett Jones.” href=”http://whygavs.com/pittsburgh-pirates/september-2011/derrek-lee-vs-garrett-jones-vs-everyone-else.html” target=”_blank”> read his post about it.
Now let’s look at some facts. First off Derrek Lee will apparently be a Type B free agent. That means if the Pirates offer him arbitration and he declines and signs somewhere else the Pirates will receive a sandwich pick for compensation. Next, Derrek Lee is 36. Lee has seen two straight years of decline in regards to his OPS and he posted his worst OBP of any season in which he saw in action in 100 or more games
There is a but. Lee came to Pittsburgh and did exactly what he was supposed to do after being acquired from the Orioles. After a very poor first half, his second straight season with a poor first half, Lee punished the ball for the Pirates. In fact in 28 games with the Pirates his OPS+ was 169, that’s 86 points higher than his previous 85 games with the Orioles. It’s also the second year in a row he has greatly increased his production after being traded, as pointed out by Pat in the linked article.
Let me remind Pirates fans of a man who was run out of town. A man who became Lyle Overbayesque in Pirates fans displeasure. That man was Adam LaRoche. The Adam LaRoche of slow start fame. In LaRoche’s last full season with the Pirates he posted an OPS of .841 while bopping 25 homers. Derrek Lee has had a higher OPS than that just once, in the past four years. He hit 35 homers in 2009 though, the only time he has hit more than 25 since his insane 46 in 2005.
I am a Derrek Lee fan. I hated him when he played for the Cubs, and I loved him in the Burgh. That said do we really want to tie up a substantial chunk of money in a 36 year old who actually compares worse in many cases to a guy that Pirates fans wanted run out of town on the first train?
So where do you go with Lee? Well you must offer him arbitration. If he accepts then you welcome him back. As the Orioles proved he will still be a possible trade target at the deadline, so it’s not like you are stuck with him forever. If he declines you get a pick. Regardless the options outside of the big names aren’t exactly overwhelming so, unless the Pirates are planning on spending BIG money on the position you are probably stuck waiting for Matt Curry, who the Pirates have been aggressive with.
So for me you don’t offer him a deal or especially some sort of extension. You just let him make the decision and take either outcome.
That I guess logically leads us to Garrett Jones. In my opinion Jones had a really good year. The overall numbers might not bear it out, but Neal Huntington is right. Jones is a platoon player. Overall the .753 OPS is not impressive, but he had a .808 OPS against righties.
I said earlier in the season that Garrett Jones would prove to us all that he is not a regular, and he did. Clearly. Is that such a bad thing though? I am on record as repeatedly saying how I dislike multiple platoons. It limits your bench way too much and makes managing around the platoons in the late innings particularly easy. By having a bunch of platoon guys on your bench you run the risk of starting a Matt Diaz during interleague play, or worse to fill in for injuries. We saw this last season, and it held true. Baseball is too fluid to rely on platoon players off your bench.
That said one platoon is fine. Garrett Jones is a great fit in a first base platoon, but not with a guy like Lee here who will almost demand (not literally him, but his salary and name) the chunk of playing time against all pitchers. Regardless of the outcome though Jones has to stay. He can play in the outfield or first base and is one of the few legitimate power sources on this team. If Lee walks I would have little problem trying to find a platoon mate for Garrett Jones and letting that roll.
There isn’t much out there as of now, but there will be plenty of non-tenders and cuts. This will need to be re-explored at a later time.
Now I said there were five people who played first at some point for the Pirates and we would talk about them all but John Bowker only played two games, and is no longer in the organization. I liked his potential, but he never really lived up to it and is a non-factor.
The other guy was Brandon Wood. I like Brandon Wood. I like his power potential, I like that he is still somewhat young, and I like how he seemed to progress a bit with the Pirates. His .625 OPS with the Bucs is certainly nothing to get excited about, but it was a career best. His numbers last year against lefties weren’t very good .241/.298/.379, but his OPS of .677 is better than Jones’ career OPS of .601. Now I get that it’s only one year, but if worst comes to worst Brandon Wood should get a shot as part of the platoon at first base. Even if he doesn’t he should be safe on this roster because he can play every infield position. I think there is at least a chance that Brandon Wood is the low cost, platoon partner for Garrett Jones. If Lee stays though Wood might have a bit of a problem sticking.
So what are some other options?
Well first I know people are in love with Matt Hague. He is a righty, but he doesn’t profile as a platoon player because of his splits. He also brings a stunning lack of power, hitting only 12 homers last year despite an OPS of .829. The #freematthague campaign was in full force on Twitter throughout the season, but what was the point? Is Hague really a better option than Derrek Lee? If he was would it be worth it to burn up some service time for the guy? A light hitting first baseman is not what this club needs. Starling Marte had as many home runs as Hague and his SLG was .043 points higher. Maybe we should #freestarlingmarte and stick him at first?
You can’t deny Hague has been good at AAA. He will need to either move up or move out though because Matt Curry is right behind him. I think Hague is a good trade chip. He is a good player, but probably not what this team needs.
I think this is the make or break year for Curry. He has been moved aggressively and I have to think the Pirates are looking more placeholder then core guy. That’s why I really don’t see them making a push for a young guy like Yonder Alonso, unless he comes very cheap, which he won’t.
I guess after that the only other option is a rent-a-vet full time, but I would advise against that. The only elder statesman I’d like to see back would be Lee, who the Pirates have seen up close on the field and in the locker room.
SOOOOOO there is a very real chance that the Pirates won’t do much to improve the position over this year’s incarnation. Even though for the most part it was a black hole that’s probably the way they should go. They probably aren’t in a position to sign Prince Fielder (although I certainly wouldn’t argue against doing that!) and that’s why I didn’t get into those type of signings. Like it or not the Pirates are still looking to be cost effective and probably want to be unrealistically efficient (if that makes sense) with their spending. Internal options are cheaper and the Pirates have some certainty. I expect them to mostly hold pat at first.
I also think it’s probably the right move if they aren’t going after the high upside guys.