As recently as yesterday, the Tampa Bay Rays had five clear possibilities to fill their first base vacancy for next season. Now, two of those possibilities are gone. First the Seattle Mariners signed Corey Hart, and right as the rumors were about to ramp up about the Milwaukee Brewers and the Rays pursuing Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison, the Mariners acquired him as well in exchange for relief arm Carter Capps. With both options off the board, things will begin to get crazy for the Rays, Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and every team looking to add a first baseman.
Corey Hart was coming off a season lost to injury, but he was intriguing because of his excellent track record at the plate the previous three years. Logan Morrison, meanwhile, des not have the career numbers Hart has, but teams were convinced that beter days are ahead not that he is finally healthy. With those options off the board, certainly the remaining players are riskier bets. James Loney is coming off a strong season for the Rays in 2013, but he has been mostly an average first baseman his entire career, not exactly a prime candidate for a three-year contract like he is asking for right now. Mitch Moreland is a decent player for the Texas Rangers, but after four-plus years of mostly sub-par hitting for Texas, teams are not exactly jumping to make him their starting first baseman. Then there is the New York Mets‘ Ike Davis‘ who may have the most potential of any player we have mentioned but has to scare you after his horrific 2013 on the heels of a decrepit first half in 2012. How much will teams be willing to give up for such an inconsistent player? One piece of good news for everyone following the Mariners’ signings is that their newfound glut of first basemen could make Justin Smoak expendable, but he would just become the latest flawed first baseman available on the trade market.
Beyond those obvious options, there are players like Eric Chavez and Mark Reynolds. Chavez, who we discussed earlier, could be interesting as a low-cost option to be part of a first base platoon. The Pirates could platoon him with Gaby Sanchez or the Rays with Sean Rodriguez–but he is a constant injury risk and not exactly a player like can rely on. Reynolds, meanwhile, has undeniable power but his hot-and-cold tendencies turned him into a backup by the end of 2013 and teams are not jumping to give him a starting job. The Rays are interested in Reynolds because he could be a platoon partner for Matt Joyce at first base while also playing some third base and DH, but he might price himself out of such a role with all the teams currrently interested in him, and they would match rather end up with a more reliable option.
You have to wonder how quickly teams like the Rays, Pirates, and Brewers will move now to secure a first baseman before even more options disappear. Will the Pirates increase their offer to James Loney to three years? Could the Rays offer the Mets a better prospect for Davis? Will anyone settle for a player like Chavez or Reynolds instead? The Mariners’ acquisitions of Hart and Morrison could start a crazy run of first basemen being signed and acquired in trades as every team hopes to come away with the type of first baseman they desire when the music stops.