Pittsburgh Pirates Rumors: Interest In Third Base Market

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the market to upgrade their second weakest position from 2019.

In a recent report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, author Jason Mackey has stated the Pittsburgh Pirates have expressed “modest interest” in third basemen currently on the market. This comes as no huge surprise, as the Bucs could use a platoon for Jose Osuna, and Colin Moran, and could use more depth at the hot corner.

Eventually, top prospect and the #36th ranked prospect according to mlb.com, Ke’Bryan Hayes will take over at third base. Currently, Hayes is ranked as the best defensive third basemen in the minors, having 60/60 grades for both his arm and overall fielding. No other third basemen have a rating of 60+ for their fielding. Last season, Hayes overall hit .265/.336/.415 with a 92 wRC+ in Triple-A. Hayes bat seemed to improve as the season went on with him hitting .292/.337/.435 with 6 home runs in the second half of 2019.

Until Hayes is ready though, the Bucs’ best options at third base are Colin Moran and Jose Osuna. Moran posted a .277/.322/.429 line, including 13 home runs and a 97 OPS+. Moran struggles against lefties, having a .273/.282/.403 line vs southpaws, but is passable vs right-handers (.278/.329/.434). One of the biggest concerns with Moran is his fielding. Last season, he recorded -13 DRS, and a -7.3 Fangraphs defensive rating at third. Only Royals’ Hunter Dozier recorded less DRS, and Vlad Guerrero Jr. had a lower defensive rating.

Osuna is pretty new to the position, having started playing it semi-regularly in 2018, and getting 102.2 innings at the hot corner in the MLB in 2019. Osuna posted better overall numbers than Moran, who has a .264/.310/.456 line with a 119 OPS+ in 285 PA’s. However, Osuna is best used in a platoon. Last season, the utility man had reverse splits, batting .284/.328/.521 against righties, but a .228/.276/.337 line vs left-handers.

The third base market is thinning out. The only high profile 3B left is Josh Donaldson, who, even if the Pittsburgh Pirates had an interest in, is likely going to sign with a contending club. The biggest target for the Pirates could be former Reds rival Todd Frazier.

Last season, Frazier hit for a solid .251/.329/.443 with 21 home runs and a 106 wRC+. Frazier would be a great platoon over at third base seeing as he hit .294/.373/.540 vs left-handers. Frazier would also be a huge upgrade over at third base defensively. Last season, he posted 1 DRS, and a 1.9 Fangraphs defensive rating.

Utility man and former Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Brock Holt could also be on the team’s radar. In the past two seasons, Holt has hit .286/.366/.407 with 10 long balls, and a 105 OPS+ in 622 plate appearances. Holt can basically play anywhere the team needs him to, having at least 200 innings at every position except for center field, pitcher and catcher. Although signing Holt seems a bit redundant with a very similar player in Adam Frazier still on the roster. Frazier has posted a very similar OPS (.769), and an identical OPS+ (105) to Holt in the past two years.

Another more interesting option the Pirates could turn to is The Pittsburgh Kid, Neil Walker. Last season, Walker batted for a so-so .261/.344/.395 line in 381 plate appearances. He only hit 8 home runs and finished with a 98 OPS+. The former Pirates’ primary second basemen have seen much more time at both third base and first base in the past few seasons. Overall, Walker had an inconsistent 2019. He batted .295/.375/.443 through the first 2 months of the season, before slumping to a .222/.298/.319 through most of the summer (he did miss a fair amount of time in June because of injury), before returning to a solid .264/.371/.453 line from the beginning of September onward.

Next. Team Signs a New Catcher. dark

Third base is one of the weakest positions for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Overall, the mixture of 3B’s the team used throughout the season produced a -2.5 bWAR. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the lowest bWAR from a position on the Pirates roster (catcher coming in at a close -2.1 and RF coming in at -2.7). A clear upgrade is needed at third, either offensively or defensively. However speaking that the team has the 2nd best 3B prospect in baseball, the team needs a holdover solution until Hayes is ready.