Bob Smizik: What price prospects?

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The suggestion posted yesterday that the Pirates should trade for a first baseman was not met with much enthusiasm. Many, if not most, readers did not want to part with a prospect for the first basemen mentioned: Ike Davis, Mitch Moreland or Justin Smoak.

What is it about prospects that so fascinates baseball fans? How many of them have to fail before people come to grips with the fact they are not all sure things?

In the course of the discussion, someone wanted to know what was the big deal about Davis?

How about this: He hit 32 home runs in 2012.

Or this: After a horrendous start in 2013, he had a .954 OPS in the second half of the season.

Or that he’s younger than Jordy Mercer, younger than Pedro Alvarez and he has three more years of team control.

How is that not better than Andrew Lambo, who seemed to be preferred over Davis?

Some insisted on hoarding the Pirates treasure chest of stud pitching prospects.

Which leads to this question: If there are so many, why not consider trading one of them for a guy who hit 32 home runs just one season ago?

The fact some wanted nothing to do with Smoak only served to show the absurdity of this love affair with prospects. In 2009, Smoak was the No. 23 prospect in MLB, according to Baseball America. In 2010, he was No. 13.

Which means some people don’t want to give up a good prospect, even if it’s for a player who once was a better prospect. Even if that better prospect, Smoak, had an .838 OPS vs. right-handed pitching last season, which would be his primary role with the Pirates in 2014.

I have no idea how Davis, the No. 62 prospect in 2010, Smoak or Moreland would do with the Pirates. Any or all could fail miserably. Or not. I do know this: The Pirates are a contender and if they wish to capitalize on that status, it would behoove them to upgrade at first base.

I’m not suggesting the Pirates give whomever the Mets, Rangers or Mariners would want for Davis, Moreland or Smoak. Of course, certain prospect would not be available. According to, the Pirates have six top-100 prospects: Right-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon, 10; outfielder Gregory Polanco, 13; shortstop Alen Hanson, 40; outfielder Austin Meadows, 69; right-handed pitcher Luis Heredia 76; right-handed pitcher Tyler Glasnow, 97.

Those players are off the board. Almost no one else is.

Let’s keep in mind in discussing the Pirates' first base situation that there is no one on the horizon. The team’s so-called first baseman of the future was Alex Dickerson. He was traded to San Diego in November for outfielder Jaff Decker and right-handed reliever Miles Mikolas. So it’s not like trading for a first baseman would be blocking anyone. In fact, with no prospects close to being ready to help the Pirates at first base, it would seem trading for one would be a priority -- not an afterthought.

One last point about trading for prospects. Dickerson was the Pirates No. 13 prospect, according to, and he was traded for two minor leaguers the Padres did not have much use for. If the Pirates can trade No. 13 for a couple of borderline prospects, why not trade No. 9, right-handed pitcher Nick Kingham, for an MLB ready first baseman?

Just yesterday, Keith Law of, one of the leading authorities on prospects, was asked in a chat about the possibility of trading Kingham, the Pirates fourth-ranked pitching prospect, for Davis:

His answer: ''Not Kingham, of course.’’

The Pirates have a mountain of right-handed pitching prospects -- also including Stolmy Pimentel, Brandon Cumpton and Clay Holmes -- and nary a first base prospect close to helping the team.

To Law and to all of those afflicted with PSS (Prospect Separation Syndrome): Why not Kingham for Davis?

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