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Josh Phelps DFA'ed

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Jeff from Let's Go Bucs just dropped in to say that it would make sense for the Pirates to pick up Josh Phelps, who was recently designated for assignment by the Devil Rays. I agree, especially now.

The Pirates' current first basemen are Daryle Ward and Mike Restovich. Restovich has never played a game at first base in the majors. He's a backup at first only because, with the demotion of Ty Wigginton, there's no one else to play there.

Ward is having a fine year for the Pirates, but he has posted a .605 OPS against lefties so far this year. For his career, Ward has a .755 OPS against lefties and a .773 OPS against righties. Since massive - or tiny - platoon splits among hitters are often the result of small sample size, it's reasonable to imagine that Ward's true level of ability against lefties is somewhere between his 2005 mark and his career mark.

Josh Phelps is a right-handed hitter, he can kind of play first base (as well as or better than Restovich, surely), and he has an .857 career OPS against lefties. He's also like a right-handed version of Ward in that he keeps getting chances because he's flashed serious power in the big leagues and he has a great minor league track record. The difference is that Phelps is three years younger, and he's probably more likely to be successful going forward than Ward is.

The Pirates are currently carrying three catchers. That's unnecessary. Since the end of April, David Ross has a .523 OPS, if my math is correct. He has an option remaining. The Pirates should send him to AAA Indianapolis (or AA Altoona, since they just promoted Ronny Paulino to Indianapolis) and cough up the organizational phlegm necessary to acquire Phelps. The Pirates could use a backup first baseman (a real one, not a "Look at my new glove!" one) and a decent bat off the bench. Also, the Pirates would be likely to get better production from first until Craig Wilson returns if Ward had a platoon partner.

Also, the Pirates have nothing to lose here. Like Restovich, Phelps has upside and is the sort of player the Pirates should be taking chances on. It wouldn't be incredibly shocking if Phelps went on a hot streak, won the first base job outright and hit 20 homers the rest of the season. It isn't likely, but it's possible.

By the way, be sure to check out Transaction Oracle's take on the Phelps situation.