Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pittsburgh - Third Base 2014

Yep, we know there are still lots of fans waiting for Pedro to move across the diamond. All we can say is don't hold your breath; there's not a 3B within sight in the organization, and El Toro, despite throwing away a couple of dozen balls annually, is becoming competent at the spot. The plays he's made, both routine and out of zone, increased noticeably this season, even if the first base fans can count on getting a bonus free ball every so often as part of the package.

His UZR/150 is -0.4, but that's better than Adrian Beltre, Placido Polanco, Carlos Sandoval, Aramis Ramirez, Chris Johnson, Ryan Zimmerman and David Freese, so it's not like he's an absolute sore thumb with the mitt. Beside, he did tie for the NL lead in homers and drove in 100 runs, so the Bucs are unlikely to fix something that is not broken, at least in the near term.

What is broken isn't so much his mitt as his eye against lefties. His line screams for a platoon partner, and the Pirates haven't been able to come up with one. Force feeding him to southpaws hasn't helped. In 2012, with 152 PA, his LH line was .207/.270/.279 with six HR and a .648 OPS. In 2013, the numbers were .180/.252/.286 with a .537 OPS and three homers in 147 PA.

As mentioned, the Buc organization is as bare as Lady Godiva at the hot corner, and after Pedro, there isn't much in the big league dugout, either. Josh Harrison is second on the depth chart, and both Jordy Mercer and Gaby Sanchez have played the spot sparingly. So the lowdown is that it's Alvarez's position; he doesn't even have a platoon guy (remember Brandon Inge?) to give him a blow.

The Bucs seem comfortable with Harrison and a middle infield glove guy for their 2014 bench, so the most likely patch on the third base hole will be to pick up another Jason Goedert type (though he didn't work out quite as planned) to stash at Indy in case of emergency. They could take another route and look for a guy like Mark Reynolds, who can play either infield corner and while not exactly a lefty masher does have a lifetime .834 OPS against LHP, though it dropped to .725 last year.

Pedro is the man for the next three years. He can opt for arbitration this season, and certainly will as it's been bandied about that his take home could jump to $5M in 2014 from $700K. So he's under team control through the 2016 season.

Make no mistake, though - this is a position the Buc FO will have to address, and not in the very far future. The Pirates have three years of control for Pedro, and they need to develop a plan for his successor. They have several routes between player development to the market they can choose to take, and it's one they need to begin travelling soon.

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