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 Two - Jeimer Candelario

Jeimer Candelario was signed to a minor league deal last off-season by the Washington Nationals. Candelario, despite pretty solid results in the past, was coming off a horrible season with the Detroit Tigers where he batted for a wRC+ below 80 and had a negative bWAR. But the deal panned out for the Nationals and was eventually dealt to the Cubs, where he continued to have a good season.

Over the course of 576 trips to the plate, Candelario batted .251/.336/.471 with a .346 wOBA, and 117 wRC+. Candelario went yard a career-best 22 times but also had an above-average 9.2% walk rate and 22% strikeout rate. His 22 home runs aren’t the only career-best power number of his career. Candelario’s .220 isolated slugging percentage is also his best single-season mark.

Candelario was also a very good batter in 2020-2021, slashing .278/.356/.458 with a .351 wOBA, and 124 wRC+. The corner infielder had a .181 ISO, 10.2% walk rate, and 22.1% strikeout rate. He racked up +5.8 fWAR in 832 plate appearances, which is about a four-fWAR player in 600 plate appearances.

Candelario will likely get attention both as a third baseman and first baseman. In 2023, it was his primary position, where he graded out as about average with -3 defensive runs saved, but +0.2 UZR/150 and +2 outs above average. However, he took over first base for the Cubs and again, was about average with +1 DRS and -2 OAA.

But there is some red flags. First is his expected stats, which he had a .233 xBA, .405 xSLG, and .319 xwOBA. Second is his DRC+ (deserved runs created plus), Baseball Prospectus’ version of wRC+, but a more predictive measurement. DRC+ was slightly less bullish on Candelario at 106, which is still better than average, but 11% worse than his wRC+.

Still, Candelario has had a wRC+ below 117 just once over the last four seasons is something to take note of. He’s consistently been a good hitter, and his 2023 rebound was promising. 2024 is his age-30 campaign, and he’ll likely be looking for a multi-year deal. This could be an option to solve the first base issue for at least two years, maybe even three.