Pittsburgh Pirates: Potential Veteran First Base Target

Aug 13, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Oakland Athletics designated hitter Mitch Moreland (18) reacts after scoring during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 13, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Oakland Athletics designated hitter Mitch Moreland (18) reacts after scoring during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /
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With the National League set to add the designated hitter in 2022 it could cause a ripple effect that leaves the Pittsburgh Pirates in need of first base help this season

The good news is that the designated hitter is returning to the National League in 2022 and this time it will be here to stay. The bad news is this may cause a ripple effect that will lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to needing to find a new first baseman.

Why is this bad news? Well, as Noah recently wrote about, historically the Pittsburgh Pirates have struggled to develop players at the first base position. Now that Yoshi Tsutsugo appears to be set to move into a full-time DH role, the Pirates will be in need of help at first base.

The internal options are far from strong. Michael Chavis flashed some potential with the Pittsburgh Pirates last September, but this came in a very small sample size. First base prospect Mason Martin still has major swing-and-miss issues and will be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft.

Due to all of this the Pirates could turn to free agency to look for first base help for the upcoming season. One potential target when the work stoppage ends and free agent signings can once again be made could be veteran Mitch Moreland.

Moreland has been one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball throughout his career. However, during the 2021 season he was primarily a designated hitter for the Oakland A’s. This was due to the A’s already having two-time Gold Glove Award winner Matt Olsen at first base.

Moreland took home the AL Gold Glove Award at first base in 2016 with the Texas Rangers. He owns a lifetime +27 Defensive Runs Saved at first base. Dating back to 2016, Moreland has also been worth +10 Outs Above Average at the position.

Without a doubt adding the veteran would improve the infield defense for the Pirates which is something that would be a huge plus for what will be a young pitching staff in 2022. The veteran presence of a player like Moreland who has postseason and World Series experience would also be a plus in a young clubhouse that should add multiple highly touted prospects throughout the season.

Offensively, Moreland could also provide a boost for the Pirates. He owns a lifetime .251/.318/.446 slash line to go with an isolated slugging (ISO) of .195 and a wR+C of 100. Last season his numbers dipped, as he posted a .188 ISO, his lowest since 2014, and a wRC+ of 93, which was his lowest since 2016.

That said, Pirate first basemen struggled mightily last season posting a .129 ISO and an 83 wRC+. So even Moreland’s off season at the plate in 2021 still would have been better than anything the Pirates got from the first base position last season.

Where Moreland would add the most value to the Pirates would be with his glove. If Moreland could come to Pittsburgh, play his typical strong defense at first base and give the Pirates even average offense in the process, that would be a big upgrade at first base.

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There certainly seems to be a fit between Moreland and the Pittsburgh Pirates. To be honest, with no true answer at first base on the horizon the Pirates could even look to add Moreland on a two-year deal to make sure first base is shored up for the next two seasons.

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