By Jason Shetler
The Pirates began the 2015 season with a first base platoon of Pedro Alvarez and Corey Hart. The platoon wasn’t so effective, as Hart really scuffled to get anything going before a left shoulder injury put him on the DL and promptly shut down his season. For a time, Sean Rodriguez started getting more play at first base to spell out Alvarez from left-handers.
During the trade deadline, the Pirates addressed their bench by acquiring Michael Morse from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Jose Tabata. Morse regained his form coming over to the Pirates, as he posted a .782 OPS and a 118 OPS+ in 45 games. With Morse under contract for next season, a Pedro Alvarez trade appears inevitable.
Alvarez was productive offensively this year, posting a .787 OPS with a 114 OPS+ and had 27 home runs. The defensive side however was an utter disaster, as he committed an MLB leading 23 errors at first base. To give you an idea how bad that is, Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox had the second most errors in the Majors with 11. The Pirates should still draw trade interest for Alvarez with American League teams looking for a DH this offseason. There’s also been the suggestion of moving Neil Walker to first base. Walker has played just seven games at first, which were all in 2010 with the Indianapolis Indians, so not only has Walker not played the position much, but he hasn’t done it at the big league level. In addition, Walker’s offensive numbers are better suited for second base than first base.
I think it would be in the Pirates best interest to have Morse as the first baseman to begin next season. He’s still very much above average offensively, and would obviously be an upgrade on defense over Alvarez. With Josh Bell on the horizon, Morse would provide the Pirates with a capable short term option at first base until Bell’s arrival to Pittsburgh at some point in 2016.