The attempt by Pirates general manager Neal Huntington to traverse the entire MLB offseason as the stealth general manager and constantly fly under the media radar has been undone by the reporting work of ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark.
Not that Stark was able to pry any news -- or even a word -- from Huntington. He went back door, so to speak, to find out what the Pirates are doing. He posted the following on Twitter:
''Clubs that have talked to Pirates believe James Loney emerging as their top choice at 1B. Heard they've also asked on Adam Lind & Moreland’’
All three players are left-handed hitters and would platoon with Gaby Sanchez, a right-handed hitter.
* Loney, 29, is a free agent, who had a bounce-back season with Tampa Bay after his once-promising career floundered with sub-par seasons in 2011-12.
* Lind, 30, is under contract to Toronto, which is said to be willing to trade him for the right deal. Lind is due to make $7 million in 2014. There are club options on his 2015 ($7.5 million) and 2016 ($8 million) seasons.
* Mitch Moreland, 28, is under contract to the Texas Rangers, where he’s lost his job to Prince Fielder. He is in his first year of arbitration and is projected to earn $2.7 million.
* A name not mentioned by Stark but a possibility is Ike Davis, who’s under contract to the Mets but is said to be on the market after a terrible 2013 season. Davis, who will be 27 in March, is projected to be awarded $3.5 million in arbitration.
Since Huntington has suggested the Pirates will not be interested in bidding for free-agents who are expecting market value, that might rule Loney out of their plans.
Loney, who made $2 million last season, is reported to be looking for a three-year contract worth between $27 million to $30 million. He’s not likely to receive that, but he figures to get more than the $13-million Justin Morneau received in a two-year deal with Colorado on Tuesday.
That would be a lot of money for a platoon first baseman who never has hit more than 15 home runs. Or one who has not had an OPS over .800 since 2007.
Truth be known, Loney’s career numbers are not a whole lot better than those of Garrett Jones, who the Pirates chose to non-tender in the face of probably having to pay him about $6 million for one season. Loney’s career OPS against right-handed pitching is .793. Jones’ is .826. Loney has averaged 11 home runs over the past five seasons; Jones has averaged 20.
Lind has averaged 24 home runs over the past five years, including 23 last season to go along with an .854 OPS. Of particular note, he has an .850 OPS lifetime against right-handed pitching. He homers every 19.5 at bats against right-handers. To give that number some perspective, Pedro Alvarez homers every 16.8 at bats vs. RHP.
Combining Lind with Sanchez, who has a .987 OPS vs. lefties last year and a career number of .895, could prove to be a formidable pairing.
Although the Rangers have said they want to keep Moreland and use him as a corner outfielder or DH against right-handed pitching, he is believed to be available for the right package. Moreland hit 23 home runs in 462 at bats last season but with only a .736 OPS. His slash line over the past three seasons is .253/.312/.437 -- .749. His career OPS against right-handed pitching is .788.
After hitting 32 home run in 2012, but only with a .771 OPS, Davis got off to such a poor start last season -- .165 in 212 ABs before the All-Star Game -- he was sent to the minors. But in the second half of the season, he partially resurrected his career with a .954 OPS, although with only four home runs in 108 at bats. His career OPS vs. right-handed pitching is .827.
Huntington’s proclaimed reluctance to enter into free-agent bidding goes against the grain of what most teams, including multiple small-market teams, are doing. Here are some of the moves that already have been made by low-revenue teams:
Minnesota: Signed free-agent pitchers Ricky Nolasco, four years, $49 million, and Phil Hughes, three years $24 million.
Oakland: Signed free-agent pitcher Scott Kazmir, two years, $22 million.
Kansas City: Signed free-agent pitcher Jason Vargas, four years, $32 million; reportedly has offered free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran, three years, $48 million.
Cleveland: Signed free-agent outfielder David Murphy, two years, $12 million.
Miami: Signed free-agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, three years, $21 million.
Tampa Bay: Signed free-agent outfielder David DeJesus, two years, $10.5 million.