Would it be wise for the Pirates to trade for Blue Jays first-baseman Adam Lind?
I raise the question because Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe has reported that if A.J. Burnett decides to retire, the Pirates will use the money that would have gone to Burnett to pursue an “everyday” first-baseman. I don’t see any everyday 1B on the market who would command the kind of salary that Burnett might, but Adam Lind of the Blue Jays comes the closest.
Lind is owed $7 million in 2014 with club options of $7.5 million in 2015 and $8 million in 2016. That would be a big dip into any money that might have been reserved for A.J. Burnett. But Lind is clearly not the kind of “everyday” 1B that Cafardo mentioned in his Boston Globe column.
It was reported by Shi Davidi of SportsNet that the Pirates approached the Blue Jays about Lind at the Winter Meetings. The conversation ended quickly when Toronto asked about Neil Walker, but there is no law against them lowering their demands.
The question here is not whom the Pirates should surrender in a trade for Lind, but whether Lind would be an upgrade for the Pirates at 1B.
The answer might seem obvious. The Pirates current option for the left-handed side of their 1B platoon is the completely untested rookie Andrew Lambo. Lambo could do very well. He did hit 32 minor league HR in 2013. Or he could be a combination of Jeff Clement, Steve Pearce, and Big Country Brad Eldred.
What could the Pirates expect from Lind?
Lind did have a very good season in 2013, hitting .288 with an .854 OPS, 23 HR, and a 1.8 WAR. That kind of production would obviously be quite welcomed by the gentlemen filling the third base dugout at PNC Park.
But from 2010 through 2012, Lind posted OPSs of .712, .734, and .729. His Wins Above Replacement in those seasons were -1.0, 0.1, and 0.0. That doesn’t come close to being worth the $7 million that Lind will make in 2013. The Pirates could get a 0.0 WAR from Lambo, Chris McGuiness, or Travis Ishikawa for the league minimum.
Saberbucs projects the following numbers for Lind in 2014:
Batting Average: .267
On-Base Percentage: .330
Slugging Percentage: .467
A 0.4 WAR looks low for a 1B with a .797 OPS, but Lind is not the best in the field. The issue is not whether he would provide average defense, but just how far below average his fielding would be. His UZR was -3.9 last season. Baseball Prospectus had him at 1.3 runs below average. Baseball Info Solutions: -7.0. Fangraphs: -15.5. -1.3 or -3.9 would be acceptable. But -7.0 or -15.5?!
Lind will be 30 in 2014 and has a fairly impressive list of players who were comparable to him at ages 27 through 29. Here is what they did at age 30:
1. Josh Hamilton (96.0% comparable): .298/.346/.536 — .882 OPS
2. Scott Hairston (93.9% comparable): .210/.295/.346 — .641 OPS
3. Raul Mondesi (92.8% comparable): .252/.342/.453 — .795 OPS
4. Travis Fryman (92.8% comparable): .255/.309/.410 — .719 OPS
5. Hunter Pence (92.3% comparable): .283/.339/.483 — .822 OPS
The overall batting line of those players at age 30 was .265/.331/.459 — .790 OPS. That’s nearly identical to the Saberbucs projection of .267/.330/.467 — .797 OPS. But, again, the Pirates are not looking for a DH. Fielding matters. Especially with the Pirates reliance on grounballs and defensive shifts.
One factor that might make Lind more interesting to the Pirates – regardless of his defense – is the 1B platoon presence of Gaby Sanchez. Lind has a career OPS of .850 against right-handed pitchers, but only .603 versus lefties. Sanchez had a .987 OPS vs. left-handers in 2013 and could also be used as a late-game defensive replacement.
Lind and Lambo are both rolls of the dice. But that second toss would be a $7 million gamble for the Pirates and they would lose a player – or players – in the trade.
The money shouldn’t be a concern, but the Blue Jays can’t get anything close to Neil Walker out of the deal.
“We know that, in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.” Romans 8:28