Pittsburgh Pirates: Five Best First Base Free Agent Targets

A Look at the five best potential first base free agents for the Pirates.
Aug 11, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Brandon Belt (13) runs the
Aug 11, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Brandon Belt (13) runs the / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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Number Five - Carlos Santana

The Pirates signed Carlos Santana last off-season to a low-cost one-year deal. Santana both respectable hitting numbers along with a strong glove at first base, a combination the Pirates haven’t had since the days of Kevin Young. Santana was then traded to the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline where he continued to produce similar numbers.

Santana finished off his 14th big league season batting .240/.318/.429 with 23 dingers, a .323 wOBA, and 101 wRC+. Santana was one of the most league average batters in baseball. Regardless, it marked the 13th time Santana has had a wRC+ of at least 100, as well as the 12th straight season with a strikeout rate below 20% at 16.8%.

Santana, who has always been known as a solid defensive first baseman, is having arguably the best season of his career with the leather. He’s racked up +11 DRS, the most in his career while having +3 outs above average. There’s a chance Santana wins National League Gold Glove Award at first base, as he has the most DRS and tied for third in OAA in the National League.

But there are some red flags about Santana’s season. First is his walk rate. His 10.5% walk rate is still above league average, but the worst of his career by 2.6%. While Santana still went yard over 20 times, and for the eighth time in his career, his raw power is heading in the wrong direction. His 88.8 MPH exit velo may not be all that far away from his 89.7 career average, but his hard hit rate dropped to 36.2%, which is another career worst. Baseball Savant’s expected stats were also not fond of his production with a .236 xBA, .373 xSLG, and .306 xwOBA.

Still, if Santana were to replicate his 2023 numbers and provide similar defensive value, he’d be worth the contract. There is reason to be wary of him because of his age and worrisome underlying numbers, but I don’t think anyone would be all that upset of Santana were to return to the Pirates in 2024.