Pittsburgh Pirates: Making Sense of the Third Base Rumors

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

Yesterday, it was reported that the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking into the free agent third base market.  Who makes sense for the team?

One position that has not been talked about much this off-season for the Pittsburgh Pirates is third base.  This is most likely because people have assumed that Colin Moran would continue to play every day and eventually top hitting prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes would get called up.  Between Hayes and Moran, third base seemed like it would be in a fine spot for 2020.

Yesterday it was reported by Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that the Pittsburgh Pirates are interested in the third base market.  This could be because the new front office wants to give Ke’Bryan Hayes as much time as needed to continue to develop at the Triple-A level.  If that is the case, then it could make sense for them to bring in a platoon partner to join Moran.

Moran is not your classic case of a big lefty who can’t hit left-handed pitching.  He actually has done a decent job against lefties and continued to do so last season, when he batted .273 against left-handers.  However, his on-base percentage was much lower at .282 compared to .329 against righties.  His OPS against lefties was a low .685 while his OPS against righties is a much more respectable .764.

On the surface, when just looking at his batting average, it looks like he does fine against lefties. Even by just looking at on-base and slugging one can see that Moran is not all that productive against lefties.  Maybe a platoon mate would increase the overall production from the hot corner.

The third base free-agent market has been one of the most active this off season.  In terms of everyday players, only Josh Donaldson remains.  However, there is one power hitter that could make sense to platoon with Moran.  Former Cincinnati Reds, and more recently New York Mets, third baseman Todd Frazier would be a good fit.

Frazier pretty much played every day for the Mets last year appearing in 133 games, playing 64 games against left-handed pitching.  He batted .294 and hit eight of his 21 home runs.  Frazier’s wRC+ was a strong 142 with an impressive iso of .242, both well above league average.

Just in general he does a good job against lefties compared to righties, which is why he would be a perfect platoon mate with Moran.  Frazier’s OPS was .913 against lefties, as I mentioned earlier Moran’s was .685.  Frazier also walked about eight percentage points more and got on base at a .373 clip, about 100 points higher than Moran.

While Moran has done a good job of holding his own against left-handed pitching, he would be better served in a platoon.  Todd Frazier, who is entering his 34-year-old season, made $9 million last year. This off-season, he will likely get less money than that and likely only a one year deal.

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This would be a perfect addition for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He would be relatively inexpensive, he would add some thump against lefties, and could be used as a trade chip if the team is not in contention at the deadline.  Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to see Todd Frazier hit some homers at Great American Ballpark for the Pittsburgh Pirates?

Update: since writing, Todd Frazier has signed with the Texas Rangers. Regardless, a right handed compliment still makes sense.