Pittsburgh Pirates May Have One of the Best First Basemen in Baseball Already


H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been written recently of the Pittsburgh Pirates and their lack of offseason movement.  The Pirates have major issues in right field and first base, neither of which has been addressed by any big time trades or free agent signings.  Instead, the Pirates have opted to add a minor league bat in Chris McGuinness and resigned Travis Snider.  One can hope that these moves have terrific long term ramifications, but at this point, that is all that is — hope.  Neither has a resume that proves that they can get the job done over the long haul.

This makes you wonder if it isn’t time for the Pirates to seriously think about moving Pedro Alvarez to first base.  I think the Pirates can seriously improve their defense and their line-up by this move.  This could have a cascading effect throughout their lineup:

  • Alvarez has a great arm, but he commits way too many errors to be considered a quality third basemen.  He is much better suited for first base.  There is precedent in this kind of move: greats such as Albert Pujols have done it in the past, and Miguel Cabrera is reported to be doing the same this year.
  • This will allow the Pirates to move Neil Walker to third base, where I believe he will be a much needed defensive upgrade in that position, while allowing the Pirates to put better defensive options than Walker at second base.  Walker also has the bat to maintain the 3rd base position.
  • On days with the ground ball pitchers on the mound, Barmas at short and Mercer at second would round out a formidable defensive lineup.
  • On days where you need more offense, Mercer at short and whoever is hot out of d’Arnaud, Harrison, Hanson, etc. can play 2nd base.

One of the major benefits of this is that with defenders up the middle that have increased range, the Pirates may elect not to shift so much to protect Walker’s lack of range up the middle.  The other nice thing about this move is it gives you a right-handed power bat off of the bench in Gaby Sanchez, and helps to keep Barmes on the field where his glove is valuable, instead of on the bench where his bat isn’t so valuable.

Consider the following lineups:

Offensive LineupDefensive Lineup
1. Starling Marte1. Starling Marte
2. Josh Harrison2. Jordy Mercer
3. Andrew McCutchen3. Andrew McCutchen
4. Pedro Alvarez4. Pedro Alvarez
5. Neil Walker5. Neil Walker
6. Jordy Mercer6. Russel Martin
7. Russel Martin7. Jose Tabata
8. Travis Snider8. Clint Barmas

Obviously, ordering will change depending on who is hot at the time and whether they are facing left or right handed pitchers, but these lineups seem to have a lot more meat and consistency to them, than one where Gaby Sanchez is inserted into the middle of the lineup.  The other nice thing about these lineups is that instead of having to ride out Gaby Sanchez’s slumps, you can ride any one of 4 middle infielders who get hot (Barmes, Harrison, d’Arnaud, Hanson).  If one cools off, send him to the bench and bring the next one up.

Hopefully the Pirates work with Alvarez in spring training on the move, and pull the trigger sooner rather than later.  There is no reason to keep a gaping hole at first when they have so many benefits in moving Alvarez there.