What To Do With Jones?

Garrett Jones has been on a bit of a hot streak lately so naturally the question of what is future is arises. With Tabata and Prelsy likely manning the corner outfield position next year it would seem there is no place for him in the OF. The overwhelming belief appears to be that the Pirates should try and upgrade thier offense by adding a 1B next year which would of course mean Jones couldn’t play there. So that leaves him on the bench which would be great because he is a talented left handed hitter but is that really for the best.

The following is the list of all the free agent 1B next year (and Jones). They are listed by the WAR they have accumulated since the start of the 2009 season (through this past weekend). I feel 3 seasons gives a better representation because it doesn’t penalize too much for one bad season and doesn’t reward too much for good seasons way in the past. There are still flaws of course but it should give a good proxy to the free agent rankings.

Player WAR
Albert Pujols (32) 20.0
Prince Fielder (28) 14.2
Lance Berkman (36) 8.7
Derrek Lee (36) 7.8
Michael Cuddyer (33) 6.5
Carlos Pena (34) 5.0
Garrett Jones (30) 4.4
Russell Branyan (36) 4.3
Lyle Overbay (35) 3.1
Brad Hawpe (33) 2.6
Eric Hinske (34) 2.5
Casey Kotchman (29) 2.3
Nick Johnson (33) 2.1
Ross Gload (36) 0.8
Jorge Cantu (30) 0.5
Wily Mo Pena (30) -0.1
Xavier Nady (33) -0.9
Mark Kotsay (36) -1.6

Albert Pujols: Of course it would be great but he isn’t coming to Pittsburgh.

Prince Fielder: Same as Pujols

Lance Berkman: Berkman will be coming off a big season and why he could theoretically be in play for the Pirates the facts of his age and that his skills appeared to be declining coming into this season should scare the Pirates off. Also I have a hard time picturing Berkman coming to Pittsburgh; he is a veteran late in his career and will probably be looking to join on with an immediate contender. Investing more than a year in him would be unwise.

Derrek Lee: I would be ok with signing Lee but its rather obvious he isn’t the player he was. He is up so high on this list mainly because of a strong 2009 and has shown very little the past few seasons. I also have questions about how much he likes being in Pittsburgh as the ballpark doesn’t play to his stregnth with a big left field. Lee is a decling veteran who the Pirates should avoid except under the right circumstances and in all honest Lee probably doesn’t represent an upgrade over Jones anymore.

Michael Cuddyer: Now here we go here is the one name that would actually make a lot of sense. Cuddyer is a right handed hitter with some power and would represent an upgrade over Jones. He also has the ability to move to RF should Alvarez need to slide over to 1B. He is my top choice for the Pirates to target this offseason. Reportedly the Twins offered him a 2 years, 16 million dollar contract so a deal in that range would be doable for the Pirates. The problem here is the Twins seem quite intent on resigning him so there is a good chance he will not become a free agent. If he does this is the guy to target.

Carlos Pena: Here is probably the last player on the list who would represent an upgrade over Jones. Pena would provide the Pirates with more power than Jones and would be an overall upgrade. The upgrade would not be on par with what Cuddyer would bring but still could be worth it. The main issues here is adding such a high strikeout guy to a team already filled with them and that the Cubs are interested in resigning him.

Garrett Jones: Jones is going to go into the offseason as the Pirates incumbent and by looking at just this one number it is amazing to think there are only 6 better 1B available.

Russell Branyan: Branyan has a history of back problems and has seen his WAR drop every season since 2009. He is a decling veteran and would not be an uograde over Jones.

Lyle Overbay: Anyone what to go here again? Didn’t think so.

Brad Hawpe: Hawpe would have been a good risk to take this season but now since he has put up two straight poor seasons it seems more likely he would probably just do the same next season. It still could be worth a shot to bring him in but expecting him to be better than Jones would be foolish.

Eric Hinske: Anybody what to see Hinske again? Maybe there are a few takers here but he isn’t a starter. Hinske is a bench player now and shouldn’t be considered an option to be the starting 1B.

Casey Kotchman: Probably the last guy on the list even worth considering. Kotchman is posting a very strong season this year and if he could build off it he could definately be an upgrade over Jones but if he can do that or not remains a question. Either way it is likely Jones would provide more power but Kotchman might be the better offesnive player overall. He could be considered but is not a guarenteed upgrade.

Nick Johnson: I am listing him because he has over 2 WAR but all fo that came in 2009 so he will not and should not be considered anything more than depth.

The Rest: Everyone remaining on the list is not much more than bench player, projects or AAA depth. Gload is basically a pinch hitter. Cantu would be a project but I wouldn’t count on him to be anything more than a bench player. Pena has never shown much more than being AAA depth and a HR threat off the bench. Nady and Kotsay have shown some positives in the oast but are removed from thier prime years, meaning they too are just depth.

So that leaves the market for the Pirates as basically Lee, Cuddyer, Pena, Hawpe and Kotchman. Taking a depper look at those numbers should provide us a look of who may or may not be an upgrade over Jones. I will look at AB/HR, SLG and OPS+ for this year and the past 3 seasons.

Garrett Jones

2011: 23.4 AB/HR, .448 SLG, 113 OPS+

09-11: 22.0 AB/HR, .462 SLG, 112 OPS+

Derrek Lee

2011: 25.1 AB/HR, .420 SLG, 98 OPS+

o9-11: 21.0 AB/HR, .482 SLG, 119 OPS+

Michael Cuddyer

2011: 23.4 AB/HR, .485 SLG, 133 OPS+

09-11: 25.3 AB/HR, .472 SLG, 119 OPS+

Carlos Pena

2011: 16.8 AB/HR, .457 SLG, 117 OPS+

09-11: 14.9 AB/HR, .467 SLG, 118 OPS+

Brad Hawpe

2011: 48.8 AB/HR, .344 SLG, 84 OPS+

09-11: 27.6 AB/HR, .455 SLG, 109 OPS+

Casey Kotchman

2011: 46.0 AB/HR, .467 SLG, 146 OPS+

09-11: 48.6 AB/HR, .392 SLG, 100 OPS+

The top player listed is in my opinion easily Cuddyer. Second on the list, just ahead of Jones is Pena. Hawpe and Lee are a step behind Jones and Kotchman is a bit of a wild card here. He could prove to be an upgrade but might not be and woulnd’t provide the Pirates with the power they desperately need. So unless the Pirates are able to land Cuddyer or Pena there are no clear cut upgrades over Garrett Jones. Bottom line, Garrett Jones could very well be the Pirates best choice to be the 2012 opening day starting 1st baseman.

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