Garrett Jones was awful last season. He was set to make $5 million through the arbitration process. And he was, therefore, rightly DFA’d by the Pirates yesterday. But that does not mean that he won’t be a Pirate in 2014.
Jones will most likely become a free agent once the DFA process has run its course. He will have the opportunity to negotiate with any – and every – team, including the Pirates. And the Pirates do still have a need for a left-handed first-baseman to platoon with Gaby Sanchez.
So, at what price, if any, would it make sense for the Pirates to bring back the man who held that office last season?
Jones is obviously not a $5 million player. He had a dreadful .708 OPS last year – 64 points below league average for MLB first-basemen – and he was 0.4 Wins BELOW Replacement level.
Based upon Jones’ WAR over the past three seasons, I would put his free agent contract value at $2.7 million for one year. But that does not mean that he will provide $2.7 million worth of production or that he would be a better option than other available 1B – at any price.
Jones’ 2013 batting line was dragged down slightly by a .271 Batting Average on Balls in Play, but given his .285 career BABIP, one can’t presume that he was all that unlucky. He earned his dismal numbers.
I am projecting a moderate improvement for Jones in 2014 that will put him near his career numbers, but nowhere close to the “career-year” numbers he had in 2012. I see Jones hitting .250/.310/.437 — .747 OPS next season, with defense that is a little below average. That would put him at 0.4 Wins Above Replacement and make his production worth about $1.8 million.
I don’t expect that what I am about to say will be greeted with enthusiasm,, but, at $1.8 million, Jones might be a better option – for the Pirates – than any of the free agent first-baseman.
I reviewed James Loney recently as a potential 1B candidate. He had an above average .778 OPS last year and is very good defensively. But his WAR-based free agent value is $6.5 million and he is only one year removed from a season in which he hit for a well-below replacement level .629 OPS. Jones was bad in 2013, but Loney was much worse in 2012.
Bringing back Justin Morneau is a possibility, but, at this point in his career, Morneau is a veritable Garrett Jones clone. And he will sign for a good bit more than the $1.8 million I have allotted to Jones – just because of the Justin Morneau that he used to be.
Some like Corey Hart as a free agent 1B. But there is no way to realistically project his 2014 performance or his free agent contract value. He missed all of the 2013 season and still has not been pronounced 100% healthy. I would also be concerned that Hart’s .824 career OPS might be a product of Milwaukee’s Miller Park. His career road batting line is .262/.316/.446. That comes to a .762 OPS that is only 15 points better than what I am projecting for Jones.
Garrett Jones wouldn’t be much of an “answer” to the Pirates need at 1B, but, hey, they did manage to win with him there last year.
————- Here’s a link to a Tampa Bay Ray perspective on Corey Hart