There’s a lot of ways you can slice this pizza, but the end result is always the same — the Pirates’ offense in 2017 was bad. Not mediocre. Bad.
- 27th in WAR with 11.0 (Astros 1st with 33.0)
- 28th in wRC+ with 85, meaning they were 15% below an average team in creating runs (Astros 1st with 121)
- 28th in runs with 668 (Astros 1st with 896)
- 27th in batting average with .244 (Astros 1st with 282)
- 29th in Isolated Slugging with .142 (Astros, again, 1st with .196)
And in a year where hitters were blasting homers, due to both the probable changes to the seams of the baseball and the revolution of altered swing mechanics to hit more fly balls, the Pirates were in 29th of total homers with just 151. And hey! The Astros didn’t lead this category, the Yankees did with 241! (The Astros were 2nd with 238.)
So in a way to find some more offense for the Pirates, while also keeping a close eye on the bottom line, we’ve proposed a couple of moves in previous articles. First we looked at a potential Gregory Polanco for Corey Dickerson swap with the Rays. Then we looked at waiting out Zack Cozart’s market and trying to get him on a lesser deal than expected. Both of those moves have a high degree of uncertainty — the Polanco-for-Dickerson swap would involve GM Neal Huntington making a bold move to a perceived core asset, something he’s been loathe to do, while the Cozart signing might mean waiting until mid-January to try and improve the offense.
Enter Adam Lind.
All it would take to get Adam Lind on the Pirates is for him to sign his name on a contract, probably for 1 year, maybe with a club option for a 2nd. He would cost U.S. dollars to sign, but not a ridiculous amount of them. He hits for average, hits for power, so what’s wrong?
He’s basically a DH at this point, at best a below-average 1B defensively. And the Pirates already have a good offense-bad defense 1B on the payroll in Josh Bell. Coupled with the fact that Bell is a switch hitter, there really wouldn’t be a lot of starts available for Lind. The left-handed Lind has also been poor against left-handed pitchers throughout his career (.217/.263/.329), so he’s a platoon player.
But maybe that’s OK.
Lind will be in his age-34 season in 2018, so his thoughts of being a full-time starter have probably long evaporated from his mind. He gave the Nationals 301 quality at-bats last year and produced a robust line of .303/.362/.513 with 14 homers, good for a 122 wRC+. He masqueraded in LF occasionally for them, but saw the majority of his field time at 1B. All for the low price of $1.5M. The Nationals did not pick up their end of the mutual option for 2018, so Lind is on the market now.
After a long run with the team that drafted him, the Blue Jays, Lind has become a ronin of sorts these past three seasons. From 2015 to 2017, he’s played with the Brewers, Mariners, and Nationals. He was traded each offseason from the Jays to the Brewers, then the Brewers to the Mariners, all while playing on his original team-friendly extension he signed early in his career. Always playing solid, but never interesting enough for another team to trade for him at the deadline to augment their bench. In those three years, he’s run wRC’s of 120, 92, and 122, respectively.
Lind’s wRC+ of 122 would have tied for the team lead with Andrew McCutchen. His .210 isolated slugging would have been just behind Bell’s .211. This is a guy that can put a bat on a ball and make it turn into positive results more often than not. The Pirates could use his bat.
But….what about his defense ? The Pirates love to try and prevent runs (it’s cheap) and positional versatility. Lind isn’t good at either of those things, so Huntington and Hurdle would have to be willing to go outside their comfort zone to have a guy be rooted to one position and, essentially, be a late inning pinch-hitter when they need some offense.
When you look at that array of offensive offensive (not a typo) stats I posted at the start of the article, H&H should be willing to try anything to inject offense into the Pirate lineup. After playing for $1.5M in 2017 as a free agent for the first time in his career, the Nationals turned down his $5M option. So Lind’s value lies somewhere between those two points.
I’d sign Lind for $3.5M during this week’s Winter Meetings and not think twice about it. That would then trigger trying to move David Freese and his $4.25M salary in 2018, as he would be superfluous at 1B and redundant at 3B with Sean Rodriguez still on the roster as a backup (or starter…shudder). So in a sense, the Pirates could actually save payroll by signing Lind and trading Freese, but simultaneously boosting the offense. That should delight all parties at 115 Federal Street.