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Fan’s Take: What is the Pirates’ Top Priority Now that Andrew McCutchen Signed?
That screaming you heard a few weeks ago was Pittsburgh Pirates fans celebrating the extension of Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates and McCutchen finally agreed to a 6-year deal that will pay the center fielder $51 million.
McCutchen was the Pirates' top priority, but now that he is signed what should the Pirates turn their attention to?
Many Pirates fans think the next order of business is to sign Neil Walker to an extension. Walker shouldn't be a top priority. The Pirates have control of Walker's rights until he is 30 years old, and he has probably already peaked. If Walker is worth keeping past 30 years old then the two sides can talk later.
The more important matter is to Walker's left on the field, the first base position. The Pirates were one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball in power, and one of the reasons was their lack of hitting at the traditionally offense-heavy first base.
One option for the Pirates is to revisit signing Derrek Lee. Pittsburgh pursued Lee during the offseason, and he didn't seem interested in playing in Pittsburgh. Since then the Pirates have signed Erik Bedard and A. J. Burnett and extended McCutchen. Maybe the Pirates can convince Lee that they are building a contender.
The Pirates' second option is to acquire a first baseman from another team. Logan Morrison was believed to be available, Mark Trumbo could be available now that the Angels have Albert Pujols, or it's possible the Reds try to move Joey Votto. I know it's not a popular suggestion, but the Pirates have enough pitching prospects to get a good first baseman.
If the Pirates can't sign a first baseman or acquire a first baseman from another team then they can promote within the organization. Currently, the Pirates are trying out Matt Hague at spring training. Hague batted .309 in AAA last year with 12 HRs and 75 RBIs. So far in spring training, Hague is 15-for-29 with three home runs, five runs, and seven runs batted in. Hague has a .448 batting average, .448 on-base percentage and .759 slugging percentage for a total of a 1.207 OPS. Hague doesn't really project to be that big of a power hitter, but as long as he keeps playing this way it will be hard for the Pirates to ignore.
Hague was not among Pittsburgh's most recent cuts—which included the hot-hitting Starling Marte—so he could make the opening day roster. If Hague does make the roster he'd be a bench player that can play both first base and third base should the Pirates suffer another disappointing season from Pedro Alvarez.
Who would you like to see as the Pittsburgh Pirates first basemen? Leave me a message or Tweet your answer using the hashtag #Pirates1B.
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All stats were found at MLB.com
The last several generations of Lee Andrew Henderson's family were Pittsburgh born and even though he was born in Alabama he has been a long time fan of the Pirates, Steelers and Panthers. Lee Andrew Henderson can be found on Twitter at @LeeAHenderson.
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