The case against — and for — a Morales-Pirates union

One of the first players linked this offseason to the Pirates’ need for a lefty-hitting first baseman — Kendrys Morales — remains in play. However, the Bucs still view him as a back-burner option, for the same reason other National League clubs shy away — his reduced ability to play the field since the freakish high left-ankle injury that cost him a season-and-a-half.

In the two seasons since returning from that mid-2010 injury, Morales has played 59 games at first base — and 214 as the DH.

Morales, 30, also would be a poor candidate to platoon with Gaby Sanchez, a southpaw killer the Pirates fully expect to keep in the picture. Not only is Morales a switch-hitter, but his splits are relatively even (when adjusting for the fact he gets to swing far more from the left side against righties than the other way around).

Perhaps that is one way GM Neal Huntington could justify giving Morales a Garrett Jones-sized deal: He’d be kept busy enough; in 2013, the Pirates saw more than four times as many right-handed starters (131) as lefties (31).

Something else worth bearing in mind: Unless the Cardinals’ Jamie Garcia recovers from a sprained shoulder or Tony Cingrani  comes out of the Reds’ bullpen to join their rotation, neither of the Bucs’ NL Central competitors will have a left-handed starter.

Morales would also set up the Pirates better for their 10 Interleague Games in AL parks: The six players rotated in the DH spot last season hit a combined .171 — without a home run and ONE RBI in 41 at-bats.

– Tom Singer

3 Comments

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 is not a great defensive firstbaseman, but he is at least adequate.

Not being a part-time, platoon player is a negative? The ability to put up good numbers against both righties and lefties is something we don’t want? Really?

pirates should have kept morneau

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