Five potential first base trade targets for Red Sox

By Jeff Louderback

With the debut of spring training six weeks away, the Boston Red Sox still do not have a starting first baseman.

Their 40-man roster lacks a true first baseman since Mauro Gomez is best suited as a DH, David Ortiz is a DH and Jarrod Saltalamacchia has played just 40 Major League games at the position.

Though many baseball pundits speculate that the Red Sox will get a deal worked out with Mike Napoli, there is no guarantee it will happen. Based on their concerns about the catcher/first baseman’s physical, which evidently sounded an alarm about Napoli’s hip and/or leg, the Red Sox will unlikely sign off on the three-year, $39 million contract that was agreed upon at the winter meetings pending a clean physical. Chances are, if Napoli will wear a Boston uniform, it will be on a deal that is one year or two years, and/or an agreement that protects the Red Sox in case of a specified injury.

If the Sox move on from Napoli, Adam LaRoche remains a possibility, but since inking him would cost the club a second round pick in the summer, they would probably only bring him aboard if the Washington Nationals were open to a sign-and-trade arrangement. Major League Baseball’s Commissioner’s Office would likely frown upon that.

Should Boston step away from Napoli and keepits distance from LaRoche, it would probably explore a trade to fill the void at first base. The remaining free agents, aside from LaRoche, are mostly uninspiring.

Lance Berkman is intriguing, but it is uncertain if his surgically-repaired knee will favorably respond in 2013, and it is unknown how motivated he is to play another season.

Carlos Lee, Aubrey Huff, Casey Kotchman and Lyle Overbay are available, but none of those names would be apt to give the Red Sox enough production.

This is why general manager Ben Cherington might explore a trade.

Here are five candidates the Red Sox might target for the first base vacancy:

Justin Smoak, Seattle

A former premium prospect when he was in the Texas Rangers organization, the switch-hitting Smoak has yet to fully realize his high ceiling. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners in 2010 in the transaction that sent Cliff Lee to Texas.

At first glance, Smoak’s 2012 numbers are far from impressive. He hit .217/.290/.364/.654 with 19 home runs and 51 RBI in 535 plate appearances. The 26-year-old former first round pick showed a glimpse of his potential in September, though, when hit .338 with five home runs, 10 RBI, a .584 slugging percentage and a .998 OPS.

Smoak is not eligible for arbitration until 2014, and he cannot become a free agent until 2017, so he is the type of young player under team control that Cherington covets. Seattle acquired Kendrys Morales from the Los Angeles Angels, and since they have Jesus Montero and Raul Ibanez on the roster at DH, it would appear Smoak is expendable.

Though Smoak has a career slash line of .223/.306/.377/.683 over three Major League seasons and 1,421 plate appearances, his performance last September demonstrates that he can reach his high ceiling. He is still just 26, and the Red Sox do not have a first base prospect who is Major League ready, so Smoak would be worth the risk.

Mike Carp, Seattle

Carp had an injury-plagued 2012 campaign that saw him hit .213/.321/.341/.654 with five home runs and 20 RBI in 189 plate appearances for the Mariners. In 2011, though, he batted .276/.326/.466/.791 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI in 313 plate appearances.

Like Smoak, Carp is 26, not eligible for arbitration until 2014 and cannot become a free agent until 2017.  Cherington told the media earlier this offseason that the Red Sox would like to acquire a left-handed hitting first baseman who can play another position. Carp fits that description, and he can play left field.

If the Red Sox finalize their deal with Napoli, Carp would be an ideal acquisition because he could play first base or left field against righties. Napoli and Jonny Gomes mash left-handed pitching but often struggle against righties.

Mike Morse, Washington

According to rampant speculation, the 30-year-old Morse will be expendable if the Nationals re-sign LaRoche. Every American League East team will probably be interested.

Morse’s numbers slipped to .291/.321/.470/.791 with 18 home runs and 62 RBI in 430 plate appearances last season after belting 31 home runs, knocking in 95 and producing a slash line of .303/.360/.550/.910 in 575 plate appearances in 2011.

Tyler Moore, Washington

The right-handed hitting Moore can play first base and left field, and will likely take over at one of those positions if the Nationals part ways with LaRoche or Morse. Should Washington retain LaRoche and Morse, perhaps Moore can be pried away.

Moore, who is 25, hit .263/.327/.513/.840 with 10 home runs and 29 RBI in 171 plate appearances during his Major League debut with the Nationals last season. He has compiled prodigious power numbers in the minors, including 31 home runs and 111 RBI at advanced Single-A Potomac in 2010 and 31 home runs and 90 RBI at Double-A Harrisburg in 2011.

Garrett Jones, Pittsburgh

Along with Morse, the 31-year-old Jones is a prime example of how some players take longer to develop than others. He had a career year for the Pirates last season, belting 27 home runs and 86 RBI with a slash line of .274/.317/.516/.832 in 5151 plate appearances.

The left-handed hitting Jones, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time this year, plays first base and right field, offering Cherington and John Farrell versatility. With Travis Snider in right field and Gaby Sanchez and Jerry Sands at first base, the Pirates can part with Jones, whose salary was $2,250,000 in 2012 and will escalate this offseason.

6 Responses to “ Five potential first base trade targets for Red Sox ”

  1. Send 3relief pitchers + cash to nats for Morse

  2. Would the Red Sox trade two years of lefthander Franklin Morales (projected 2013 salary of $1.4 millon) to the Mariners for four years of firstbaseman/outfielder Mike Carp?

  3. I almost dont care who the Sox get for 1st base, just acquire someone already. I wish they would publicly move on from Napoli and go after the best available guy. Someone who can field first, and hit with some power second.
    Lets go!

  4. If the Red Sox finalize their deal with Napoli, Carp would be an ideal acquisition because he could play first base or left field against righties. Napoli and Jonny Gomes mash left-handed pitching but often struggle against righties.

    Problem. Even as a LHB, Carp has hit LHP better for his (albeit short) career. As another issue, he really can’t play LF since his shoulder injury early last year has completely destroyed his ability to throw (and maybe even hit which would be sad for him after looking like he’d figured out an optimal approach the last couple years).

  5. I mentioned In another blog how Justin Smoak would be the final player in a proposed Giancarlo Stanton trade.. He is relatively young and cost controllable and in his bad year hit 19 bombs… His obp was off the chain on September… With that in mind I feel Mike Morse is exactly the type of player the Red Sox need.. The only problem is what would the Red Sox trade the nationals? Aceves/ that they have Gomes for three years Ryan Kalish? Hard to say but Morse is the guy.

  6. LaRoche has agreed to stay in DC. Couple that with the fact that Texas (the suspected “mystery suitor” for Napoli) has signed with Texas, the two sides will find some common ground.

    Morse is definitely expendable now. Highly doubtful we’d be willing to give a huge haul for him. O’s and Rays will be more desperate.

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